Sunday, February 26, 2006
As is typical with Auckland weather, the closer it got to racetime the darker the clouds became, and rain it did during the hotlaps for the saloons but luckily it was just a short burst and that was it.
I was going to give this meeting a miss and go to the 'Symphony in the Park' event but as Superstocks are a pretty rare sight up this way I went along. Now after reading some comments on the Harwood Racing Team website that were not exactly flattering towards WP, I tried to look at the place through fresh eyes and as I sat in the grandstand in the cold light of day with a minimal crowd, you have to agree that WP is looking a little tired. Crowd numbers for this meeting were not great and as the sound system fizzed and popped you couldn't help but think that this brand of entertainment is not long for this world. In other towns you might get crowds no matter what you dish up, but in Auckland there is always something else on, and WP needs to get it's act together and present something a little more classy than what's currently on offer. I've always been a "go no matter what" follower of speedway but those days are ending. I work hard for my money and sitting down in a run down old stadium with average food, poor sounds, low numbers on the track and unusual classes filling in the gaps, 'lap record attempts' which we got for Streetstocks and ATV's isn't good enough. If you run a speedway with amazing on track action maybe you can get away with it, but if your presenting a show with quite a bit of downtime, the punters eventually start to ask questions.
On paper this meeting looked pretty good but within seconds of going through the pit gate you were greeted with ATV's, there was no previous mention of them racing and not being one of my favourites, was not a good start. Now I'm sure the ATV guys are great people blah blah, but it's not what I go to WP to see. As it turned out they got four goes at 'racing' plus the aforementioned lap record attempts and it was just as they came out for their last race that I finally packed up and left even though there was one more stockcar race to go, and of course some presentations that 'might happen' before the stockcar race. Yawn.
The stockcars, who were down on numbers (only 12 fronting for their second race) were still the standout class of the night with almost everybody in a stirring mood. I've said it time and time again but if it weren't for these guys (and gals) the meetings would be completely lacking in action. 168a Billy Neill won most of the heats. 441a, 96a and 24a did most of the stirring.
The features for the night were the $15,000 Superstock series round three decider and Stan Hickey came into this meeting almost assured of the win unless something untoward happened and apart from an accidental tip over in the second heat he won it pretty easy. His only challenge was from Kerry Remnant as Rodney Wood was not in attendance, in fact only 15 cars fronted after 20+ cars in the two earlier rounds. Kelvin Gray drove the 66r Hampton machine and took to the field with ease winning two heats. There must be something about Mac Chassis and Gray brothers that is magic and imagine for a moment if you will a 'dream Superstock team' of Darren Gray, Kelvin Gray and Tony Mac in Mac built cars and back them up with two tanks driven by Scott Miers and Dave Evans... perfection! Anyway stop dreaming and get back to the dull reality of a fairly tame 3 heats of Superstock racing and a final result of Stan Hickey 1st, Kerry Remnant 2nd and a much improved 99a Mark Decke 3rd. Stan Hickey well and truly deserved the title, he makes it all look so simple.
The other feature was the Saloons Gold Coast Travel Series where a trip to the Gold Coast was up for grabs and would go to the car that passed the most cars in the course of the night, not the winner of each race which actually worked quite well because sitting on the pole line playing follow the leader wasn't going to get you many points. The Saloons put on a pretty good display because they HAD to! Passing was the name of the game and 58a Gavin Hinsley obviously passed the most, something he does on a regular basis and something that should be rewarded more often in saloon racing. I think this series was a winner for the spectators.
Modifieds were down in numbers and not too much else happened to report on them except that 19r Scott Lane won. 45a Bill Peat easily won most of the streetstock races and little else happened in a fairly tame night of racing.
I left the meeting not unhappy but not exactly buzzing. It was a workmanlike meeting that pretty much followed expectation. Is that what I go to Speedway to see or is it just what I accept as the norm? Maybe I expect too much because just occasionally you go to a meeting like the Superstock Teams at Palmy and see something special and you just want to see it every week at your OWN speedway, there I go dreaming again...
Meeting rating : 4/10
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
After I mentioned the Space Tank of John Mercer in an earlier posting, I received a few pics from Gavin Evitt who is a member of the Historic Stockcar Club and edited the 'Siderail' magazine.
Also efforts to track the car down have been successful with a posting by Cuzz12h on Macgors, but no new pics so far, see message below:
"...Went around to hillbillys house last night to look at this car, it was ex Dane Condor and the motor is now poked (heads). Rather than spend time to repair the old 221 ford V8, it will be replaced with an EA Falcon 6 and will be back racing before the end of this season. Hillbilly was surprised to see the photo of what this car use to look like in 1986 as the car has had some major changes over the years (front nose change, side rails and bumpers). Chassis still looks mostly original.
Thanks to Gavin for these new shots.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Richie Wright of Auckland has been racing stockcars since the dawn of time it seems and always turns up with an immaculately presented car. This little beastie has been around for a while but only seems to make a few cameo appearances each season. According to the 'drivers missing in action' section on Macgors site someone posted "Last time I saw Richie Wright he was a police constable based in Pukekohe and living in Waiuku, I think he still has his last car."
