Monday, January 10, 2011

NZ Stockcar Title, Blenheim

New Zealand Stockcar Championship
Eastern States Speedway, Blenheim


The last time I went to Eastern States Speedway was when Craig Boote defended his Superstock title back in the 1999/2000 season. A fairly tame affair with little or no atmosphere and if my memory serves me right, no result until well after midnight with no chance to complete a run-off for third place. Not one of their greatest moments... Fast forward to 2011 and Eastern States are the first South Island track to get the opportunity to run the biggest speedway meeting of the season. Upwards of 140 cars were rumoured to be coming but as with most titles the numbers dropped a bit to a respectable 119 cars that rumbled through the pit gates. Now this is where I usually put a run down of what happened in each of the five groups, and who qualified. I try to put a positive spin on most reviews - I'm always aware of the amount of work that people put into meetings and that a lot of speedways are club run - but honestly, this is a NATIONAL TITLE and one of the best meetings you can attend and I believe the qualifying night did not meet acceptable standards.

The on track racing was great (as it usually is with the stockcar class) but poor communication with the crowd meant we got little, or no points updates, no qualifiers at the end of the night, not even provisional qualifiers and the sound system was pretty poor. It must have been bought from the same shop as the lighting system. The actual track is in an amazing setting, its also a huge track that is wide but not too wide like Baypark. The weather was a scorcher and this was a meeting I was so looking forward to, but at the end of the night I had to go into the pits to ask drivers if they had qualified! Some of them didn't even know themselves. Unfortunately I left the place thinking the whole night had lacked atmosphere and wondering what it would have been like if it had been run at Nelson or Rotorua instead. The irony in all this is that one of the best commentators and statisticians, Barry Brown, was at the meeting but working for Speedbox.

For the record the 30 qualifiers were:
Blue Group:
41c Ben Jacobs
98r Mark Costello
581p Jordan Dare
67w Kane Hargreaves
33p Brad Powell
771e Scott Alexander

Orange Group:
211w Michael Gray
8r Scott Fredrickson
42s Shane Hurley
557p Darrel Wallace
72w Simon Hendry
18n Shane Harwood

Green Group:
1nz Peter Rees
17b Aaron Iremonger
38gm Tony Oliver
94w Kyle Lane
106v Dion Mooney
76w Shane Davis

Yellow Group:
87r Damian Orr
24c Ivan McPhail
171w Benji Sneddon
46v Allen Levien
777e Tim Alexander
134p Rob Mason

White Group:
79s Shane Hurliman
10p Josh Prentice
95a Gary Lonergan
32p George Frear
107c Colin Cameron
116h Steve Halse

Hard luck story of the night had to be 39r Doug Stanaway who was hit by 72w in the first couple of laps of heat one, then after a red light for 73d, on the restart his bonnet flew up giving him a DNF. He won both of his other heats and missed qualifying by a point or two. On finals night he won 2 of the 3 heats for the 2nd tier and came third in the final race.

Finals Night
Night two had much better commentary and results coming through, a pretty big crowd and the programme ran smoothly. The action was down on what I expected but there were still some big hits that went in, maybe Speedbox didn't catch a lot of it going by a few comments I have read but I can assure you trackside the racing was intense. A number of drivers were towed straight from the track to the pits for medical attention so maybe it doesn't translate as well to the screen as being there live? 1nz Rees had a charmed run in all three heats (again) but without a doubt his ability to read a race and the speed of that red tank are huge factors in his success. Below is from my scribbled notes of the three final heats:

Heat 1
Race four on the programme was the first heat of the BASIS NZ Stockcar championship. 116h Steve Halse and 38gm Tony Oliver were on the front row. The first incident only took until turn four when 76w Davis hit 38gm Oliver, then spun in front of the field and caused chaos, resulting in 557p Darrell Wallace perched up on the wall and bringing on the red lights. This left Tim Alexander with two flat front tyres, Steve Halse facing the wrong direction and 107c Cameron in the lead. 72w Hendry took over the lead, 8r Fredrikson spun in turn 4 and 41c had a damaged wheel guard that was rubbing and smoking badly to add to the clouds of dust coming off the track. 211w Michael Gray had an expensive spin and stall in turn 1. By mid race the running order was 72w, 771e, 171w, 18n, 10p and Kane Hargreaves 67w. 98r Mark Costello had been damaged and was slowly circulating by the wall, Rees had moved up to 7th place by this point. Spins to 46v, and then 33p managed to spin 171w Sneddon in front of 10p and 1nz Rees, costing them vital points. 95a spun on turn 2 and the final act of the race was 116h Halse spinning 771e Alexander dropping him two positions before he recovered on the last lap.
67w, 72w, 94w, 771e, 18n, 1nz, 24c, 581p, 17b, 87r

Heat 2
581p Jordan Dare and 67w Kane Hargreaves were the front row for heat two giving them both a good chance to capitalise on a good haul of points from heat 1. 87r Damian Orr was the only one to have problems from the green flag, unable to get the car moving more than a crawl and just made it on to the infield. 98r Costello hit the wall violently in turn 2 losing a side rail while 171w and 17b Iremonger tangled. By lap 4 Rees was up to 3rd place already and had the tank humming. Red light for the siderail and the leader was 18n Harwood from Dare, Rees, Hargreaves, Gray and Levien. From the restart it settled into a big flagrace until local hope 777e Alexander put in a huge hit on 171w Sneddon, bringing on the red lights and requiring the Blenheim car to be towed off to the pits. I was able to check out the standings at this point and 94w Lane had moved up to sixth place ahead of Levien and behind Gray. Already out of the race were 8r, 87r, 98r, 38gm and the injured Alexander. The race continued in pretty tame fashion and no other major incidents occurred.
18n, 1nz, 581p, 67w, 94w, 211w, 10p, 46v, 557p, 771e, 134p, 95a, 72w

