Sunday, November 26, 2006
The title is a U2 song, and yes being able to see the light show at Mt Smart and hear the concert as I walked home was cruel but if you were one of the lucky ones to get tickets I'm sure it was a great show... meanwhile down the road at Neilson Street it was Demo Derby night...
A quick scan around the pits before the meeting showed that the pits was bursting to full but most of it appeared to be demo cars and not race cars which would impact the quality of the meeting later on. First the good news, the Streetstock antics from the first meeting were not a 'one off', in both heats one and three they were driving and entertaining (and hitting) like days of old. The class seems to be having a renaissance of sorts with big numbers and if they can keep performing like this week in week out they will be a welcome addition to any meeting instead of a 'filler' class. 66a Craig McKinney took three wins from three but 31a and 91r were the troublemakers providing the action.
The Modifieds also turned on the action with all eyes on 11a Jamie Fox who started off the back for heats two and three which made all the difference from heat one, watching him thread his way through the opposition only 56a Paul Blakely put up a fight and was able to take the feature and give the crowd (and Fox) some real competition. If the racing is this exciting with just the local cars, then mark the dates for the NZ Title and Super Dirt Cup in your diary IN PEN because they are going to be outstanding meetings. This class has really come alive.
A big field of Saloons meant the Supersaloons had to run as a separate class and they provided the crash and bash for the night, after only a few laps of the second heat the 8 cars had become 4 and the race was called. 38a Peter Hemi and 76a Stefan Hibberd provided the spectacular crashes for their respective classes.
The Sidecars featured an Auckland v Gisborne teams race comprehensively won 35-13 by the Gizzy boys with 99g leading the way. Clean racing but very one sided unfortunately not the result we were hoping for!
Now the not so good, the Stockcars numbered only 12 which is very disappointing for what is one of the feature classes at WP and with the NZ Title here on 15-17 February it's a little bit of a surprise that the numbers are this low and that we have basically had only one visitor this season (61h) from Huntly at the last meeting. The racing in all three heats was fairly tame (almost boring for these guys) and hopefully the numbers will pick up by the next meeting. The programme had no list of drivers for this class but from last seasons programme there were 50 Stockcars so that's alot of cars sitting in garages! The commentary team mentioned that the sponsors for the NZ Title will be Pick-A-Part and that 34a Mark Wearing's car should be ready in a few weeks.
There were only two Superstocks (11a and 414a) who ran off the back of the small Stockcar field.
I left the meeting just as the Demo Derby was about to start. The meeting was a mixed bag for a fairly decent sized crowd, I'm just hoping the Stockcars and Superstocks start attracting a few visitors and getting some more of the local cars on the track, they are personally what I go to see each week. The other classes seem to be more on the ball and the Modifieds and Streetstocks are doing the business.
Meeting Rating : 4/10
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I was pretty sure this meeting would be rained out so by the time I left work on Friday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised with the fact there had been no rain all day. I arrived early rather than face the Auckland Friday night traffic twice by going home first then venturing off to Huntly. As I arrived the carpark was nearly empty! I knew the meeting hadn't been cancelled so I thought that perhaps we weren't going to get a huge crowd for the first night which turned out to be right.
Palmerston North's withdrawal meant that Auckland also got the chop which still seems like and odd decision to me. Surely a composite team or a second team from either H, M or R should have been arranged but who knows the ins and outs of organising a Teams Racing meeting - it seems to be a difficult task even in a class that boasts huge numbers and drivers who love to put their cars on the line.
So the six teams were Waikato, Rotorua, Wanganui, Hawkes Bay, Kihikihi and Bay Park. A draw was done in the crowd to split the teams in to two groups and the three best teams (on paper) got lumped into the second group: Rotorua, Waikato and Bay Park. So far so good. Now for my first moan... with only six teams that meant we would be having only six teams races on the first night so there had to be support classes to flesh out the programme which I have to say were pretty weak. There were three Supersaloons, a decent field of TQs and a few even smaller versions of TQs called Quarter Midgets and then the learner grade of Ministox. That's a whole lot of 'mini' everything and I was expecting matchbox cars to fire out of the pit gate as each successive race seem to feature smaller and smaller cars, such was the underwhelming feel of the racing. I know that the better classes are probably being held out for the Saturday night racing when I assume the bigger crowd will be present but it still wasn't a good start to the nights programme and perhaps the Stockcars could have been run on both nights as a support class? Seeing a few of them in the pits pre-meeting for some filming for the WRC Shakedown programme was a taste of what could have been. It took until 8.15pm before the first teams race took place so that was a lot of filler for the fans to sit through.
