Waikaraka Park, Auckland
Following hot on the heels of Huntly's Speedfest is the almost identical John Webster Memorial meeting. The Auckland club had only four classes on show, leaving out the Stockcars and Saloons that made up the field in Huntly. I thought "this will be a quick night" until I saw the programme and noticed that all classes had been split into two groups, a bit of a stretch with only 11 Sprintcars. The Superstocks were obviously down on the numbers they expected and they ran as one group of 18 cars. The meeting should have started at 6pm which was wise considering how cold it gets this time of year but was a bit slow to get out of the starters gate. Heres a brief breakdown of the four classes on show:
Two groups of 14 cars started the night with Group A wins to 49a Shane Alach and 2nz Chris McCutcheon and Group B wins to the impressive 99c Dave Kerr and 88a Brad Mosen. 24 cars came out for the final with highest points from the heats at the front; Mosen on grid 1 alongside 21a Worboys for a 30 lap feature. Mosen and Worboys had a coming together before they even reached the start line and the race was restarted. Five lots of yellow lights later and plenty of drama including the leading pair coming to grief mid race after Worboys had lead and looked good for the win, left 2nz McCutcheon with the lead and basically untouched for the rest of the race. Most attention was on 88a Mosen who moved up and down the leaderboard with every lap getting as high as second but finishing 4th behind 2nz, 77a and 4a. I was really impressed all night with 99c Dave Kerr from Christchurch who had the misfortune to puncture the left front in one of the heats and also during the feature, but continued on finishing 6th overall.
After their star turn at Speedfest, much was expected of this class and they didn't disappoint. Heat wins to 8h Craig Cardwell, 96a Lance Jennings, 21n Ian Burson and 21h Steve Williams. For the Glen Turner Memorial, Williams and Jennings filled the front row of the 20 lap final ahead of 24w Martin Halcrow and Burson on grid 4. There were only 3 yellow lights in this race on a night of MANY yellows, the first one for 1nz Steve Flynn spinning in turn 4 early on, the second for 24a Ben Harding with collapsed suspension ending his race and finally for 26m Shane McIntyre who had made huge ground moving up through the field after a rough night of qualifying, over cooking it in turn 1. 96a Jennings had taken the early lead after a bad start for Williams saw him drop to 5th. Once Burson got past Jennings he cleared out and made easy work of the final, showing the Auckland crowd some of the classy driving we have heard so much about. Halcrow secured second place and crowd favourite Jennings in third.
The Superstocks raced for the Ollie Browne Memorial with combined points from all three heats. After the first two heats it was 87r David Elsworth who had two impressive wins to his name, leading 19c Malcolm Ngatai, 16h Aaron Headington and 351a Paul Vasey. 28h Glen Drabble took Elsworth to the wall early leaving him in last place, but the real action was between Vasey and Ngatai who battled for the lead and overall win. Both of them suffered blows to their chances with Ngatai sending Vasey off the end of turn 3 into the wall, while Ngatai ran into the spun car of 282s Phil Ogle. 32p Graeme Barr took over the lead and eventually the heat win while Ngatai managed to retain second place for the overall title. 16h Headington came home in 3rd completing two very good meetings at Huntly and WP. Overall points had 19c on 54pts, 16h on 50pts and 87r Elsworth on 49pts.
Strangely, the class that had the least competitors and looked most likely to bore the pants off everyone, also had the most spectacular competitor in 8a Ryan O'Connor. Absolutely stunning is the only way to describe his performance on Saturday. They may as well have put the other cars back on their trailers and let him have the track to himself to see how many lap records he could break. During the second round of heats for the Sprintcars, O'Connor set a new lap record of 13.16 seconds as he charged around the WP track in what I can only describe as the fastest thing I have ever seen at Waikaraka Park. It was truly awesome, as if the car was on rails. Stunning! So it should come as no surprise that he won the feature 20 lap race quite convincingly.
This meeting did seem to have a bit more spark with the on-track action than Speedfest, but considering it started early the timekeeping wasn't so great. A bonus of the night though was Jamie McCarthy, once again proving he is the best in the business, plenty of info, great knowledge of the drivers taking part and his commentary style is just so easy to listen to and enjoy - no wonder he is in such great demand. In hindsight, I still think Stockcars should have been on the programme and Sprintcars not split into two groups, but there you go. A great display put on by most of the South Island visitors didn't go unnoticed either, 19c Ngatai, 21n Burson and 99c Kerr in particular. Thanks for making the effort to entertain on one of the best racing surfaces in the country.
Meeting rating : 7.5/10
Programme : $3.00 A5 some in colour
Driver of the night : 21n Ian Burson
Parking : Free
Best Moment : 8a Ryan O'Connor, sublime.