Saturday, July 27, 2013

John Webster XIV

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John Webster XIV, May 11th
Waikaraka Park, Auckland

Incredibly this was the fourteenth running of the John Webster instigated meeting, and with the Ollie Brown Memorial for Superstocks and Glenn Turner Memorial for Supersaloons the meeting has sort of morphed into a Remembrance Champs featuring 'the best of the best' speedway classes from Auckland's two tracks. Six Shooters, Midgets and Sprintcars were the other classes on the programme giving it more of a Western Springs flavour than a night at WP. Usually following right on the heels of Speedfest, the comparisons can sometimes be a bit unkind but with a rain delay following the cancellation of the first running of this event, it had the chance to stand on it's on merits.

Unfortunately, most classes struggled for numbers and the spectacle wasn't really up to scratch in at least two of these classes that represent what is so great about our sport. I felt that Stockcars should have been on the programme - they bring large fields and usually provide the best entertainment. Supersaloons, for me, were the biggest let down. There were 7 cars in attendance, 2 of them Saloons although 46a Nigel Ross would ironically provide us with some of the best racing of the night finishing 3rd overall and leading the feature race for half of the distance. He never once looked out of place and was a star turn. Six Shooters were the other problem child, they look great, they had a decent field of about 13 or so cars but something is missing. I know the class is new and this is only my third sighting of them but the racing is almost pedestrian at times and someone sitting next to me asked "are these vintage cars?" and that wasn't a compliment! There are some recognised names in the field too and former Superstock pilot Laslo Mezsaros was the standout in most races, but the jury is definitely out on this class for the moment.

The original 27 car field listed in the programme including defending champ 19c Malcolm Ngatai (who unfortunately was a no show) dropped somewhat to thirteen cars, but there was quite a bit of class in there and the racing was good. Two drivers stood out for me, 27b Shane Warner and 87r David Elsworth for very different reasons. Warner, a late arrival in the pits took out heat 1 and came home third behind 115a Darren Short and 63a Phil Marx in heat two for a front row start in the Ollie Browne final. Elsworth had a fifth and fourth place finish so was still in contention but rolled out of the pits minus the wing and decided to show he's more than just the runner for the Busters, setting the final heat alight. He held up 5a Brad Ridland first, put Short up the wall, took out 36a Ricky Mitchell, hampered leaders Shane Warner and Karl Ross, before having another go at Ridland. A battle with 242a Bernie Fox left the leading bunch free to race for a few laps, Ross taking over the lead before Fox held him up. Warner regained first place and looked to have the title sewn up until going wide on the last corner - 173a Karl Ross cut under him and took the narrowest of wins. 27b Warner, 5a Ridland and 4p Chad Ace rounded out the top finishers. Shane Warner really had the car humming and looked to have the measure of a quality field, good signs for next seasons NZ title at his home track perhaps.

My knowledge of the Midget field was rather limited and so next season I really do plan to get a few visits in to Western Springs. It used to be my track of choice so its a bit sad not even knowing who some of the drivers are these days. The feature for this class was a 30 lapper featuring 22 cars. When they had trouble doing the 4 wide salute I thought we might be in for a midnight finish but the race was so completely dominated by 27a Hayden Williams they could have given him the flag half way through the race. There were a number of yellow light stoppages and he just drove away from the field every restart. He was lapping tail enders after only 5 of the 30 laps were completed. Twenty minutes into the race and we still had 10 laps to complete. 3nz Dave Gick brought on the final yellow light after crashing into 47a Rose Halfpenny ending Gick's impressive run in second place. If my notes are right the finishing order was 87a, 39a, 96a, 5a, 98a and 3usa Graham Standring who was the car to watch as he made he way through the field starting from a rear starting position. A long race but still spectacular to watch. The Midgets always seem to put on a good display at this meeting.

With only 7 Sprintcars fronting and only 6 surviving the night for the 'feature' they were a bit of an anti-climax to be honest. 6m James Dahm won the final ahead of 55h Daniel Thomas and 4m Colin Entwisle rounding out the podium. 15 cars were listed for the rained out version of this meeting and that really would have been something to see, but I'm not complaining about a meeting that so easily could have been scrapped after that rainout. One of the compromises was always going to be who could make the rescheduled event and it was a far better finish to the season than the King of the Park, which was supposed to end the season calendar. This was my final taste of speedway for the 2012-13 season which really did produce some great meetings and incredible run of good weather that truly made it a golden summer of speedway.

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