I wont go into major detail of the racing but just mention a few highlights.
Race 1 : Kihikihi Crusaders v Wanganui Vulcans
It was great to see two tanks in the Crusaders line-up specially when we were told one of them was Bryce Steiner (33k) in possibly one of the ugliest looking tanks around. Unfortunately the Kihikihi plans fell apart before they even took the track with the 33r retiring before the race started with clutch problems. Wanganui took a fairly evenly matched raced as the Kihikihi cars slowly fell away with reliability problems. Amazingly it was mentioned that Wanganui haven't even had a meeting yet at their own track so their performance was outstanding.
Wanganui 140 v Kihikihi 45
Race 2 : Waikato Raiders v Bay Park Bulldogs
15m Scott Gallop took the win in this race with barely a touch on him although there was plenty going on around him. Most attention seemed to be on 11m Scott Fredrickson and once he had been despatched the Raiders seemed to lose focus and it would cost them dearly needing a win against Rotorua later in the night to qualify after this performance.
Waikato 75 v Bay Park 110
Race 3 : Meeanee Maulers v Wanganui Vulcans
Hawkes Bay livened things up with a great performance, standouts were 84b Beatle Tarrant, 85b Mike Maclachlan and Gisborne ring-in Ricky Kuru had a solid effort as the runner taking the win. Wanganui kept enough cars moving to score valuable points that would see them qualify for the semis.
Hawkes Bay 160 v Wanganui 35
Race 4 : Bay Park Bulldogs v Rotorua Rascals
11m Scott Fredriksons night was ended by Ivan King in this race with a 'king' hit. Bay Park looked a bit lost without his usual reliable running style and the Rotorua machine looked strong and easily the best team on show. I will mention my usual gripe about consecutive numbering on cars making it difficult to work out who is who in a team of identical looking cars. I suppose that's the whole point but for a spectator it's not so great.
Rotorua 165 v Bay Park 30
Race 5 : Kihikihi Crusaders v Meeanee Maulers
Steiner's tank managed to make the start of this race but didn't last long and although 14k Noel Hawthorne and 4k Bryce Eaton never gave up, the HB team were supremely dominant in this race and it was great to see an Auckland car 14a CJ Chestnutt out there representing the Bay. Another good performance that saw HB top qualifier.
Hawkes Bay 165 v Kihikihi 10
Race 6 : Rotorua Rascals v Waikato Raiders
It was make or break for the Raiders after a less than typical display in their first heat and they were up against their bogey team Rotorua to do it. Unfortunately for them Rotorua's 204r Steve McPherson was never touched as he ran for the flag to secure the win and bump the hosts from the finals. This heat featured the only rollover for 98h. Another great display from the Paradise Valley team.
Rotorua 145 v Waikato 50
Overall I was well pleased with the teams racing, Hawkes Bay and Rotorua looked the goods and gave us what we wanted. Eight teams would have made the meeting better but obviously it was beyond the control of the Huntly Promotion. The support programme didn't come up to scratch and the atmosphere was sadly lacking for a meeting that really should be a big crowd puller. It had a bit of an 'undercooked' feel to it but weather permitting the finals should hopefully step things up a bit.
Meeanee Maulers v Bay Park Bulldogs
Rotorua Rascals v Wanganui Vulcans
Meeting rating : 5/10
Monday, November 06, 2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Waikaraka Park's first meeting was the 'Season Opener plus Fireworks' and luckily for me I left home early to get to the track forgetting I'm only five mins away now that I have moved to Onehunga but it turned out to be a wise decision, by the time I had strolled through the pits there was a huge line of people waiting to get in, not helped by the Eftpos playing up. The FanVan was closed and with no sign of a programme anywhere I was beginning to think this is an ominous start... the FanVan woman told us 'the programmes are in the building we just can't find them!" as she opened up the shop. They did appear and while people were waiting she asked what sort of items do you want in the FanVan (I was tempted to say "Programmes would be a good start" but bit my tongue), she handled a potentially embarrassing moment with good humour and at least was showing a bit of interest in what people want.
