Wednesday, April 23, 2008
As seasons go, this was a very up and down one for me. It started off on a high seeing Pete Rees and Shane Penn racing for NZ in Birmingham, England at Wheels Speedway and ended with a rain out (yet again) at Waikaraka Park for their Auckland SuperStock and SuperSaloons titles which will now be run in October. I guess that means my viewing season has come to an abrupt end unless I go to one of the smaller meetings run by clubs like Taipa, Mercury Bay or Whangarei. I did make it to 21 meetings but for the first time in my memory, never made it to a single SuperStock grand slam event (NZ, NI, GP) and none of the Stockcar equivalents other than the qualifying of the Stockcar North Island title in Kihikihi. The sad facts being cost and time off work after my trip away to the UK. Also with the way the economy is heading I think alot of people will be forced into a similar position for next season and Speedway clubs are going to have to lift their game if they want to keep their share of that all important discretionary dollar. Here's a quick rewind of the meetings I went to and if you want you can click on them to read the actual review:
Wheels Speedway, Birmingham UK
WP Practice 1
WP Practice 2+3, Opening Meeting, Huntly 5/10
Opening Meeting, WP 5/10
King Of Crash, WP Meeting 2 4/10
Fireworks, WP 7/10
Ollie Browne Superstocks Round 1, WP 5/10
Stockcar Teams Night 1, Huntly 6.5/10
Celebrity Stockcar Cup, WP 6/10
North Island Stockcars, Kihikihi 7/10
Mad Butcher Demo Derby, WP 6/10
NZ Saloon Car Championship, WP 5.5/10
World 240's, Rotorua 8/10
WP Club Night 6.5/10
Palmerston North Superstock Teams 8.5/10
WP Rainout 0/10
Auckland Teams Night 1 7/10
Auckland Teams Night 2 8.5/10
Stockcar Invitation, Dargaville
King Of The Park, WP 7/10
Auckland Stockcar & Saloon Titles, WP 6.5/10
John Webster Memorial, WP 7.5/10
That's a rough average of 6.5/10 per meeting (not including the 0/10 for the bizarre rainout at WP that was beyond belief and not worth including). Last seasons average was 6.4/10, a similar result although I went to a few more meetings this year. The overwhelming feeling for me though, was that if the meeting was too hard to get to or had been less than spectacular on the first night of a two nighter, then I flagged it. The best meetings again this season for me were the two SuperStock Teams champs at Palmy and Auckland and the World 240's. From the reports on Macgors I guess the Stockcar NZ title at Stratford and the Welly Stockcar Teams were the other two meetings that hurt me most to miss.
On the homefront, Waikaraka Park appeared to have yet another change of direction and personnel mid-season but whatever happened was kept pretty much under wraps for a change and then the info that did come out was mostly racing related through "Georgia" on Macgors site and was appreciated by many. Will be interesting to see where the club is going next season, but I do have a horrible feeling that Huntly will be gaining a few more disgruntled Auckland competitors. SuperStock numbers were up again and had fairly decent fields, hopefully the days of four cars turning up are gone and on a personal note it was great to see Neil McCoard turn up at the last meeting with the ex Mohi 74r. Stockcars as always were the real entertainers and a few of the regulars have their cars up for sale, lets hope they are back for more when October rolls around. I'm hoping the thread "new cars for next season" gets an influx of postings to help us all through the winter. After a great season last year the Modifieds were barely a blip on the radar and the gaps between their appearances were too long for fans let alone the drivers. With the continuing growth of Sprintcars nationwide you have to wonder where this class is headed.
