Tuesday, January 07, 2014
NZ Stockcar Title
Palmerston North Showgrounds
Dec 28 + 29
Unfortunately, the unpredictable nature of New Zealand's weather means there is always the risk of rain at big titles over the 'summer' period, but the Palmy weather made it a difficult watch for the modest crowd that fronted on night one of qualifying for the 14th official running of the New Zealand Stockcar title at Palmerston North. With menacing clouds building up south of the track, I had a good look through the pits pre-meeting and was amazed at the quality of machinery fronting. Old local bangers fronting up for a chance of glory taking out a high profile visitor are a thing of the past these days and I wonder if the promise of over 70+ Palmy registered cars put off a number of visiting drivers who might normally chance their arm. The final car count was something like 161 cars which is incredible but considering over 70 were from Palmy it must have been disappointing to not break the record for entries or indeed break the magical 200 cars at one title. Now I'm not getting all political here, but I did expect to see a few more cars front from Nelson considering they are hosting the title next year, so a huge well done to 93n Ben Smith for not only attending but putting up a great effort. Also I heard there were a number of team cars from various tracks around the country also in town but not being run - which is odd I would have thought, although saving their cars for the grueling teams meeting might not be such a bad idea...
Night one qualifying, as mentioned earlier, was chopped off at the knees after the first round for all seven groups had been completed, the heavens opened up and dumped a huge load of rain on the track. It was hard luck for the guys in group seven who basically drove on an ice skating rink as groups of cars freight-trained their way around the track using the wall to keep their car moving forward, to me it seemed unfair for anyone who had a rear grid starting position as they had no opportunity to pass unless someone made a mistake in the freight train and got spat out. A few cars, 58p Daniel Lockwood being one of them, stayed off the wall and drove on the centre of the track and I would have thought had a good chance at protesting against the wall users but the results stood and we would all have to front up the next night, weather permitting, for the remaining qualifying heats to be run. As I ran through the pits to get to my car, my notes fell from my jacket and landed in a puddle summing up the night!
The dodgy weather continued overnight but it looked as though we had seen the last of it as the 6pm start time arrived and indeed sun block was making an appearance! We managed to get one more round of racing in for all seven groups before the rain once again stopped proceedings although this time the promoters were determined to get the qualifying completed and after about an hour and a half, and the incredible sight of team buses, stockcars, utes and anything else they could muster wheel packing, the meeting was able to continue. An amazing effort by all involved, and biggest cheer of the meeting ironically for the grader driver as he emerged from the pits! So here is a very brief rundown of what I saw, I wasn't going to bother because I never got to see the finals but since I went to the effort of taking notes (very soggy ones by the end of the two nights) here they are:
Heat one was a bit comical as cars appeared to miss the call to grid up and after 13 minutes of opening and shutting the pit gate to let stragglers onto the track, and some arguing over whether the 72r car could compete, we finally had our first heat ready to run. 921p Brett Lloyd must wonder what he has to do to survive the first lap of this meeting, if my memory is right he was the first car eliminated at Christchurch last year and was spun in front of the pack on lap 1 of this race bringing on the reds to remove him and 172p Daniel Burmeister who's wheel guard came off. 1nz Pete Rees had moved from the rear of the field up to 5th and would finish in the top 5. 75p Gavin Taniwha taking the first win in the impressive green tank. Heat 2 featured a rollover for 741a Craig Chatfield squeezed up the wall by 72r David Rumney and 25p Tony East was dragged for half a lap facing the wrong way. 1nz Rees was leading after 4 laps and took the win ahead of 67w Kane Hargreaves. The 67w had suffered a flat right rear in heat one and would need a miracle to qualify. Heat 3 and 95b Jason Penn was the popular target as he was high up on points. 357p Aaron Iremonger was first to have a go assuring himself of a top four position at Penn's expense. 512p Jacob Neill was one of the major stirrers but 67w Hargreaves put a massive shot on him late in the race. Qualifiers: 1nz Rees, 29p Rackham, 75p Taniwha and 357p Iremonger.
