Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Four nights in Paradise
New Zealand Superstock Championship
Paradise Valley Speedway Rotorua
Continuing a trend that has wrecked havoc with the last two NZ titles, rain rolled in on Monday evening during the grand parade and ruined the party, meaning a 48 hour delay for the most anticipated meeting of the season. With the qualifying now held over until Wednesday, four of the original competitors pulled the plug leaving a field of 80 cars to contest the title. Any thoughts of a tame qualifying night were blown away with a pile-up on the first turn of the first heat ending the title hopes of 7b Shane Mellsop, 4b Joe Faram and very nearly 492i Campbell McManaway. In fact, the first round of heats for all four groups had plenty of action and a number of title favourites were immediately on the back foot with damage or a poor finish. Overall I felt the qualifying night was one of the best I've ever been to, and certainly the biggest qualifying night crowd too I'm guessing. A number of big names failed to make the cut and would be relying on the repecharge to get through.
89w Robertson 10r McRobbie 19c Ngatai 62h Conder 8p Miers 46n Cunningham
48n Nicholls 7p Penn 135r Hewson 23h Ashton 32p Barr 1nz Higgins
31p McCabe 515r Hickey 10p Rees 73h Ross 216r Pritchard 18n Harwood
14n Ewers 52p Joblin 16r Osborne 4r Westbury 5v Taylor 87r Elsworth
Palmerston North 7
72p Simon Joblin and 492i Campbell McManaway grabbed the last two spots for the finals in a dramatic repecharge that saw the likes of 92r Kyle Fraser, 351a Paul Vasey and 85n Dale McKenzie so unlucky not to qualify. What followed were three fantastic 15 lap heats to find our new NZ1 after reigning champ Brendan Higgins had punctured in heat one, ending his hopes of defending the title. The history books will show the heat winners as 16r Mark Osborne, 72p Simon Joblin and 19c Malcolm Ngatai but Dale Ewers managing a 2nd, 4th and dramatic third heat 9th placing getting him home by 2 points from 72p Simon Joblin and 10p Peter Rees who required a runoff for 2nd place, won by Joblin. A full report will no doubt be available on the Rotorua website.
A few personal thoughts...
I managed to get hold of a pit pass for the first time ever and saw a large chunk of both nights racing from the pit side of the fence. Thanks to Graham Hughes for the pass, it was quite an eye opener. The amount of organisation, chaos and tension that goes on "behind the scenes" was incredible. The sight of 77p Wayne Norris's battered car being brought back to the pits after that first turn pile-up in heat one was incredible - how they managed to get that car back out for heat three was beyond me, and of course the amount of racing that the crew members miss as as they work on the cars is a pretty high price to pay especially at a meeting this good.
Also the incredible scenes as 46n Blair Cunningham's tank was towed back to the pits minus a wheel (and he was the winner!) after a great runoff with 99r Mark Decke or seeing the state of Wayne Hemi's car (and crew) when his make-or-break drive round the outside of the pack failed spectacularly in yellow groups third heat. There's not a lot you can say but you certainly get to see the extreme highs and lows. My favourite sight though is an odd one, just as heat 1 of finals night had finished and the cars are about the head back to the pits, there is this massive wave of crew, family and trackstaff sprinting from trackside to the various pit spaces they have been assigned and it is pandemonium - its also exhilarating.
A lot of work went into this meeting and even with mother nature doing her best to disrupt things, as a showpiece for the sport, you would be hard pressed to find fault. As far as worthy winners, you cant deny 14n Dale Ewers was a massively popular victor. The top of the south Nelson club sure know how to produce great winners and unlike a few years ago at Stratford when the Nelson cars in the finals failed to bring home a winner, the complete opposite was the case here as Higgins and Harwood in particular made life very difficult for anyone without an 'N' on their car. Also getting a glimpse of drivers like Blair Cunningham and Dale McKenzie who are already making their mark on the national stage, the future of Nelson Superstock racing seems assured. In fact a number of younger drivers are really exciting future prospects, 87r David Elsworth, 10b Sam Bartholomew and 88p Jack Miers to name a few.
Finally I'd just like to say thanks to my friends Carolyn and Graham who put me up for the four nights during their Christmas break, and listened to me moan when it rained, and talk endlessly about what happened at stockies for the rest of the time, cheers!
Meeting rating : 9.5/10