One posting thread that did appear too often sadly was the news that someone connected to speedway had passed away, is it just me or did we really have a bad 12 months? Just look at a few of the names we have lost recently:
48h saloon huntly, gt race panels
71m sprintcar racer from baypark
former tq driver, scoopnz1
former wellington stockcar driver
former stockcar driver + baypark president
tq driver from western springs
former streetstock driver, baypark
solo bike rider
tony (junior) gowans
95/96 new zealand streetstock champion
motorsport rescue team, nelson
ex28a Stockcar driver
Competitor of the Year
On a happier note, my competitor of the season was without a doubt Phil Towgood in the 48a Saloon. Was there a single championship he didn't win this year? In a class that boasts some great drivers he was head and shoulders above the rest and just as important, entertaining to watch and a deserving New Zealand champion. A special mention also to 19c Malcolm Ngatai who I only saw race on two occasions but you get the feeling that next season he is going to be a major crowd pleaser. At WP for the Ollie Browne meeting he was breathtaking to watch and that new Gordge probably hasn't even reached it's potential yet.
Speedway's presence on the net grew again this year with even more competitors having some sort of website but amazingly some clubs still struggle to maintain a decent site. It's almost unbelievable in this day and age. Just like last year, Rotorua, Palmerston North and Woodford Glen lead the way with everything a club website should have, also joining the bandwagon are Wellington (excellent reviews and up to date info) and Stratford (resurrecting a long dormant site and doing a great job). The Wanganui club did an awesome job during the NZ Stockcar title with updates and results from that meeting. Although not a website, the updates on Macgors about the build on the 29s stockcar probably rate as one of my favourite reads this year (all 19 pages so far) and of course Macgors NZ Speedway, can you even imagine speedway without it now? Long may it continue.
Finally thanks to anyone who emailed me with comments about reviews, for sending me photos (Cuzz12h, Pallmall, Wal86) or programmes from meetings I couldn't make it to (Wal86, Del Neild), it was really appreciated. Sometimes you wonder why you feel the need to write down what you have seen, or posting photos online but I know that when I miss a meeting I'm straight on to Macgors looking for a link to read a review or see some photos of the event and I appreciate anyone else who does it, so hopefully my site is contributing something positive and filling that 'need' for other speedway junkies like me.
Roll on next season.
Season Review 06/07
Season Review 05/06
A few photos from this season:
Sunday, April 13, 2008
John Webster Memorial
Each year this event is hyped to the heavens as THE meeting to attend and oddly this year it even got some coverage in the NZ Herald which is unheard of unless there has been a death or there is a negative angle at least. The one exception to the rule appears to be whenever a sprintcar races in Auckland it gets some sort of coverage as they appeal to the Speedway 'Nouveau Riche' and are obviously deemed classy enough for TV. Who knows, anyway the original idea for this meeting was to combine the two factions of Auckland speedway, essentially the open wheel classes of Western Springs and the Stockcar and Saloon classes of Waikaraka Park in one big showcase of Auckland's best dirt track racing. It was John Websters baby and after his unfortunate passing it became his memorial meeting. This year the final round of the Ollie Browne SuperStock series was added to the event in a nice tie in as a fitting tribute to another stalwart of Auckland speedway history.
So what was it like? I decided before it even started that I wasn't going to do any sort of reveiw as I just wanted to sit back and enjoy it. I used to be a WSprings regular so the thought of Midgets and Sprintcars with WP's SuperStocks, Supersaloons and Sidecars was the perfect hybrid meeting (I will have one small moan here and say Stockcars should have been involved perhaps at the expense of Sidecars) but it does feel like you are watching the future of speedway. These are the classes that fill stadiums, that get you excited and are ironically the foundation classes that we all got hooked on in the first place.
I really enjoyed the meeting, there were some problems with stoppages for the WS classes, noticeably the midgets and the 'shoot outs' or 'shoot offs' or 'shoot me this is boring' run offs were a bit lame and went pear shaped during the SuperSaloons with the timing but there were moments of brilliance too. 19c Malcolm Ngatai must have a new favourite track after completely wasting the rest of a fairly good field in heats 1 + 3 of the SuperStocks and apart from a well timed spin by 53a Marx and then a malfunction that ended his race in heat 2 (which again he was leading by almost half a lap) he would have had a hat-trick of wins like 33a Graham Standring who also performed brilliantly in the midgets. 99a Shane McInteer was either going to win spectacularly or crash big time in the Saloons and it was the latter unfortunately but he brought the feature race to life when it was becoming a bit of a procession. Hard luck too for 66m Skinny Colson who had the Sprintcar feature all but sewn up when a spinning backmarker took him out. Sprintcars were a little bit of a let down for me but with only 9 on hand on a programme as classy as this I wasn't surprised.
