Tuesday, January 31, 2006

NZ Stockcar Title Meeanee 06

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Just getting to this meeting was reward enough for me after a few weeks of injury stopping me from doing anything but with the help of prescribed drugs (including Morphine yee har!) nothing was going to stop me going!

It's at this point I'd just like to say to anyone I ran into including Wal86 (StockCarScene) and Yaz (NZ Stockcar Crazy) that I was heavily medicated so if I rambled or didn't make sense that's my excuse! It was great to catch up with you guys at last and put faces to names.

Anyway on to the meeting, 140+ cars were entered and the thought of an entire weekend of stockcars with a few superstock races thrown in on the finals night was just what the doctor ordered. We arrived fairly early on Friday night after a slow drive down to Napier (staying at the Shoreline Motel on Marine Parade - excellent!) only to find my 'pet hate'... the "Blanket People" had struck! Now I try to always write pretty positive stuff but these people really pee me off, HUGE blankets with one person or sometimes no one at all sitting on them reserving seats for 20+ people who wont arrive until after 6pm really sucks. If we can take a day off work, drive from Auckland to Napier and reach the gates at 4.15pm and then have trouble finding a decent seat of course I'm gonna be mad. Anyway I think something has to be done about this before too long because if you have a favourite seat or a group of you are going to meet up then get off your butts and get down there early like the rest of us do.

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Qualifying Night

With only 4 cars going through from each heat I thought it would be all out carnage after the first round of heats but surprisingly some of the heats were a bit tame including green group's third heat which was like a flag race with barely any contact and one of the very few low points of the weekend. Hits did come though and the stars of the night for me were 68b Tony Darroch who destroyed his car, 37b Paul Demanser and 9g Steve O'Dwyer who turned mongrel after his chances of qualifying had been ended. In fact there was a few races where there was so much action going on including multiple red lights (that bloody siren sound) and roll overs that you'd have to be a hard nut not to have enjoyed the spectacle. The programme ran smoothly although the points updates where non existant and this is a major low point for me.

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Instead of constantly hearing "Crank it up Sonny" and some old porn slapper thanking "Brent Boddy cars for the hot new pace ute with 17" mags and lowering kit oh yeah baby eat some Gala Catering hot dogs mmmm" WE WANTED POINTS UPDATES!!! I don't care if they are official or not, I want to know who the top six are going into the final heat at least and also during a break when both 1NZ and 97p where being removed from the track we got jokes instead of the importance of what had just happened, two of the major players removed from the championship. As the pits was closed to the public we left on the first night only having our own feeble attempts at who might be in the finals? Isnt it typical that at a track that had an excellent sound system, the commentary team had nothing to say!

1nz Dale Robertson's reign was over pretty quickly actually and it was disappointing to see him struggling all night, it was as though all his bad luck for the season hit on night one. Other favourites to suffer and not qualify were 8m Scott Fredrickson who must be one of the most targeted drivers you'll ever see and 97p Graeme Ward who was off the pace all night with various problems. 14r Steve Axtens and 19r Lance Aldridge the TAB favourite both taken out early on aswell. It was good to see a few unexpected drivers qualify like 49b Mark Jones who had some major support in the crowd and the five Straford drivers who really did their club proud.

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We left the track well satisfied with what we had seen and thirsty for more carnage on night two.

Finals Night

A much better performance all round with the points updates and a few insides as to what was happening including tell us who was coming where in the points during red light stoppages - this was a much better option than music or husky voice overs but overall Im going to say that the commentary was below par for a meeting of this stature.

The Blanket People were out in force but we managed to get seats in the top row along from turn two so I was able to lean against the back board of the stand only slightly medicated and quite comfortable. I'd hate to think how many people squashed into the stadium but it was definitely a full house!

The actual three heats for the NZ title were great and once we saw who the finalists were (parked on the infield) it was obvious to me that a Palmy car or a Rotorua car would take the title. The Rotorua challenge faltered and it was the Stratford drivers who became a real chance by heat three, but I still didn't think Peter Rees would get the title as I was sure he would be a marked man. Ivan King 48r almost took him out in heat three but you have to hand it to the 11p that he can take the hits and was deserving of the title. We thought 19p Kerry Humphrey had won it and I probably think alot of the drivers did too as 11p seem almost oblivious to the fact he had just won.

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19p Humphrey gets my driver of the weekend award. What an amazing achievement to be 3nz after moving up from the ministocks only a few seasons ago and had a tyre not chosen the worst time to give up he would easily have won the run off with 22w Richard Gaskin for the 2nz position. He was humble and gracious and his well presented car was a credit to the man and his club. He is a future 1nz for sure.

The consolation races were great although the attrition rate was high and perhaps a few of the groups could have been combined later on but a special mention to 44c Peter Ross in an immaculately presented car that came so close to qualifying on night one and showed his class taking out two of his three consolation races on night two. It's a great sign for the class that both of the entries from the South Island were competitive, well presented and worthy of being there. 1nz and 86b also took to each other in every race they were in and 37g Ricky Kuru had the best rollover of the weekend in my opinion and there were plenty of those. Generally the entire night was a credit to the drivers and the Hawkes Bay club.

...and finally some good stuff

A few things I'd like to mention that I thought were excellent, the opportunity to go on the infield and take photos of the cars and have a good close up look at them before the meeting. This was the first time I've ever gone on the infield at any track and once the cars fired up to head back to the pits the atmosphere was amazing, a perfect start to the weekend.

The signing session for the kids on Saturday was also a great idea and well done to the club for encouraging the drivers to be more proactive with the crowd.

The food choices at Meeanee are far and away the best of any meeting I've been to (outside Palmy of course) and even included Subway!

