Sunday, January 10, 2010
NZ Supersaloons Huntly
At the beginning of the season when I looked through Macgors calendar (all care, no responsibility) this wasn't one of the meetings I had pencilled in for attending, but after a few weeks away on holiday and hanging out for some speedway action, I managed to make it to the Saturday night finals and what an excellent decision it was, as this was one of the best meetings I've been to in the last few seasons. It was that rare convergence when drivers, track and crowd all seem to click and you leave the place buzzing. Twenty of the best Saloon drivers, a strong supporting programme, big crowd, a track that survived the onslaught and an awesome commentary team that had you updated with every aspect of the meeting from points to pits.
I've never been a huge fan of the three heats for position and one race final after seeing it used a couple of times at major Superstock meetings and I'm guessing Steve Williams is not a fan of it either after having a 10pt lead after the three heats that usually would crown you as a convincing champion BUT for this class and this meeting it really worked. All three heats were unique, heat one was a heavy track that had little or no movement for the first half and more of a keep your head and your grid position until the track dried a little and then a glimpse of the passing that would be witnessed later in the evening. Heat two best represented what most people expect of a Supersaloon title, mutiple incidents, many laps on yellow and a huge amount of retirements and of course this was the heat the really set up two of the major players for the night 21h Williams and 25i Verdoner who by virtue of avoiding the carnage ahead of them and managing to also pass a few grabbed massive amounts of points for the final grid positions. Heat three was something else. Flat out racing with little incident and multiple passing opportunities, the crowd got to see something special and what an entree for the big winner take all final heat.
I know there is no sure thing in Speedway but I bet the engraver had started writing '21h Ste...' on the winners' cup as he had just looked better and better as the night went on and was starting off grid 1 for the final. Unfortunately an incident just before turn 4 during the restart after the Cardwell/Flynn stoppage, the back cars came forward too quick and 63h Mouat was hit from behind leaving him unable to head for the infield he managed to crawl around the wall up into turn 1 and 2 fully expecting the yellow lights to come on and in Williams own words "he baulked" when he saw the ailing 63h, lost concentration and spun in front of the leading pack ending his magnificent nights work and his chances. From there on in it was a four horse race with 7m, 1nz, 25i and perennial favourite 96a Jennings. Reigning champ McIntyre held off 7m Emerson for a while but inevitably the outside line that 38h Hemi had been using to make huge gains on the leading pack opened up for 7m and the race was his. The enthralling fight for the NZ3 position ended dramatically when Hemi and Jennings speared off onto the infield and 25i Verdona somehow managed to avoid and finish for a hugely popular podium position.
As mentioned by the commentary team the first two rows on the starting grid contained 3 of the last four NZ champions and so this is one title that 7m Brent Emmerson can truly cherish as a 'best of the best' victory. It's a hard road being a track promoter but just occasionally a meeting like this happens and I'm guessing Red Wootton, Nigel Wilton and the team at Huntly are mighty proud right now, and so they should be.
I got to catch up with a few speedway people before the meeting and also by virtue of actually being in the right place at the right time scored a ticket to the NZ Superstocks at Kihikihi when Barry Brown was in the crowd offering the chance to win and was standing right behind me. Good score! Was great to finally meet Barry and well done KK on your generous promotion - cant wait to be there January 30th - 31st at Kihikihi Speedway which was the answer to the question by the way.
Meeting rating: (Night 2 only) 9/10