Heat 3
After two heats the points were 67w on 57pts, 18n on 56pts, 1nz and 94w both on 54pts, 581p on 51pts, 771e on 48pts and 72w on 47pts. 10p and 211w rounded out the major chances on 44pts. It was going to be a classic Palmy v Welly final and who ever worked best as a team would probably take the 1nz. Right from the flagfall 76w Shane Davis had 18n Harwood in trouble, 98r Mark Costello immediately punctured which would turn out to be a huge piece of luck for Peter Rees later in the race. By lap 2 Rees had stormed to 4th position. A spin for 24c McPhail and then 8r Fredrikson spun the luckless Harwood. 557p Wallace put a huge hit on Blenheims big hope 771e bringing on the reds. On the red 94w was leading from 95a Lonergan, 1nz Rees, 10p Prentice, 67w Hargreaves, 46v, 17b, and 211w. 18n Harwood was in 22nd and by lap 6 two of the major contenders were already done with. This is the point when I really noticed the incredible work by 72w Hendry as he eliminated 134p Rob Mason and then 107c Colin Cameron. The Wellington cars seemed more interested in attacking as the Palmy ones kept running. Red lights came on for Mason with 94w still leading from Rees in second. On the restart 98r Costello had one of many attempts at getting Rees, but with the flat right rear he just didn't have the speed to catch him. 33p spun by 76w, Costello's last shot at Rees fails and Hargreaves right rear collapses with a lap or two to go dropping him down a number of places. 94w Lane had done enough to edge out Rees for the title.
94w, 1nz, 10p, 211w, 17b, 95a, 581p.

Overall top ten:
94w Lane 84
1nz Rees 83
67w Hargreaves 80
581p Dare 75
10p Prentice 72
211w Gray 71
17b Iremonger 61
95a Lonergan 56
18n Harwood 56
46v Levien 55

Overall I'm not sure what to think about this meeting. As one of the biggest drawcards of the year it never really got to any sort of heights. There was good racing but not one single rollover or runoff required. The commentary was flat and lacking info and the atmosphere you usually associate with this meeting was absent. I'm not for one second bagging the club or the people that put in heaps of effort to make it all a reality, but a premiere meeting must have set standards in future and I think part of that has to be the ability to keep the paying public updated with what is happening - at the track, on their website, and during the racing. I don't regret having travelled to this meeting but it could have been so much better. On a positive note, congratulations to Kyle Lane who earned his 1nz title with great driving (a 3rd, 5th and a 1st) and good support from his Wellington club mates. I guess it brings in to question whether smaller clubs should hold big meetings, something I have always agreed with but if they don't learn from previous mistakes or improve, then its not good for the sport as a whole. Difficult things is, giving all the big meetings to a few big clubs could do just as much damage.

Meeting rating : 6.5/10



Anonymous said...

An incredible report.
I have heard from dozens of people both at the title meeting and the stockcar G.P. on the following wednesday night (Nelson) that the title meeting was "absolutely awesome".
I would like to take some points from your article and ask others who were there to post a comment.
1..You mention you try to put a positive spin on most reviews (TRY HARDER)
2..Sound system was poor. It must have been bought from the same shop as the lights. (SARCASM))
3..No roll overs....I presume you mean no cars rolled over? (EASTERN STATES PROBLEM OR THE DRIVERS??)
4..Not bagging the club.(REALLY??)
Perhaps you should stay in the North Island with your negative attitude and petty and sarcastic remarks

Gregobro said...


Gregobro said...

My response
The whole point of this website is that the opinions are MINE, about how I felt going to a meeting. Not what the masses thought, not what Anonymous from Blenheim thought. What I thought. And the original reason for the website was because I sat through too many substandard piss poor meetings and paid my hard earned money to attend with no right of reply.

If you actually READ the review and you are honest, the lighting and sound were not up to scratch were they? I mentioned that there were no cars that rolled or runoffs because they add to the excitement of a meeting and there weren't any at this meeting FACT. Were did I say it was the club or drivers fault? I didnt. I mentioned a contributing factor to the lack of action.

You make no mention of the complete lack of points or updates on qualifying night? A vital part of any national championship.

After I left the pits, I noticed the poor sound system, I had to move a few times to try and hear the commentary on the back straight by the food caravans. The lighting is not great, if you are at the far end of the track it can be hard to see the other end clearly, once it is dark FACT.

Any merit your comments carry though are lost by the fact you didn't put your name, and the pointless last comment about "stay in the North Island." If you thought the meeting was great then good for you. I too am interested to see what other people that went to this meeting REALLY thought. Feel free to leave a comment below, but avoid getting personal - its only racing after all.

Finally, to give some sort of credence to my reviews, I have been to nearly every running of the NZ Stockcar title since 2000, and even the ones before it became an official title. I think I can judge by comparison which ones have been 'absolutely awesome' and without a doubt Blenheim wasn't.

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