Saturday, February 17, 2007

NZ Stockcars Qualifying

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During Friday at work I had been looking at the discussion board on Macgors and talk about 'thrills and spills, smoke and sparks' (that's the WP radio jingle by the way) there were some pretty big hits going in before the meeting had even started! Most people reading this would probably know what I'm talking about as some of the internet's high profile members went to war and even managing to bring back the ghost of internet past, Ian Abrahams, who probably hasn't posted on a discussion board in years for his take on the situation. To say there was 'a bit of turmoil' going on behind the scenes at WP is an understatement and so with some trepidation I headed off for my most anticipated meeting of the season...

I arrived around 4.30pm and the pits were full including the extra grassed area by the cricket fields so I am assuming that they got the 140+ entries that were hoped for. As usual the standard of the cars just keeps on getting raised each season and my first thought was that there weren't many of the old 'bangers' that usually turn up for these occassions, surely a sign that this is no longer a budget class of any sort. I was taking a few photos when over the loud speaker the public were informed that we had to leave the pits and it was only 5pm (you usually get until 6pm) so a frantic few shots were taken as I left because I had spent valuable pit time talking to a couple of drivers and crew!

Now for the meeting... it started off farcical and all my worst fears were being realised. A parade began of each group but the 'Dream Team' commentators weren't ready so then as they came on air, Aaron Drevers mic wasnt working and wouldnt you know it he was the one giving out the drivers names and numbers, the other three dream team members mics of course worked fine but they were on 'chit chat' duties. As the first group of cars came out for the first heat we all stood up for the National Anthem only to be told after it played "we have to do that again..." What? The Anthem was replayed so some fireworks could go off at the end, this was not looking good. Then the completely wrong group of drivers names was read out and people around me were making jokes about "someone swapped my car!" Then the flag dropped and 27a was rolled on the first lap and suddenly the feel of the whole meeting changed.

Every heat was run with almost immediately the next heat of cars coming on the track so efficiently that there was no time to get food, this was excellent and considering the amount of stoppages for rollovers and red light incidents the meeting was one of the best run and organised in years. Top marks to whoever was in charge of the flow of races. For the first time ever I tried to do a 'Tim Savell-Barry Brown' effort and take notes of what was happening, it will be the last time too, what a bloody mission. No wonder these guys are angry about the points not being read out correctly and poor sound systems, if you looked at my notes this morning you'd see the manic scratchings of a madman! More on that later...

Just a quick recap of what I saw and some highlights:

Red Group
This was the group of death apparently and contained Pete Rees who punctured in the first heat and looked to be in trouble of not qualifying but a second and third place in heats two and three got him through. Not as much action in this group as I had expected and the qualifiers were
64a Carlos Chestnutt
129m Ryan Hunt
83w Dale Robertson
449r Steve Macpherson
1nz Pete Rees

Black Group
This was one of the best groups because of 164b Beatle Tarrants relentless efforts to get 2nz Gaskin or anyone else for that matter. 4s was rolled in the first heat and my notes say "164b CHOICE!" 14a CJ Chestnutt just failed to qualify in this group and I noticed him having a go at a few cars in earlier races which might have cost him his finals place and as always 8m Scott Fredrickson was a popular target.
161r Clive Pritchard
31p Gary Davis
2nz Richard Gaskin
81a Rodney Smythe
221s Josh Hancock

Blue Group
This group had the biggest hits and had the most drama in heat three. 59w Marshall was absolutely king hit by 132s ending his chances of qualifying and worst luck must go to 6m Kerry Remnant who punctured in two of the heats while looking easily one of the fastest. 112w was rolled.
168a Billy Neill
188r Kelly Smith
211w Michael Gray
43h Tony Bennetto
116h Steve Halse

Yellow Group
According to my notes, this group we managed to get alot of points for and I've written 'controversy with 911w not crossing line, 23a heaps of stirring, PT Cruiser bugger!" the 116m car looked awesome and was one of the fastest of the night and probably only had to finish the heat to qualify but every man and his dog had a go at him and a final killer blow from 441a Weir probably helped Mulholland qualify.
68r Keith Spanhake
71a Dean Mulholland
298v Gerry Linklater
711m Graham McRobbie
96a Jamie Fergusson

Purple Group
61H and 818h both rolled in this group and 44c Ross managed to avoid alot of carnage in the third heat to qualify. Two of Auckland big hopes 99a and an impressive 4a both punctured and missed the cut. 99a Littlewood got hooked up on 38b costing them heaps of laps in the first heat and 88h Hutchby was left stalled on the back straight for ages until someone collected him ending his run also. 34a Wearing and 114r Axtens both looked the goods.
114r Steve Axtens
34a Mark Wearing
718m Alan McRobbie
54p Bevan Humphrey
44c Peter Ross

White Group
The Graeme Ward show! Qualified easily and looked great in a really sleek low riding car, will be a real chance tonight if he has any support. 611v Mooney punctured in the first heat ending his chances. Going into the third heat a number of cars could have qualified but 61r, 291m and 13r failed at the last hurdle.
97p Graeme Ward
66a Peter Church
85r Richard Keiser
92p Brett Lloyd
291m Chris Brown

So hopefully I've got those right, like I said my notes were a mess, I have real respect for anyone that has to write a factual report with detail for NZDTR for example, it's bloody hard to do!

Just a few last thoughts

The 67a of Nick Krisnic is the coolest car out there and gets my best presented by a country mile. Unfortunately a massive hit into the wall on the first lap of his first heat ended his chances but in heat three he ended the chances of 444m up the wall and a WILD ride for one of the Wellington cars (Matt Gaskin?) which will make him a must see in what ever races he appears in tonight.

The PT Cruiser of O'Reilly was just brilliant but it did make me wonder why he was such a massive target in heat three and yet absolutely no one touched 68r Spanhake or 1nz Rees or 64a Chestnutt who were much higher in points in their respective groups? Does the hard man reputation give them an easier run on qualifying night? Maybe its a Bay Park thing because 8m Fredrikson seem to suffer the same problem at every big meeting.

The printed programme is not good. Usually WP can be relied upon for a good souvenir programme but this one is a pig. Spelling errors, crap cover and not much info inside.

The Dream Team. Good grief what a performance. I dont know how many times we can say it but reading out the results while the race is still going is completely useless, WE CAN'T HEAR YOU! There were points updates but sometimes for the same races you'd already done and when there was a quiet moment it was pointless talk instead of points. According to my notes I got no results for White group races 2 + 3, Black group races 2 + 3, Blue group races 2 + 3 and purple group race 3. We got combined points but no actual race results for heat two BUT we did get top five or six going into each final heat which was good. I just thought with FOUR people one of you could have played the straight guy who just reads race results with no waffle and points totals for each driver. For example "Black Group race one, first 31p davis 24pts, second 161r Pritchard 23pts, third 2nz Gaskin 22pts... " I think the qualifying night is more aimed at Trainspotters like myself than Mr Family Guy who loves to shout when you say "Have we got anyone from Stratford!!!" Performance was far superior to Meeanee's first night last year though but there is room for improvement!

The McRobbies! What an excellent effort to both qualify from a field of 140+ cars.

Seven Auckland cars in the finals, been a long time since we've had that much representation.

So overall an excellent first night apart from some points problems and the programme, I thought it was great and I'm looking forward to an awesome finals night tonight.

Meeting rating : 8/10

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