2nz Damian Orr would feature in this group and lead early from a grid 3 start only to be passed by 17p Shane Simpson for the win. 7w Shane Davis and 48p Damian Mulcahy would tangle costing them both qualifying spots with one of the favourites Davis rejoining in last place. 99p Ron Tye was the real surprise finishing in 5th and showing great speed. 89w Dale Robertson claiming a third. Heat two featured the HUGE roll of 99p Tye whilst in 8th place and looking a great chance to qualify. 6v Dion Mooney went in to stirring mode and 21b Joshua Swannell was his first of a few victims before losing his tyre completely and having little effective steering. 37s Mark Phipps picked up a second place and was high on points going into heat 3. A 3 min bell for 17p Simpson failed to fix whatever problem he had and a DNS finished his chances. An early spin for both 2nz and 89w meant they spent the whole race trying to make up places from the rear of the field. 371p Benji Sneddon took the win ahead of 31p Gary Davis and 581p Jordan Dare. Sneddon also highest overall points for this group. 89w Robertson would fail by a couple of points and need the repercharge to qualify. Qualifiers: 371p Sneddon, 2nz Orr, 31p Davis, 581p Dare.
3nz William Humphries started on grid 6 and was looking good until near the end of the race lost power and slowed considerably losing a lot of places. A great battle between 119p Zac Harris and 971p Jayden Ward for first place won by Harris with no quarter given. 72s Bevan Phillips one of the most underrated drivers out there came home in 3rd and a flat tyre cost 44c Tim Ross in the tank. Heat 2 had 39r Douglas Stanaway winning but current 3nz Humphries would be held up after spinning 27h Brett Aiken only to be rear ended by 45p Aaron Watson bringing on the red lights. A couple more red lights for 181p and 61v before 91w Kyle Lane launched 14v Daniel Matthews up and into the fence in impressive style. Ward, 473r Hall, Harris and Phillips rounded out the top 5. Heat 3 and only 16 cars fronted leaving a few gaps, 32s Mark Duthie was spun in front of the pack before 971p Ward took over the lead for the race. Two Rotorua hopes had their hopes dashed, 86r Richard Keijzer spun on the last lap by 27h Brett Aiken and 39r Stanaway spinning in turn 3 and remaining stationery. Both Hall and Phillips got caught up in a turn four tangle but would qualify. Qualifiers: 971p Ward, 119p Harris, 72s Phillips, 473r Hall.
Lots of drama in this race with 79a Ben Ellis rolled in front of the grandstand (it became a bad spot for Auckland cars as Craig Chatfield can attest) brought on the first red light. 107c Colin Cameron, 16v Cody Alabaster and 92p Brent Lowe would tangle in turn 3 causing a flat left front tyre for Cameron. 15p Rob Miers would lead before what seemed a fairly tame accident at the far end of the track would result in some serious injuries to Ethan Rees in the 127p. Upon the restart 8r Scott Fredrickson spun the 99w of Tony McLaughlin and 53p Todd O'Donnell took over the lead and won the first heat from Miers, 24w Scott McIntosh and 631r Luke Dilworth. Heat 2 and Fredrickson lead from start to finish and we had another rollover with a battle between McLaughlin and 52p Russell Barry ending in Barry being rolled. 35s Josh Walsh had a go at the 8r but the biggest battle was between McIntosh and Miers with Miers spinning late in the race losing a massive amount of points that would prove costly overall. Luke Dilworth picked up another impressive haul of points in 2nd. Heat 3 and Dilworth took a great win and overall points in the group. 107c Cameron's slim chance of qualifying was ended by 99w McLaughlin while Miers was tied up with 78h Darryl Porteous. 8r, 53p and 34p Rob Mason rounded out the top finishers for heat 3. Qualifiers: 631r Dilworth, 8r Fredrickson, 24w McIntosh, 53p O'Donnell.
