Sunday, January 13, 2008

Too good!

Oh C'mon, someone had to use that heading!


Well talk about a 'game of two halves", the inaugural running of the New Zealand Saloon Car Championship at Waikaraka Park on Friday and Saturday nights was both incredibly satisfying in that one of the real stalwarts of the class took the coverted 1nz and incredibly infuriating with some poor support programming and a complete lack of points and information on the important qualifying night.

Friday Night

51 Entries were on hand for Friday nights qualifying in three groups of 17 cars with six cars from each group going into Saturday nights finals and then one car from each of the two repercharges making the field of 20 finalists. The field included no entries from the South Island and the breakdown from North Island tracks was Auckland 19, Wellington 5, Baypark 17, Huntly 2, Hawkes Bay 3, Rotorua 3 and Kihikihi 2 entries.

A smallish crowd were then put through a very loooooong night of qualifying which, if condensed, contained 11 great Saloon car races but also 4 Ministock races and 4 appallingly bad MiniSprint races. A few top names failed to make the cut for the finals including 9a Steve Louden, 61a Roy Walker, 10w Todd Moffat and so easily could have claimed the eventual winner 48a Phil Towgood who pulled to the infield and missed the very first heat for his group, then needing two wins from the remaining heats to get him through. The overwhelming memory for me of this night will be the delays in the programme which dragged on until 11.30pm which is not unusual for a national championship and the fiasco with points and letting the crowd know results which is not normal for a championship. Whatever the reasons for this the outcome was that people in the crowd around me were openly mocking the proceedings, shouting out abuse and leaving! Now to be fair to WP, the recent NZ Stockcar champs was run perfectly with I think the highest rating I gave for any meeting I went to last season, so it can be done.


Yellow Group
6m Brent McClymont, 21h Steve Williams, 64a Paulus Van Zantvoort, 35a Justin Ross, 82m Paul Managh, 99m Steve Walling

White Group
17r Tony Heuvel, 18m Chris Taylor, 45m Paul Cressy, 46m Terry Corin, 48a Phil Toogood, 63a Nigel Mouat

Purple Group
28w Owen Larson, 42w Alan Jacob, 46a Nigel Ross, 59a Bryan Skelton, 76a Michelle Wymer, 77k Rossco Cresswell, 112r Mel Hills plus both repecharge winners 29m Shane McDonald and 27a Stephen Corry.

Two cars that qualified above were excluded from the finals for irregularities.

Saturday Night

After reading a few heated postings on Macgors about the meeting on Friday it was going to be interesting to see what unfolded for finals night. A much bigger crowd turned up for a much better meeting with far stronger support programme (17 SuperStocks, 14 Stockcars and 20+ MiniStox) also updates on points and grids were forthcoming although sometimes read so rapidly and without racing numbers that it was near impossible to fill in the programme but still a vast improvement. What was most important was that the three heats to find a NZ champion were clean, fast and exciting races although heat one was brought to a complete stop after 64a expired and then the field was made to go back to their original racing order rather than postion 1, 2, 3 etc which seemed odd to me but not having been to many Saloon championships I'm not sure if this is the norm? I did wonder if 64a had been able to rejoin would he have been sent to the back of the field or to his racing position? Anyway here are a few of the results, hopefully they are correct:

Heat 1
48a, 76m, 46a, 112r, 21h

Heat 2
21h, 18m, 48a, 63a, 46a

Going into the final heat Towgood had a 1 point lead over Williams but with a starting grid of 10 compared with Williams on grid 19 and Ross on 16 he basically just had to keep his nose clean and finish in the top 5 to secure the title and coming home in second place behind 42w Jacobs was enough to do it. I made that sound rather easy but trust me, my heart rate was through the roof because there were some pretty hairy moments and at no point did Towgood button off, he was here to win and do it in style. His driving throughout the two nights was worthy of the 1nz and I can't think of anyone else who was more deserving of the title. Some fierce racing further down the field resulted in the cars of 21h and 46a being hooked together for a few moments, pretty much did their chances in and especially for Ross which I imagine is why Williams was pinged two places in the final result meaning a run-off for second was not needed with McClymont.

Top 10 Final Points
48a Phil Towgood 56pts
6m Brent McClymont 48pts
21h Steve Williams 46pts
46a Nigel Ross 44pts
112r Mel Hills 40pts
76m Michelle Wymer 39pts
45m Paul Cressy 36pts
29m Shane MacDonald 34pts
4m Terry Corin 33pts
42W Allan Jacobs 32pts

Overall it was great that this class has finally been recognised with a national championship, lets hope it's more 'national' next season with some South Island involvement. Whether the meeting will go down as anyone's favourite of the year is doubtful, except perhaps MrsTTTT. One thing is that before the meeting I told a mate there would be more hits than in the Stockcars but in actual fact it was some of the tidiest racing in years. The Saloon action on the track was awesome but the rest of the show on Friday was not good enough. WP is celebrating 40 years of speedway this season but that qualifying night was amateurish and did nothing to encourage people to be more positive about WP!

Meeting rating : 5.5/10


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