NZ Superstock Grand Prix
Waikaraka Park, Auckland
Where to start? ASSCC had already suffered the misfortune of a rainout with the original running of this meeting in December. Fifteen of the entrants listed in the programme failed to show for the rerun, but 32p Graeme Barr was a worthy addition. The parades and hot laps were completed and things were looking good, despite the low turnout of around 34 cars in the pits. The schedule of events meant we were going to have two groups running a single heat, top 12 from both qualifying and then a repercharge for the final six places for a 30 car field.
Group 1 emerged with 17 cars (grid 6 left empty) and ran a fairly decent race although 434r Richard Mahy pulled infield along with damage to the LF wheel for 62p Adam Joblin. 31p Andy McCabe and 4p Chad Ace also had problems but the win went the way of 72p Simon Joblin from 1nz Faram, 46w, 5k, 88p and 37r Ken Hunter. Group 2 emerged from the pits with a field of 16 cars with grids 1, 4 and 8 empty. Then it rained. It was a brief burst of rain but it was enough to completely derail the meeting and make it almost farcical. What followed was endless laps of wheel packing with various amounts of wheel packing participants, sometimes a few saloons, some ministocks who were pulled infield, Superstocks including the incredible sight of Malcolm Ngatai with a trailer but it seemed like a haphazard directionless effort and so it dragged on for over an hour.
Okay, you can't blame the club for the weather and we were all pissed about it, but it was the complete lack of intensity to get things running again. No feedback to the public and then the saloons were brought back out to have a race which 46a Nigel Ross won in a lap record performance, awesome effort Nigel, the track must be great, lets get this meeting rocking. More waiting, then 6 or so Superstocks came out and did some hot laps, or something, on a yellow light and then disappeared back into the pits. More waiting. At 10.10pm Group 2 came back out for their first heat of the night. By this stage most of us were wet, cold and then the awful news had filtered through from Huntly that a stockcar driver had been killed. Most people around me had resisted the urge to leave and were going to see out this meeting no matter how long it took. Group two had a little more action than the first heat and 71a Trevor Mason was the first of four rollovers for the night. 52p Scott Joblin pulled infield while 3nz Shane Penn set a lap record in taking the win from 19c Ngatai, 38r Redfern, 32p Barr, 58p Bengston and Rotorua's 87r Elsworth. There was some more Saloon racing and Streetstocks and then much muddling about whether the meeting should continue, that grids needed to be sorted and cars were being readied and finally at 10.45pm the 31 finalists emerged for heat one.
591p Wayne Hemi and 38r Scott Redfern were on row 1. 19c Ngatai needed the three minute bell but for 4p Chad Ace his race was over before the green flag with a DNS. This heat was probably the best of the night, with 1 lap the reds were on for 37b Gary Foley caught up in an incident with 46w Levien, 71a Mason and 88p Miers and ending up on his lid. Hemi had taken a strong lead from 38r, 87n, 23h and 32p. In the next few laps 46w, 8p, 5k would all retire and 19c Ngatai spent a few laps stuck on turn 2 before rejoining. 351a Paul Vasey was next to spectacularly roll right on the start finish line. 58p Bengston had tangled with 414h Ansty. 71a retired and 88p had punctured. Next car to roll was 5v Daryl Taylor caught between 31p McCabe and 87n Stanaway his race ended upside down in turn 4. Hemi took a convincing win. Can't tell you who else placed because we got no results.
Only 24 cars lined up for heat two with no one on grid 1, 115h Darren Short started on grid 2 with 31p McCabe on 3. Hemi was well down the field on about grid 16. This race had plenty of speed and less action. 1nz Faram spun McCabe on turn 1 and by lap 2 Hemi was up to 9th place already with the Red Waka really flying. Stanaway and 52p Joblin both tangled on turn 1 spinning and causing a bit of chaos for the field. Mid race 19c Ngatai retired and on lap 8 Penn set another new lap record. 414h Warwick Ansty crawled around the track with damage to collect a few points. Penn home first ahead of an impressive 115h Darren Short, 58p Peter Bengston and 591p Hemi fourth. Heat 2 finished at 11.50pm. Unofficial points after two heats were:
3nz Penn 65pts
591p Hemi 59pts
32p Barr 54pts
115h Short 51pts
38r Redfern 51pts
1nz Faram 48pts
12.15am. With only 22 of the original 31 fronting, there were plenty of gaps on the starting grid. 3nz Penn had the best chance though with a grid 1 start alongside 62p. Bengston would start from grid 3, Faram down around grid 17 and Hemi right near the rear of field. Of the leading six drivers, the first three would all succumb, Penn puncturing on about lap 2, Hemi retiring with 3 laps to go while in 6th place and 32p Graeme Barr spun by 46w Levien on lap one and spun again later dropping him well off the pace. The battle came down to Short, Bengston, Redfern and Faram with 38r Redfern managing to pip the others for first overall. 52p Scott Joblin took the race three win from 58p, 62p, 1nz and 38r. 115h Short coming home 7th. Final placings had Redfern first, Peter Bengsten second and a tie for third between Darren Short and Joe Faram. Surprisingly there was no run off, maybe the fact this one night event had now become a two day meeting! I got to the track at 4.30pm Saturday and left at 12.30am Sunday, an 8 hour shift. I know there are going to be the "well done WP for carrying on with the meeting" type of comment posted on various websites but the basic fact is the paying public are completely turned off by a meeting like this, and only the real diehards will sit through what was essentially a marathon of endurance with little or no entertainment other than the three championship heats. Rain is unavoidable, but the almost slow motion response to the situation was the disappointing aspect.
On the good side, Scott Redfern was a very popular winner, driving a borrowed tank with plenty of potential from the Ashby team who's season had been cut short so dramatically with injury. I hope they enjoyed the night. One good thing you can say about the Superstock season is that despite some appalling weather, the guys taking the big titles are really turning the form book on it's head, Joe Faram winning the NZ's, Andy McCabe the 240's and now Redfern taking the GP.
Finally, the loss of anyone at a speedway meeting is always tragic and when it is a driver we feel we know in a car we love, it just seems surreal. It also gives us perspective on what really is important and perhaps a moan about a meeting running late seems incredibly unimportant when speedway people are hurting right now. My sympathies and thoughts are with the family of Ray Channing and also the team at Huntly Speedway who no doubt had to deal with the worst situation imaginable. Rest in peace Ray, we loved that little yellow coupe.
Meeting rating : 5/10
Programme : $3, some in colour
Driver of the night : 591p Wayne Hemi, so close to a win, the Red Waka really showing how scary-good its going to be when the gremlins are sorted. The Waka likes Wacky park, I think 591a would look good, captain of the Allstars...
Parking : Free
Best Moment : A tank wins!