I have the good fortune to work with a member of the Wilson family who most people would associate with Sprintcar racing. Probably most well known at the moment would be 56m Carl Wilson racing a Sprintcar out of Baypark. Both brothers Grant and Gary also race Sprintcars sharing a drive at the moment 33m but it was their father Pat who hit the track first in a stockcar, then a saloon and eventually Sprintcar 31a.
Gael, married to Pat brought in some amazing photo albums of the cars over the years and has kindly let me scan a few to put up on the website with some comments from Pat.
This was my first car raced at Waikaraka Park. I shared ownership with a mate. We scrounged and begged for parts to build it. The Coupe body and chassis was found behind a chook shed on Church Street in Onehunga. The house on the site was demolished shortly after.
Second car purchased from Vic Cook. Car was bought with Mercury V8 in it and went well. Because of the success of the Dodges run by the Swamp Rats team we purchased a Forest Lake car named 'Yogi Bear' off Peter Martin and fitted the Dodge 6 from it shown here in these pictures.
This was a car that Gary, my eldest son bought. We took the body of it and completely rebuilt the cage from the chassis up. The car was powered by a Sloper Valiant motor.
Pat Wilson racing the 31a Sprintcar at Meremere Highbanks track.
The production saloon class was started at the Park and was the start of today's saloons. We had a team of three cars, two Mk1 Zephyrs and one FJ Holden. We were sponsored by Dave Jolley of Jolly Wide Wheels. We raced for New Zealand against Australia and the USA. Note the 'P' next to the number is for Production not Palmerston North!
Here is a link to Carl Wilson's website : http://www.carlwilson56.co.nz/
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Possibly the biggest crowds of the season for Waikaraka Park (maybe for the last few seasons) had me wondering why? Could it have been the fact that there were genuine teams rather than last minute groups of ringins, was it the very welcome return of the Nelson Tigers after an absence of a few years? Was it the heavy radio advertising during the week or the inclusion of the Midgets from Western Springs? Whatever it was, this meant the crowd would expect some top class racing and some professionalism from the promotion. I had no doubts the racing would fulfil it's side of the deal...
If you want a detailed review of the racing, there's an excellent review of the two nights of racing here.
Unfortunately Friday nights racing was dominated by delays and appalling commentary. A lack of information about some of the teams, incorrect names and even completely wrong teams being given out before the racing started. There were too many classes racing and although most of the classes did their bit to add to the show, it almost seemed like the teams racing took backstage. I'm not a huge fan of the Midgets but once they had the starts sorted (and again this was a massive time waster) the actual races were great. Is it just me or do they appear to go faster at WP than at the Springs? I hope the Midgets get added to the roster at WP more often if the present situation at the Springs continues. They are aggressive and awesome to watch specially when they race 'hit to pass' as they appeared to.
The format for the meeting meant 8 teams races on Friday night but only 4 on Saturday which to me was odd. The racing on Friday was good, not as aggressive as in past years but it was the Wanganui Warriors who provided the best action in all their races with their never say die attitude. 16v Kerry Podjurski was the class act of the four Tanker drivers on display. Isn't it great to see them back at their best. Although there were eight strong teams, I got the feeling after Friday's racing you could engrave Palmerston North's name on the cup such was their clinical performance and dominance.
Saturday nights programme as mentioned only had four teams races but little did I realise the final between Nelson and Palmerston North was the last race! Now is it just me or is it bizarre to make the two best teams wait until the last race of the night bearing in mind that going on Fridays performance this could be past 11pm!
The support programme for Saturday was less ambitious but still ran long and I think the Vintage Stocks should only have had one race with perhaps someone with knowledge of the cars talking us through it. A second run could have happened if the meeting was running too fast or if teams needed more time for the all in final which should have been the last race of the night so that the words 'all' and 'in' actually meant everyone could enter! How crap must the night have been for the two reserves for Nelson and Palmy to not even get one race? In previous years the final Grand Slam has been the absolute stand out race and something special to the Auckland meeting, but it had the guts ripped out of it and turned into a weak flag race.
The Ministocks are not my favourites and this meeting was not for them, but you could have fooled me. Driver interviews, countless races over both nights, convoluted format, teams and teams of them with flags ahoy, I couldn't keep up and didn't want to.