Wright, a former member of the AVD-Centra stockcar team can never be accused of following the pack when it comes to the look of his cars. The jury is still out on the fluoro pink chassis (looks orange in these photos but trust me it was so bright it almost hurt) and having a white car is sure to make you even more visible on the track, but this car seems to be able to take the hits.
A google search revealed a page of images of the AVD Centra stockcar team and an earlier Wright car 25a, can be seen on the far left of the first pic. The site belonged to Nigel Bree and was one of the first dedicated stockcar websites. Come back Nigel!
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
First in a new series of postings will be of stockcars I like for no particular reason other than looks! In a sport that is fairly generic in the looks department, it's always great to see someone go that extra mile and present something a bit different.
First up is the 92g of Brett Lloyd from a few seasons ago. It has just recently sold from Hawkes Bay to Blenheim (Steve Biddulph has the ex 12b now racing as 96e) where stockcars are having a revival of sorts. I managed to get the rebuild pics from Rex and Del Nield. The low profile and fine presentation of the car made her a real looker.
Brett Lloyd is now registered at Palmerston North and qualified for the NZ Stockcar Finals at Meeanee in the 92p machine (bottom picture).
Photos 1-2 courtesy of Rex and Del Nield
Photos 3 courtesy of Graham Hughes www.proshotz.com
Photo 4 gregobro!
Sunday, February 12, 2006
There is something about me, Palmerston North and Stockcars that when added together means rain! We flew down on Friday full of hope and expectation after what I can only describe as a very average season so far, landing in cloudy but promising weather conditions, only to see rain drops starting to fall on the windscreen as we approached our motel... sinking feeling.
We still went to the track but by 6pm the plug had been pulled and it was Hell Pizza and Super 14 rugby on Sky, Blues v Hurricanes (more disappointment!) as our nights entertainment. I did manage to score the Teams programme and Palmy 75th Anniversary Book while I was at the track and had a look around the pits so it wasn't a total washout.
With the programme now moved on a day, Friday nights racing became Saturday nights, and Saturdays moved onto Sunday for the finals. Now even though 5 of the last 10 years meetings have meant one night has been cancelled we only booked flights that returned us to Auckland on Sunday morning so once again we knew we would be missing the finals. Why are we always so optimistic when booking our flights? Seems we weren't the only ones as quite a few well known drivers were also on our flight home too.
Once we dealt with that aspect it was off to the track and straight to the pits for a look around. One of the reasons we love this meeting more than any other is the fact we can pre-buy our seats and not do the mad 4pm queue at the gate thing we used to do years ago. In fact the entire operation at Palmy is head and shoulders above any other track in my opinion.
Once seated there seemed to be a real party atmosphere that's been missing these last few seasons. Expectation was high and I have to say we were well rewarded with possibly the best "Friday night" racing in years. There didn't seem to be a single dud race and even the traditionally weak teams performed so well that the result could have gone either way.
I have to mention the "spectacular" wall of fire death car display which got probably the biggest reaction of the night (booing) it was so lame but gave us such a good laugh, I dont know if that was the intent. It was right in front of us and so much effort went into getting it set up that the resulting stunt was so incredibly crap! Then a streaker completely stole their thunder and then it was back into the racing.
As always, we bravely cheered for Auckland (or Dorkland depending on where you come from) and after the first race suddenly there was silence around us! Not only had they won, but a clean sweep over the Glen Eagles. Joy! Of course it was soon dealt with swiftly by the naysayers around us with screams of injustice about the way in which Darryl Hammond had dispatched 75c. Suddenly the angry crowd who bleat that stockcars don't hit anymore wanted to know how 43a could do that, what a maniac, mass booing and thumbs down. What a sweet moment for us long suffering Allstars fans...
Although the dream didn't quite come true with a narrow loss to the Scrappers in the final race in the group, what a great performance by a team that was well and truly written off before the meeting. In fact these last few seasons the Aucks have done pretty well and made our time in the stands a bit more pleasureable! The re-emergence of the Stratford team was well received and they surprised quite a few by qualifying for the second night.
The debut of the Kihikihi Kings and the massively improved performance of the Otago Cougars are really positive signs for a class that is heading in an uncertain direction. Superstock teams racing is the jewel in the crown of speedway but it comes at a price. These cars are such high performance beasts now that some of the hits are just unbelievable. Scotty Miers hit on Kerry Remnant was the highlight of the night. You have to be brave to get out there and Scotty Miers is the epitome of a teams racer.
The rest of the meeting was similarly spectacular and although we knew we weren't going to see the finals we felt we had seen a return to form for one of the best meetings every year. What a great 'half a meeting!'
There is a comprehensive review on the Palmerston North website including the finals won by the Palmerston North Panthers.
Meeting Rating: 9/10
Monday, February 06, 2006
During the 1980's I was one of the many defectors from Waikaraka Park who started going to Western Springs Speedway after having been a stockie regular since about 1971. But in 1993 I went to see the NZ Stockcar Title held at WP and with a record number of entries and a fairytale run-off between Kevin Free and Craig Pierce in which the former won his third NZ title I was once again hooked on stockcars and have been a firm follower since.