Despite some engine damage during the practice run, the 59c of Brad Rosewarne made it out for heat one. 44h Anthony McNeil had the early lead but 501p Jay Knight would eventually take the win. 126p Asher Rees would make huge gains from a rear of field start, 93r Brent Stewart coming home second while a spin from 8p Jamie Baguley in front of 95a Gary Lonergan would cost him dearly dropping a few places. Heat 2 and as with every other group the lap one pinball would catch out 44h, 64b and 59c all spun and rejoining at the back of the field. 223p Kyle Taylor and 93r would tangle leaving lots of body damage on the Rotorua car. 98w Blake Ellett picked up the win from Rees, 15v Kyle Heibner, 22p Zack Hoult and 95a Lonergan. Heat 3 had 18 cars with Asher Rees on pole looking good for a finals berth but the big battle was between Gaskin, Lonergan and Ellett for one of the elusive 3 remaining qualifying spots. A red light for 555r Les Holland who was tipped over by Rosewarne mid race had Rees, Heibner and 992p Taylor Lampp leading although 38m James Hamilton had given Heibner a scare earlier, 501p Jay Knight was looking good for the finals until a last lap tangle with 93r and 6w Paul Gaskin left all three spread across the track in front of the main grandstand, Lonergan deftly avoided the carnage and looked good for the final berth only to miss by a point to 98w Ellett who made it home ahead of him. Knight unable to get the car across the line so close to qualifying. Qualifiers: 126p Rees, 15v Heibner, 992p Lampp, 98w Ellett.
Heat one, night one, and this was when the rain started to make its first appearance at the championship. 517s Mark Woods had the early lead but 13r Grendon Beazley - yet another Rotorua car making an early statement - took the win. 74b Tony Palmer was given a wild ride along the wall, 26p Nic Davey and 73p Mitchell Hill got hooked up in turns 2 and 3 while a spin for 89v Blair Lockett and a nasty backwards smack into the wall for 7s Richard Hart effectively ended all of their hopes for finals night. Heat 2 started with 722p David Lowe riding up over the wheel of 22w Richard Gaskin but this would be his only problem as he took the lead off 89v Lockett and held on for the win. 29a Scott Tennant grabbing a haul of points in 3rd ahead of 13r Beazley and 509p Chris Knight. Heat 3 had Tennant on pole and he kept the lead and did all he could to qualify. 981r Steve Gray ended Richard Gaskins hopes with a massive hit in turn 2 bringing on the red lights. The reds came on again to retrieve 55p Jason Marshall who was dealt to by Christchurch driver Harley Robb. Dale Stewart and Blair Lockett also gaining some attention but 509p Chris Knight finishing in the top 5 gaining enough points to force a runoff with Tennant for the last qualifying spot, which he would win. Qualifiers: 722p Lowe, 13r Beazley, 557p Wallace, 509p Knight.
Heat one, this race was a disaster and there were a few unhappy muddy drivers in the pits immediately following the mudfest that brought night one to an early end. 97p Graeme Ward's hopes ended early with a fire bringing on the reds although he seemed reluctant to leave the track. A few cars sloshed their way around the track but most used the wall to keep their cars up to speed and eventually the win came the way of 259p Gary Hobbs. Night two for heat two and sprinkles of rain again starting for this unlucky group. 74p Chev Taniwha would take first place after a number of leaders fell by the wayside including 13e, 46w and 10p Prentice who would eventually come home second. 19r Sam Pearson had problems all race circling slowly only to be king hit just short of the finish line. A last lap spin for 651a Troy Power ended his hopes. Heat 3 38p Neil Coley put 14b Jemma Palmer up the wall bringing on the reds. 10p Josh Prentice lead early and took a comprehensive win, looking a strong chance in the finals. 505p Robbie James spun Troy Power, the reds came on again for 191c Dylan Robb who was stuck in the mud on pit bend and Coley gave Rotorua driver 98r Mark Costello some problems before slowly crossing the line to claim the last qualifying spot for this group. Qualifiers: 74p Taniwha, 10p Prentice, 259p Hobbs, 98r Costello.
Sadly, that's where my championship ended too, flights home couldn't be changed and the wretched weather wins again! An incredibly frustrating end to what was shaping up to be a great finals night. As expected, the locals dominated the finals field with 18 of the 30 cars coming from Palmy - an amazing achievement - leaving 12 cars to represent the rest of New Zealand. Scott Tennant and Dale Robertson would claim the last two spots through the repecharges raced on finals night. As I boarded my flight to leave 'sunny' Palmy I noticed Bruce Robertson was also onboard, he must have drawn the short straw to head up to Auckland for a meeting running at Waikaraka Park that night. One thing that really stood out from this trip was that the Palmy promoters are the kings of "the show must go on" and I doubt many clubs would have even attempted to get the qualifying under way so I have huge respect for them and their efforts to run this meeting. For a full run down on what happened on finals night go to the excellent Robertson Holden Speedway website HERE.