Waikato Sandblasting Teams Invitation
Finals Night, November 16th
A big crowd and a balmy Waikato evening set the scene for a spectacular finals night at PlaceMakers Huntly Speedway on Saturday. Along with a feast of teams racing, Golden Oldies Stockcars, a decent field of open Stockcar races, Superstocks and the Waikato Saloon championship, it was a fitting way of celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Huntly Speedway. A very well put together printed programme with a bonus reproduction of the first ever programme was a novel idea and a great souvenir to keep. As always the commentary team excelled with Malcolm Sines, Mintie and Aaron Drever adding to an already amped up atmosphere from Friday's excellent meeting.
The first teams race was Gisborne v Manawatu and with the left rear wheel on the 66g Harding flattie collapsing early in the race, the Steelers engaged a car each leaving 10p Josh Prentice a free run home. The 63g tank of Kerry McIlroy put in two decent hits on Taniwha and Prentice but with a car short they couldnt match the Steelers. A development team called the Huntly Hawks then raced the Baypark Bulldogs in their first teams race in quite a few years, providing some great hits and a win to the Hawks, 98h Brendon Vincent taking the flag. Ryan Hunt showed great speed for the Bulldogs but excellent blocking from 97h Brad Philpott was a standout of the race.
Home team the Raiders were up next against the Meeanee Maulers and the teamwork from the Waikato team finally gelled resulting in a comprehensive win. The Hawkes Bay team were down to two cars early on and Justin Hutchby had put in the big hits that mattered on 85b Tony Palmer and 81b Grant Hollyman. The remaining Maulers put in a last chance block but 94h Mark Caldwell showed great skill to weave his way through for the win.
Semi Final 1
Stratford Stormers v Auckland Alleycats
The old adage "it aint over till its over" was never truer than in this race. Todd Duthie and Shannon Savage sat this one out as reserves. From the green flag there was action aplenty and 333a Tony Baldwin found himself up on the bonnet of a Stratford car doing a fine balancing act! Gary Lonergan was targeted and a massive hit ripped the front left wheel off the car in turn two, as he dragged the car along the wall into turn three, 406s Tyler Walker made a fatal mistake by trying to eliminate the 383a car which was as good as done anyway and rolled himself just before the red light for Lonergan's wheel was activated. Lonergan and Walker's cars removed on the red, Baldwin's car still sitting on the bonnet of the Stormers car left an interesting 2 v 2 race as both Craig Chatfield and Bevan Phillips changed lead a number of times. Baldwin eventually managed to free his car and then it looked as though Haydin Barker was going to take a win for the Stormers only for a Scott Tennant blocking move giving Craig Chatfield a gap to sneak through for a 0.09 second win. The Stormers run coming up just short, an awesome race that the crowd really appreciated.
Semi Final 2
Wanganui Vulcans v Rotorua Rascals
358r Shannon Orr lead out early from 99v Wayne Wright but both early leaders would be taken out, Orr by Mooney and Wright by Steve Gray in the tank who managed to rip off the left front wheel bringing on the reds. Rotorua took the lead with Damian Orr running and apart from a blocking move from Mooney on the last lap, he was able to take a comprehensive win and more importantly less damage than the Alleycats suffered in their semi final. Rotorua peaking at just the right time for the all important grand final.
We then had the final placing races with Meeanee beating Gisborne for 7th and 8th, Manawatu finally showing some of the brilliance of last seasons win by dispatching the Waikato Raiders in a convincing win for 5th and 6th. The race for 3rd and 4th featured Stratford and Wanganui and it was a brutal affair with Dion Mooney taking the running role for the Vulcans picking his way through littered cars all over the track and claiming third overall. Gisborne were unlucky to come 8th when you consider they only had 7 local cars to choose from and the form of the Stratford Stormers was impressive and hopefully the beginning of a golden run for the team.
Auckland Alleycats v Rotorua Rascals
The Alleycats used up every minute of repair time getting to the track but managed to front all 5 cars with Tony Baldwin and Steve Gray sitting out the final as reserves. Auckland winning pole and forcing the Rascals right out to the wall for the start. Auckland drew first blood with a massive hit on Rotorua hard man Damian Orr smashed into the apex of turns one and two by Gary Lonergan but it came at a cost with the right rear wheel damaged. Orr was removed on the red light and Scott Tennant was leading from Dale Stewart. Nick Johnson spun while attempting to block Tennant and Shannon Orr spun by Shannon Savage. Lonergans car was effectively toast and then Shannon Savage came to the infield with flames erupting from the car. Rotorua now had the advantage and Dale Stewart took over the lead and Shannon Orr made the block that counted on Scott Tennant, Gary Lonergan making one last attempt to drag the car in front of Stewart on the last lap but Stewart able to avoid and take a sensational victory for the Rascals.
God I love speedway! What a great weekend and although the Alleycats picked up another second place finish, the resurgence of teams like the Bulldogs and the Rascals is great for speedway in the upper North Island. The Huntly track did a great job and as I said earlier, this meeting goes from strength to strength. I don't usually do this but I'd like to pick a 'dream team' from the weekends racing and it goes something like this...
66g Bruce Harding
98v Dion Mooney
835r Damian Orr
833a Craig Chatfield
97h Scott Gallop
333a Tony Baldwin
Now everyone will have their own dream team, but I think for various reasons these were the drivers that stood out to me and provided moments of brilliance over the weekend. Had they had more races I would have included 97h Brad Philpott from the Hawks for his efforts in the open races if they counted! Anyway, I wish Huntly Speedway all the best for another 25 years of racing, you did yourselves proud this weekend.