Fast forward to the present day and once again WP is holding the NZ Superstock title and lo and behold on the list of entries is one Kevin Free, or is he...
Even in the weeks leading up to this meeting rumblings could be heard on the discussion boards and at the big meetings prior to this one that all was not well. Saturday night we finally knew who was going to be participating and I believe there were 77 cars all up. A couple of former champs missing due to 'logistical problems' including Kevin Free who's only involvement in the weekend would be to hand out prizes for a banner competition and a few hot laps with the historic stockcars in his brand new car built for $6,000. Fairytale over.
The qualifying in my opinion was better than the finals night. This isn't a compliment, it doesn't mean that the qualifying night was out of this world, it sadly means the finals night was rather underwhelming for such a major showcase. Whether it was intentional or not there seemed to be alot of hits going in all of the heats and if the damage to the walls was any indication they were hard hits. Lets be fair, usually qualifying is just a whole pile of desperate flag racing with some chaos in the third heat from disgruntled drivers and std stocks who turned up to cause trouble. As seems the norm these days the entries from Palmy and Rotorua would end up topping the list of qualifiers and the home track managed only one qualifier in 8a Graham Goldsmith which must have been massively disappointing for the club. I know I was gutted!
It was great to see the five South Island cars rewarded for their efforts in just getting up here and also to see 54w Mike Pye qualify. He seems to have taken on the role that Richard Watkins once played for Wanganui when he was the sole entry in every championship steadfastly representing the "V".
The nights proceedings moved in a halting fashion but the points were at least being given out so we had some idea of what was happening. I think the overriding memory of the Saturday nights racing will be the Graeme Peters rollover, Rodney Woods empty engine bay, the Miers tank sadly grinding to a halt and chances of qualifying going with it and the ease in which Shane Penn qualified.
My best presented car winners are 86n Jared Gray and 16c Mark Osborne.
We arrived a bit later on the Sunday night and paid the price, with the upper grandstand almost full the three of us grabbed some rare space pretty close to our usual position and then we waited... I still can't believe that some sort of extra seating wasn't put up for this meeting but I'm never surprised. Now the band that played on the Saturday, OpShop, I dont mind, but this was never their kind of audience. As Frankie Stevens would say "it's all about song choice" wisely some classic hits were belting out of the ill performing speakers and so we didn't have to listen to people shouting abuse at the band!
I'll try to go easy with my recollections of the evening but as the title of this posting implies, it just never seemed to get off the ground. I'm as excitable about stockcars as Mintie is about cowbells but something just didn't quite gel. The pre race interviews before the first heat just took soooo long and my feelings on interviewing drivers are well documented, needless to say, to kill the boredom next time get everyone around you to scull everytime a driver says "yeah, nah" and you'll be plastered before the race even starts. As is the norm these days, when ever I tell someone "there's gonna be carnage in this race" it never happens. What proceeded was three fairly straight forward heats with minimal contact although the third heat did play out well knowing the full points situation and the whole Hunter v Penn battle at the front which Darcy Hunter played with the coolness and guile of a man who deserved to be the 1nz (even though I'll admit I was cheering for Penn). The gasps around us when Penn passed Hunter without either despatching him or making sure he wasn't a threat were palpable. It really was the defining moment in the championship in my opinion. As for the final outcome I was actually quite pleased, 337r a well deserving winner and as I mentioned, creating the win without team tatics, 591p always a major threat and 16c who really was the dark horse of the field. I wonder how different the outcome would have been had one Scotty Miers been in the finals.
The support programme for this meeting was appalling. When you have a field of super saloons with this much quality you don't play around with pointless 4 car or 2 car or any other odd mini version of a race! Finally they relented and let them all race together and it was the best 'filler' race of the weekend with 3nz Lance Jennings winning an action packed race with a great rollover to finish by 6a Doug Torrey.
The idea for the stockcar teams race was good but only made the rest of the bikes, minisprints, sidecars etc seem even more dire. Auckland beat Waikato in a fairly slow moving encounter but at least something with an 'a' on it won something.
My companions laughed when they saw the "bullring" and that just about sums up the bike action. Anyway, as soon as heat three of the title had finished we joined the mass exodus to the carpark to see if we could find an exit to actually get the car out of that hadn't been parked over by some late comer. The space issues at WP are a whole other posting but for now I'll leave it.
The programme cover is worthy of mention, I take it Neil Sampson did the drawing similar to the one he did for the 1993 programme but as with alot of this meeting, there were reminders of the glorious past but how things have changed...
I was recently at the NZ Stockcar title in Napier and as far as entertainment, value for money, action, excitement and crowd reaction, it far surpassed the display at WP this weekend. When I think of a NZ title for Superstocks I think of the meeting in Gisborne a few years ago, and that's what I expect or at least hope for. I'm taking nothing away from the drivers, I really feel the promotion and actual co-ordination of the meeting fell short.
There is a full report of the meeting on Percy's site.
Meeting rating : 6/10