So there was drama, dust, good fields, good classes, good crowd... whether it's the meeting John Webster would have organised I don't know, but I doubt he would have minded and Ollie Browne would have been proud of the Stockcar racing which was more aggressive than usual and an Auckland car won. Kick arse. I can't imagine anyone left feeling unhappy with this years John Webster Memorial.
Meeting rating : 7.5/10
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Two of WP's outstanding classes this season drew good fields for their respective Auckland titles but fewer people than I expected through the gates which was a little bit disappointing, they certainly deserved a big crowd and just as they have all season, turned on some great racing all the same.
About 32 cars were in the pits for the Stockcar title which meant that it had to be whittled down to 30 cars for the three heat championship but after the two qualifying races 31 cars contested the three heats anyway. It meant two extra Stockcar races so I wasn't complaining. Heat one involved so much action that it would be impossible to even attempt to write about it, I found myself saying 'wow' every few seconds which is what we came here for. 441a Lloyd Harvey had a wild ride up the wall along the pit gate, 137a Pauly Rawiri spent the entire race making sure defending champ 66a Peter Church didn't have a chance of a repeat and 29a Steve Gavin was the victim of a massive hit on the grass when the locked together cars of 27a Jacky Phipps and Harvey careered on to the infield. Great stuff and this was only heat one!
67a, 272a, 168a, 95a, 117a, 919a, 64a, 71a, 158a, 36h
Only 24 cars made it out for heat two and the action continued on in the same fashion with 168a + 67a leading for most of the race, red lights for 272a and Huntly visitor 218h and another miserable race for Peter Church basically contained by Rawiri who was crawling round the poleline for the entire night.
168a, 67a, 117a, 919a, 64a, 158a, 71h
Going in to the last heat Nick Krsnic was leading the points
64a + 95a 52pts
22 cars managed to front and for most of the race up until a red light stoppage it looked as though Krsnic was doing enough to take the title, he had managed to continue after being taken up the wall in his own signature move by 17a, a hit by Trevor Mason on 71h Wooten that was so hard the wing flew off backwards and a massive hit into the wall for 9k Pearce had the crowd cheering but the deciding factor was a hit from a no doubt frustrated 66a Church who was finally free of Rawiri on 67a Krsnic which cost him valuable places and the title. Littlewood home in 2nd place behind 117a Halfpenny enough to take it.
117a, 168a, 17a, 919a, 64a, 441a
168a Grant Littlewood
117a Rose Halfpenny
67a Nic Krsnic
The Saloons also had a fair amount of bash and crash and I can imagine an enormous amount of repairs going on this week. The track seemed even more dusty than last week but a major amount of that came from the infield which was seldom watered and with every spin came a huge cloud onto the front straight which must have made visibility a problem. In fact I cant remember seeing this many cars spinning in a night so perhaps there were some problems with the track surface? The red hot favourite was 48a Towgood and he did indeed come through for the win but only just with 61a Roy Walker pushing him in the third heat. I must admit I spent alot of time watching the pack rather than the leaders as the amount of contact was incredible and poor 13r Murray Guy was one of the most unlucky on the night, he constantly seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also the 4a Honda CRX which was in the thick of things chose a hard night to make it's debut and caused some headaches but at least the racing was fantastic for us in the stands if that's any consolation!
48a Towgood, 61a Walker, 71m Wymer
Good support programme too with 10 SuperSaloons, 22 Ministocks and 13 Streetstocks having their final appearance of the season. I may be wrong, but I believe it was also 36a Greg Mitchell's final appearance in the MiniStocks and he has been one of the stars of this grade with an exciting future I'm sure, all the best to him.
Meeting rating : 6.5/10