The programme was well put together and as a point of interest had an article on the woman drivers competing, Lisa Black, Rose Halfpenny, Kelly Layton and Donna Carter. 93a Kelly Layton and 117a Rose Halfpenny qualified for the Clay Classic.

The seating was great and the general feel of the Meeanee track is always excellent. The last meeting I attended there was Murray Hobbs winning the NZ Superstock title a few years ago and once again that was a fantastic meeting to attend.

If Billy Neill ever decides to leave stockcars he could show the clowns a thing or two, his quad bike performance was spectacular to say the least! Go Billy!

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My best presented car award goes to 11r Kayton Beazley.

All in all then a great visit to Napier and a special occasion witnessing Pete Rees taking the 1nz title for the second time, and the first person to do it in Stockcars since the class was officially recognised. The quality and depth of stockcars in Palmerston North is frightening and it's hard to see any one else winning a title when you have the majority of drivers in a final carrying a 'p' on their cars.

Meeting Rating : 8/10

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Top 5ive January

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Richard Ashcroft : Break The Night With Colour
Coldplay : Talk
Supergrass : Low C
Sugababes : Ugly
David Gray : The One I Love

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Super Saloons and super painful!

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I'll keep this update fairly short and brief due to injury!

I decided to venture off to the NZ Super Saloon GP last Saturday following on from the Modified version the week before only this time I knew the field would be full of stars and the action aplenty.

I wasn't going to be disappointed, two groups from every corner of NZ racing over two heats to qualify for a one race final for the coveted NZ Grand Prix title. I actually liked the format for this championship with the 'all or nothing' one race final.

There was a big crowd in attendance and the meeting was well run and pretty slick although the stand-in Flag Marshall had some moments during the evening including waving a yellow flag instead of the white flag for a last lap and some confusion with some of the starts but as I say I think the usual guy was missing. Also it was great to have Jamie McCarthy back behind the mic, this guy really knows how to hold a meeting together and although the regular guy does a good job, Jamie has just got that 'X-factor' that makes the difference. Hopefully he will be employed during the NZ Superstock champs as he's usually up with the play and has alot of background info which the crowd appreciates, specially at the big meets.

I have to say Super saloons have never been one of my favourites, I think it's just a throw back to your upbringing when Dad used to take us to WP in the 70's, there was only saloons and stockcars and you either like one or the other and I've always been a stockie supporter but in recent seasons the big saloon meetings have never disappointed and this meeting lived up to it's title.

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A full review of the meeting can be found on Percy's website including the controversial final lap in an excellent report. At this stage 67s Bunter Pierce is the winner, but I believe protests have been lodged with the other two podium finishes being 34t Ray Stewart and 38a Peter Hemi. Whatever the result the meeting was a winner and the drivers involved certainly did their class proud.

Anyway the meeting was a goodie although I left with a slightly sore back which worsened over the next 24 hours until I ended up having to visit the Auckland Hospital emergency department on Sunday. End result 3-6 weeks off work, a neck brace and barely able to move, my trip to the World 240's at Rotorua now off and planned visits to Meeanee and Palmy on shakey ground... harden up young man, who would of thought watching Super Saloons could hurt so bad! Timing couldn't be worse and I'm gutted but anyway I guess I will be logging onto the Macgor Discussion Board like all the other unlucky non-travellers this Friday and Saturday for reports of all the action...

Anyway I hope it's a great meeting (I know it will be) but not like 'too great' okay!

Meeting rating: 6/10

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

NYE Modified GP

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NYE is a strange time to hold a meeting in my opinion but as the meeting was supposed to be a quickfire one with a fireworks display which I intended on missing so I could go out after the meeting I thought I'd check it out.

The 'Grand Prix' in most classes seems to have lost some of it's lustre over the last few seasons and the Modified version proved this with a mere 14 cars entered. The programme ambitiously had 32 drivers listed but I think that may have been wishful thinking. In fact the field was almost the same as the previous meeting on Dec 27 which gave it a bit of an 'Auckland club night' feel to it, which was a bit disappointing. I'm taking nothing away from the drivers who were there and as it turned out the racing was top notch and quite dramatic if you included the 1NZ rollover, but with 10 Auckland cars, 1 Huntly and 3 Rotorua drivers it was never going to be a true Grand Prix meeting.

I really think the time has come for SNZ to address the problems with Clubs scheduling these meetings to suit themselves. The NZ, North, South and GP titles, the 'Big Four' should all be run on static dates every season so that there is no overlapping or poor scheduling and so competitors know that the NZ title is the first Fri/Sat in February every season for instance. I dont know how workable this is but it's got to be better than holding a GP on NYE? I don't want to take away anything from Allan Haigh's win but had he beaten the field of drivers listed in the programme that would have been something special to remember I'm sure. Two drivers I noticed who seemed to step up a level for this meeting were 66a Chris Picknell and 22r Glen Lloyd who both were super competitive at various stages.

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Looking at the programme and the previous winners in this title Jamie Fox must be wondering what he has to do to win with yet another 2nd this time round missing the title by three points and previous finishes in 2004 3rd, 2003 2nd, 2001 3rd, 1999 2nd and 1996 3rd! Still that's an awesome record of podium finishes any driver would be proud of.

As for the rest of the meeting, the saloons were contesting their TelstraClear DHL Series and managed to put in some hits the stockie boys would be proud off. 48m Phil Towgood won this particular round.

The stockcars were entertaining although understandably down in numbers with 441a Andrew Weir providing most of the entertainment as he had no intention of racing for any flags. 99a Grant Littlewood picked up most of the wins.

As I mentioned I didn't hang around for the fireworks and the meeting was running later than I had expected but I still managed to make it to my next destination at 11.40pm with a whole 20 mins to get ready for the big countdown.

Meeting rating: 4/10