Monday, March 01, 2010
Michelin New Zealand Superstock Title, Kihikihi Speedway
As meetings go, this one had more twists and turns than a soap opera. With the original 26 qualifiers null and void after a finals night rain out and subsequent failure to complete the meeting within 14 days, the NZ Superstock Championship version 2.0 was finally completed last night at Kihikihi speedway. It was going to take something pretty special to take the focus off the troubled build up, and I think the third heat in front of a modest crowd on a warm and clear night may have done the trick. It was very reminiscent of the third heat I saw in Gisborne a few years ago when Wayne Hemi and the Wellington hit squad aided by one Kelvin Gray gave us one of the best NZ finals I had ever seen.
Leading into the final race, three South Islanders were head of the points table. Reigning champion 1nz Malcolm Ngatai on 49pts, 3nz Brendan Higgins on 44pts, 7n Craig Boote on 43pts followed by a trio of Palmerston North cars; 10p Peter Rees 42pts, 58p Peter Bengston 40pts and 54p Bevan Humphrey on 38pts. What followed was proof that Superstocks do in fact hit, and that there are few types of motorsport that can match 26 Superstocks going mongrel! Five rollovers including 32p Barr, defending champ 1nz Ngatai, 10p Rees and points leader with only two laps remaining 58p Bengsten by 7n Boote who also rolled in the hit. Add into that one of the best performances I have ever seen from 31p Andy McCabe, plenty of stirring also coming from both Joblin boys attacking anything without a P, and 22r Steiner in the mix also. Through all the carnage 96b Murray Long kept circulating almost untouched, while 3nz Higgins managed to repel attack after attack with a punctured front left and rookie 54p Humphrey came oh so close to taking the title. A run off for first place was required, with Higgins using all his years of teams racing knowledge to fend off the young pretender.
What a great race. Compensation no matter how late, for what must have been a difficult and trying time for the host club. Plenty of action then and no doubt some major paybacks brewing if the infield comments were anything to go by. One of my favourites was Craig Boote "...they started it, I finished it!" when asked about the massive hit on Bengsten. Considering his limited racing build-up to this event, imagine what he will be like next season. I really do think he will be the first to reach four 1nz titles... Also worthy of a mention, 492i Campbell MacManaway who really lifted his game and came home in 4th overall.
There will be a lot said about this meeting but I hope that old chestnut (not Carlos) that gets wheeled out right about now that small clubs shouldnt hold big meetings gets well and truly buried. Look at the actual Kihikihi venue that was presented to the public over the weekend. It is light years ahead of what was there last season and this event was the catalyst for all that work. The lighting, sound system, commentary team were all first class and the infield is pretty cool looking and actually works. If big meetings only ever go to big clubs then there will only be big clubs left. This terrible juggernaut called "professionalism" is destroying sports and leaving carnage in its wake. Yes raise standards, yes aim for the best we can be but don't lose what is important and that is all tracks getting the opportunity to host meetings like this.
I left the stadium on a high last night, absolutely loving Superstocks. I was still buzzing this morning with the thought of Brendan Higgins as 1nz. I doubt it counts for much but I hope someone at Kihikihi knows that this punter had a great night and I appreciate all the work that went into this event. Forget the tsunami, there was a Hurricane in town!
Check out the Kihikihi website for the full analysis of what happened or view the third heat on YouTube with Petrolfumes great coverage here. And for opinion on Macgors here.
Meeting rating : (Sunday only) 8.5/10