My biggest gripe of the whole weekend was the commentary and associated 'crowd entertainment'. Aaron Drever is in danger of becoming the Jan-Marie of WP (If you've been to Western Springs you'll know Jan-Marie). Don't go there Dreves. His enthusiasm is great but just needs to be more focussed on the racing perhaps? The free giveaways are a great improvement on previous years of virtually no interaction with the crowd but just not during a race. I'll give you some examples and you judge for yourself. Now I'm not showing off here but I believe I know a bit about stockcars and even with that knowledge I was unsure of who was who in the Hawkes Bay team. Pat Westbury is one of the major characters in Superstocks and especially with his prior history at this very event but by the end of the Hawkeyes first race I was still unsure if he was 34b or 35b. 35b was actually Steve O'Dwyer (or Steve Dyer as he was constantly referred to) one of my favourite teams racers. There had been a major opportunity to build the crowd up with the return of 'Yahoo Pat' but it was lost completely no doubt to some important information about glow sticks or maybe our umpteenth request to 'MAKE SOME NOISE!"
During the all important final between Nelson and Palmy my view was blocked by 'The Baldy Man' throwing freebies into the crowd! This race was the reason we were all here and we had kids clambering past us to get free stuff, not clever.
Someone on the mics should have at least gone into the pits to check out the teams, got some info and familiarised themselves with who was who or at least what numbers they were racing under as the programme as usual was lacking information and was not helpful in the slightest. There was no list of previous winners and the article reprinted from a previous programme had comments like "...the Panthers weren't even in attendance, they had pulled the pin after a dispute over money, but their non-appearance that year wasn't missed..." talk about win friends and influence people!
The texting has run it's course unless you want to hear that the infield DID infact need watering (which was dismissed as not their problem) and other texts that actually were helpful rather than just birthday callouts which seemed more important. The texting concept could be quite good but not for more pointless drivel, there was no shortage of that already.
Poor Percy. I would never have left my seat if I was you! I was expecting Steve Clout to come at you with a rugby tackle but it was worse, made to walk out onto the infield and then challenged to run a derby car in the Smashfest after having to do a track inspection. It all just made me uncomfortable but you did well considering. I thought Yaz was about to get a summons too...
What can you say about the Palmerston North Panthers? It wasn't that long ago when everyone was saying they were too scared to come to Auckland and that their own Teams meeting was rigged and countless other conspiracy theories. This team have taken over the mantle left vacant by the Bay Park Busters and I think they will continue to win everything going for a while yet.
Also a special mention to Gary Ellis who raced his last teams race on Saturday night. His dedication to the Allstars for quite a few years now has been really appreciated by this one eyed Allstars fan. It was great that he got that win on Friday night but it will be strange seeing an Allstars lineup without the familiar 5a in the team.
So there you go, another year another Auckland Teams meeting. That's a good thing because only a couple of seasons ago it was so close to being axed. This meeting has the bones to be one of the best of the year but it needs some polish and a bit of direction or something. It most surely needs the format to be changed, whether the drivers like it or not, it didn't work for the crowd. I did enjoy it as I'm sure most of the crowd did but how could you not, Superstock Teams racing is still the best entertainment on the Speedway calendar.
Meeting Rating : 7/10
Monday, March 19, 2007
There are two full reviews for this meeting on these sites Waikaraka Park and Percy's Website so I won't go into much detail and instead just give a few of my own thoughts (some good, some not so good) on another successful meeting for WP who are definitely scoring more hits than misses this season.
Although they bravely tried something a bit different, I felt the format for the Auckland Modifieds didn't work, it could have, but you are really relying on a big field with no casualties from the first round all turning up for the second round. It also would have helped if the results from the first night were printed in the programme with perhaps an explanation of what the format was and because this was a second night of the championship you would have expected all the competitors names listed and reasons for any withdrawals. They was barely any mention of the previous meeting. The idea of three races from one meeting and three from the next would definitely feel like a more realistic championship (something often mooted on the discussion boards) but whether it is workable is another thing. It also meant that there was the odd sight of the 1nz modified at the gate as you entered but not on the track along with 25a who also was there only as a pit decoration. The racing was awesome as usual, specially enjoyed the second heat when it looked like 77s was blocking rather than racing with 3nz Foxy, I might be wrong but that's what it looked like to me, and the crowd certainly enjoyed the spectacle.
