Superstock World 240's
Paradise Valley Raceway, Rotorua
In recent times the domination of Palmerston North cars at major titles, heck any title, has made them rather unpopular to say the least. First there was the "Smash the P" campaign and now the "Plastic P" reference to describe imported drivers who register to the Palmy track. So it comes as no surprise that at this title, those familiar 'P' cars were once again at the pointy end of the field going into the final race. What was a refreshing change though was that one of the real journeymen of the Superstock class, 31p Andy McCabe picked up that elusive BIG title, 240 World Champion, sounds grand doesn't it, and I don't think a single person at the stadium would have denied him a title that has been a long time coming.
Friday nights qualifying had been cut short with you guessed it, rain, a meeting I couldn't make it to, so Saturday nights programme included an entree sized starter beginning at 5.30pm to finish the last two group heats and a stockcar race - a great bonus for the big crowd who turned up. As 7pm rolled around, the finals night proper began with the always spectacular repercharge to find the last qualifiers for the 26 car World 240 championship. 89w Dale Robertson looked the likely winner but a flat tyre ended his hopes gifting the lead to local 10r Alan McRobbie, 72p Simon Joblin grabbed the second spot while the real battle was for the last spot between 48n Brett Nicholls, 87n Thomas Stanaway and 38r Scott Redfern. A last corner lunge by the two Nelson drivers ended up costing them both as Redfern darted through.
As expected the turn one push claimed yet more victims and 4b Joe Faram must wonder what he has to do to get safety round this track on the first lap! The chaos was caused by 4p Chad Ace spinning 2nz Scott Joblin in front of the whole pack. The result left defending champ 3nz Peter Rees, 88p Jack Miers, 97r Pat Westbury, 4b Faram and 2nz Scott Joblin either on the infield or right at the back of the field. Then began a massive flag race from the rest of the field turning the track surface black after only a few laps. 2nz Joblin had a flat left front but was still managing good speed, 515gb Frankie Wainman Jnr punctured mid race dropping well back. 8uk Mick Harris in the Rees Superstock tank was spun in turn 1 and was stranded for a few laps. 32p Graeme Barr was making a charge for the front and pushed both 8p Scott Miers and 2nz Joblin out of his way in his drive to win, the 2nz left facing the wall in turn 1. 19c Malcolm Ngatai whose good fortune to make the finals came at the cost of 135r Scott Hewson who had withdrawn with a damaged car, looked out of sorts in this race perhaps getting the setup wrong. Big chunks of track from turns 3 + 4 were flying up into the crowd and it was going to be a battle all night to keep on top of the track conditions. 7p Shane Penn made huge moves up to 5th place ahead of 31p Andy McCabe. 38r Scott Redfern was left stuck in the wall on turn 1 unable to refire the tank. There were a few poleline indescretions and post race 18n Shane Harwood was dropped two places for passing 58p Peter Bengston on the grass. Six of the top seven drivers were from Palmerston North, only 282s Phil Ogle managing to get a look in.
Top 10: 32p, 282s, 72p, 4p, 7p, 31p, 58p, 1gb, 18n, 87r
Rees was on pole for this one but after a dnf in heat one, would he run or play? 87r David Elsworth spun 4p Chad Ace and 282s Phil Ogle was an early casualty. This heat again was a big flag race with the field separating in to two distinct groups at either end of the track for a number of laps. Whatever was wrong with the 19c Ngatai car in heat one, was fixed for this one as he diced with Rees for the lead eventually winning the race after Rees ran foul of the refs and was relegated one spot for a pass on Ngatai. A mid race red light for the muffler off 515gb saw 7p Penn retire to the infield along with 1nz Ewers and 10r McRobbie. After an early hit into the wall, 32p Graeme Barr moved from grid 24 up to a finish of 11th.
Top 10: 19c, 3nz, 18n, 31p, 58p, 87r, 1gb, 4b, 72p, 16r
Going in to the final heat 31p Andy McCabe was leading on 44pts ahead of four cars on 42pts, Peter Bengsten, Simon Joblin, Shane Harwood and Graeme Barr. Barr had the best starting position on grid 6 while most of the major players were in a tight group mid pack. It took until lap 1, turn 2 for things to turn ugly with 16r Mark Osborne taking a wild ride on top of 32p Graeme Barr's bonnet. Barr's throttle stuck open and he ended up backwards into the wall on turn 3, adding to his impressive resumé of spectacular heat three demises! On the red light, 18n Harwood retired along with 16r Osborne. 10r Alan McRobbie was the chief stirrer having pot shots at most Palmy players but with both 87r Elsworth and 31p McCabe battling side by side McRobbie was unable to get McCabe. Elsworth managed to pass McRobbie and put some distance between himself and McCabe but with the 10r eventually being despatched bringing on the red lights, Elsworth would not get the necessary points to beat the Palmy battler. A late semi-spin attempt on the 31p by Joe Faram would cost McCabe a spot but finishing third the title was his. Only 14 cars crossed the finish line.
Top 10: 87, 4b, 31p, 97r, 38r, 58p, 282s, 8p, 1gb, 8uk
31p Andy McCabe 68pts
87r David Elsworth 64pts
58p Peter Bengston 63pts
1gb Paul Harrison 57pts
72p Simon Joblin 56pts
4b Joe Faram 55pts
So then, two weeks out from the NZ Superstock title in Huntly and a number of drivers will be fairly pleased with their progress, 32p Graeme Barr, 19c Malcolm Ngatai and 58p Peter Bengston to name a few, but one or two will have concerns. Reigning national champ Dale Ewers had a night to forget, with a 15th and two dnfs, hopefully this was just an off night. 89w Dale Robertson, 37r Ken Hunter and 7p Shane Penn also must have wondered what they had to do to get a break. Well done once again to the Rotorua Club for what was a superb "effortless" show, in reality a lot of work must go into it of course. The bobcat driver in turns three and four deserves a medal for the work he did all night on the track surface! The support racing was first class, saloons were hotdog time for me though. For the record, winner of the Superstocks in Paradise was 118r Bryce Steiner, gaining his automatic entry into next seasons 240's final.
Meeting rating : 8/10
Programme : $10 collectable, excellent
Driver of the night : 32p Graeme Barr
Parking : Free
Meetings Best Moment : 31p McCabe winning and his speech at the finish of the race with Barry Brown, "Awesome, Bloody Awesome!"