Monday, January 27, 2014

NZ Superstock Grand Prix

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New Zealand Superstock Grand Prix, Stockcar Triples
Huntly Speedway, January 24 & 25

Not sure why the turnout was so low for this event, but it is a continuing trend in recent years that has seen the rot set in on the Superstock Grand Prix's value as a title worth winning. The Huntly promotion had put up decent prize money but while Palmerston North Speedway were running a normal night that drew 21 cars, this once prestigious title could only manage to muster 32 cars, which gives you an idea of the disinterest. The reigning champ, 62p Adam Joblin, two of the touring British drivers and a couple of South Island cars gave it the lustre it needed though, and although Friday nights qualifying was fairly tame and workmanlike, Saturday night was worth every penny and for a moment I thought the main event was going to be upstaged by the Stockcar Triples.

Qualifying Night Friday
With a finals field of 26 cars, only 6 were going to miss the cut so most of the sting was gone from qualifying, you basically just had to finish all three heats or not be last. It essentially came down to who had car trouble or tyre issues and the only aggression that really showed was in a night long battle between 11a Carl Hodge and 15r Steve Pribicevich which was very entertaining. A repechage was left for finals night to get the last two qualifiers.

Finals Night Saturday
115a Darren Short and 68r Ashton Fleming would easily qualify while 71h Neville Hazelton's car died after hitting the wall early in the race. Hodge and Pribicevich continued their battle from Friday night ending each others chances but giving the crowd some great entertainment.

GP Heat 1
Lap one and 56s Bruce Williams was spun in front of the field holding up 52s Gary Johnson and 29a Scott Tennant, while 591p Wayne Hemi grabbed the lead. Williams suffered a flat left front tyre and was reduced to circling for points. 46b Quin Ryan spun between turns 3 & 4 holding up 38m Ross Ashby before 49m Chris Brown ran into the back of Ryan bringing on the red lights for the stationary Ryan car. At this point 118r Bryce Steiner had just taken the lead as Hemi was held up by the action surrounding the Ryan car, 1nz Penn had moved up to 5th. 18n Shane Harwood retired on the red light also. Hemi jumped the green light along with a number of drivers over the meeting (during the pause between green and red) and then stopped losing some momentum. 56s retired, 62h Dayne Conder pushed Tennant wide into the wall in turn 4, Chris Brown retired while 15m Karl Pegg was in the wall on turn 1. Pegg rejoined the race with a flat left rear tyre and while most people were watching to see 52p Scott Joblin restart after spinning backwards into the wall on the back straight, Pegg tangled with 115a Darren Short before a spectacular roll ending his night and bringing on the reds. Both 19m Remnant and 68r Fleming retired. Green lights and 118r Bryce Steiner had the perfect start to the championship with victory ahead of Hemi, Penn and 1gb Harris. The big mover though was our defending champ Joblin, from grid 22 up to 7th place.
Result: 118r, 591p, 1nz, 1gb, 62h, 19c, 62p, 92m, 71m, 217gb, 7a, 87b, 38m, 115a, 42a, 52s, 29a, 4a, 52p, 56s

GP Heat 2
19c Malcolm Ngatai ran the gauntlet on lap one pushed along the wall in turns 1 & 2 but came out unscathed, luck was not on heat 1 winner Steiner's side though as he went up and over the bonnet of 217gb Lee Fairhurst dropping to the rear of the field. 62h Conder speared into the wall on the back straight as 1gb Tom Harris lead the pack in the Simon Joblin car. 52s Johnson was spun in front of us on turns 3 and 4 holding up Penn and Ashby bringing on the reds for the striken Stratford car, 49m Brown also retiring. Upon the restart it turned into a big old flag race and the British driver and current world champ showed his class with a great victory and an overall points lead going into the final.
Result: 1gb, 18n, 19c, 62p, 87b, 52p, 56s, 29a, 591p, 46b, 92m, 42a, 62h, 115a, 1nz, 118r, 4a, 217gb, 38m

GP Heat 3
Going into heat 3, Tom Harris was leading on 49pts ahead of Ngatai on 45, Adam Joblin and Wayne Hemi on 43, then a gap back to Stanaway and Steiner on 37pts, Penn and Conder both on 36pts the only other ones in with a realistic chance. 21 cars fronted for the final heat and with 1gb Harris starting on grid 23 the hard work was all ahead of him. He was taken to the grass early while Ashby's night of being in the wrong place at the wrong time continued, into the wall on turn 4 of lap 1. 87b Thomas Stanaway lead with 62p Joblin in the box seat points wise, before 71m Tony Wootton ended Harris's chances with a massive blow in turn 2, 46b Ryan would finish him off bringing on the red lights for the damage to the front bumper of the 1gb car. 19m Kerry Remnant decided to get some teams racing practice in, taking on 62p, 591p and finally 18n Harwood. 52p Scott Joblin took the race win after things had settled into a flag race but 62p Adam Joblin doing enough for the overall win ahead of Ngatai and Hemi in third, retaining his title - which seems to be the theme for this season.
Overall: 62p 69pts, 19c 65pts, 591 64pts, 1nz 60pts, 87b 60pts, 118r 59pts

Stockcar Triples
This was supposed to be a support class to the main event but it very nearly eclipsed the GP for entertainment value! The Huntly club have a real winner with this idea, I absolutely loved the fact that in the third heat each team nominates a runner (and the only car that can score points) but no other team is told who it is, of course the result is that teams are tearing each other apart to stop all three cars finishing. Going into the last heat Team 9 consisting of two Auckland cars (Gary Lonergan and Troy Power) along with 93r Brent Stewart were leading on 121 points, ahead of Team 3 (Mark and Ben Caldwell and Ali Van Amsterdam) on 105 points. What followed was a perfect run by the A/R team as both Lonergan and Steward had turns at shepherding Troy Power's car through the carnage and one of the few teams that managed to get all 3 cars home in all three heats I believe. It was great seeing teams of cars mixed up like the Aucks having a Rotorua car, I wouldn't want to see it change to just A cars or R cars or whatever - its more about mates running together whether they are from the same club or not. It was a great idea executed perfectly and I'm guessing its gonna be huge in future seasons. Finally a big thanks to the Huntly club for putting on a great show, despite the fact that it wasn't really supported as well as it should have been, and massive thanks to whoever rejigged Saturdays programme and pricing - not many clubs would do that and it was well appreciated.

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