The Supersaloons were a welcome change to the usual programme and once they hit the track you are reminded what an awesome spectacle they can be when they race hard and fast (and clean) as they did in the first heat, particularly 1nz Emmerson. It's a massive shame that this class has basically become a travelling show at most tracks apart from Baypark, I doubt any club could turn out a decent field like this each week. They almost seem a relic from speedway's past. Those other relics from speedways past (at least in Auckland) the Superstocks also made an appearance but while having increased competitor numbers, they never seem to be at the track at the same time. At least the 81b of Trevor Mason will always make any race he's in watchable. Can someone convince him (or pay him) to stick an 'A' next to the number and appear every week, he's the best thing on the track in this grade.
There were a few mini-ministocks at the front gate and the kids coming in were being encouraged to sit in them and have a photo, the Lance Jennings 96a Supersaloon was also part of the display which was great PR and made for some happy kids too. The printed programme is looking a bit tired and lacking in vital information in my opinion, time for a revamp or a price drop perhaps? The crowd was less than expected and perhaps the weather which was a bit iffy was responsible for that or maybe the punters can't remember what Supersaloons are and were afraid to come, disappointing for the competitors but never the less they put on a great show.
I'm not sure what to say about the commentary performance. Mike Howe was fairly normal and did actually mention some of the racing but Aaron Drever was on another planet. Did he realise he was at WP or down at the Muddy Farmer? Made me laugh though and I suppose that's part of the job...
Meeting Rating : 6/10
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Despite the title, most of the major meetings this weekend were down country so it would be interesting to see how much 'woop' Waikaraka had to offer. A Demo Derby, the Auckland Stockcar title and some Sidecar teams racing seemed like a fairly ordinary meeting to me, but if crowd size is anything to go by this was a major championship! Perhaps I'm out of step with what the public wants these days but I would not be surprised if the gate takings matched or bettered one of the nights of the recent NZ Stockcar meeting, the place was bursting at the seams.
I really does make you wonder, some weeks the programme of events is awesome and the place isn't even close to half full, and yet nights like last night and you can barely move... obviously the Demo Derby's have got something that still works for Joe Average, I can't explain it but I bet the WP Promotion know they are on to a good thing.
The Auckland Stockcar title drew 25 entries which was pretty good considering a few top drivers were away in Rotorua at the World Of Stocks meeting and after the first two heats, 168a Billy Neill and 741a Craig Chatfield were tied on points with a few of the other regular stars sitting pretty close behind. The third heat was fantastic and I'm sure it will be overshadowed by talk of other meetings around the country this weekend, but shouldn't go unmentioned. The Stockie boys turned it on big time and through the carnage 66a Peter Church deftly managed to take the title from 89a Tony Gavin in the ex Graham Ward machine and third to 741a Chatfield. The fact the Chatfield finished was a credit to the guy as he was most definitely the major target being set upon by all and sundry although the biggest hit of the race and indeed the night was dealt out by 117a Rose Halfpenny in a hit on 24a that Pete Rees would be proud off! It was a great end to the nights racing with the Derby to follow and hopefully some of that massive crowd appreciated what they had just seen, it was worth the price of admission alone.
The rest of the programme included Superstocks (8) with an entertaining 48k Trevor Mason who turned things up a bit in their third heat tipping 73a Bryce Marx over and denying 78a Clarkson a win metres from the flag and some good driving from the 94a (who may have been piloted by Rick Campbell) who sure had the car moving. Wins to 16a, 73a and 94a. The Sidecar challenge was again a bit one sided but entertaining with a win to Hawkes Bay 26pts over Auckland 19pts, also Ministocks, a huge field of Streetstocks and 10 Saloons rounded out the fields.
In the past WP have been guilty of missing the opportunity to entertain masses of punters at these Derby nights with substandard racing, poor organisation and almost a feeling of sitting through the boring stuff to get to the Derby, but not tonight. A well run meeting with some good crash and bash and exactly the right mix for the crowd that was in. A few more Superstocks and I think it would have been a pearler!
Meeting rating : 6/10