In previous years the opening meeting is usually a bit of a fizzer, most interest is in seeing the new cars and just getting back into speedway after the winter months. Numbers are usually low and this year was no exception, although the Stockcars who usually hold the show together numbered only 12 which was a surpise. The Park has a new sound system and you noticed it immediately upon sitting down in the grandstand, you could actually hear what they were saying! This is a HUGE improvement and an integral part of presenting a meeting. A couple of times the commentators mentioned sponsoring cars (particularly Rose Halfpenny who had just won a race) and this was great. The infield was not quite ready but looked a whole heap better without the 'bullring' and the place generally looked a bit tidier even though there were obvious teething problems. Whatever has been happening off the track pre-season I imagine it hasn't been easy to get this show up and running but one thing was sure, the heavy radio advertising had worked as the place filled up to bursting.
I wont go into much detail about the racing as I'm sure there will be a full review on the Waikaraka website but any concerns about low numbers in the stockcars were forgotten the moment CJ Chestnutt (14a) hit the track, he was out to cause mayhem and the crowd loved it. The only two visiting cars (yes only two non Auckland cars appeared) were in this class (13k and 61h) which is a bit of a worry. Going by the cheers from the crowd the streetstocks also gave the crowd what they wanted and Jamie Fox in the Modifieds easily won all three heats with a brilliant display. Six Superstocks turned up which was a little light as I had hoped a few Huntly ones would flesh out the field but things got worse as Gary Ellis 11a lasted one lap in the warm up and Paul Vasey 351a retired to the infield with more gremlins, this left 4 cars for the nights racing. Undaunted, they organised a 'championship runoff' which produced more hits than a usual whole nights Superstock racing. Aaron Headington 16a triumphed over 414a Warwick Ansty in the final race. The crowd seemed to like it and it was a better option than just letting four cars do hotlaps. The 414a car could almost be described as having Bling! The car was looking great and was running well too. If the numbers increase in this class even by just 3 or 4 cars (which it should) they will be on to a winner. The Saloons had fairly good numbers with even racing but only two Supersaloons were in attendance.
The Fireworks display was great (better than last years disaster) and lets face it the majority of the crowd were probably here for that but when the display had finished there wasn't the usual mad rush to leave which hopefully means the crowd were enjoying the racing and stayed on for the final round of feature races. Going by the comments on Macgors discussion board (Waikaraka Huge Success!) you would think it was an amazing meeting but I felt it was fairly average but well run and a good start to build on. In fact reading some of the comments has got me wondering if I missed something? If the NZ Stockcar title does drag in the '180 cars' the commentators mentioned and the action is anything like past years then these same people better hope they are selling Adult diapers at the FanVan because they 'ain't seen nuthin' yet' and I really mean that! That can be my suggestion to the woman at the FanVan who was asking for ideas on what to sell!
One major criticism that appears to have been missed that I have to point out was that during the fireworks display the Moon was badly positioned and affected my view of the fireworks and if the promotion could just sort that out for next season... okay, I know, there's only so much the organisers can do but there is always going to be a few moaners and groaners and so long as the team at WP get on with what's really important and that is to present big fields of action packed exciting racing then they cant go wrong and crowds like the one that turned up on Saturday will be the norm.
So that was the first meeting and it must have been a boomer for the Promotion's bank balance which is great, followed by a practice next week that they are charging for and then a Demo Derby which always brings in a huge crowd, the finances should be looking healthy to say the least. As always, I believe it's going to be competitor numbers ON the track that will be the real gauge of success this season and making the drivers want to appear at WP rather than somewhere else or not appearing at all, is the key. Lets not forget that they are the core product and the real reason we want to be at a speedway meeting.
Meeting rating : 5/10