Monday, January 05, 2015

NZ Superstock Title, Night 1

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NZ Superstock Title
Te Marua Speedway, Wellington / Jan 3 + 4

For 10 years I have written reviews for this website, but in that time I've never made it to Te Marua Speedway in Wellington, so there was no better opportunity than the NZ Superstock title to make my first trip down. I have seen postings over the last few seasons of the massive improvements they have undertaken, but in person it is really quite an achievement and something to be proud of. There was a healthy field of cars in attendance and four very strong groups vying for the 26 finalists berths.

Wellington turned on the good weather using up 3 of its precious 20 days of sunshine each year, just for us, and although the track started out lumpy in the first few heats, it was pretty good for the rest of the weekend. It was also great to see Shane Penn, Tony Mac and Steve Jude join the grand parade on the Silver Bullet, one of a number of classy touches over the course of the championship. In fact Shane Penn was given a number of opportunities to speak and be involved in what must have been a bittersweet occasion. Crowd size seemed a bit light on night 1 but was bigger on the second night - I know this because I was in the 'priority' seating sardined into the grandstand. The priority seating is a great idea in theory but it needs work because in all honesty you can't enjoy sitting on those wooden benches if your knees are pressed into someones back and there really was NO room to move. There were a number of angry people for various reasons but like I say, the idea of pre-booking a seat is great, but they need to be the blue plastic seat variety or it just doesn't work. Thats my ONLY gripe from the whole meeting!

Yellow Group was dominated by 19c Malcolm Ngatai and 79p Kerry Humphrey, both picking up a win and a second place in heats 1 and 2, while 591p Wayne Hemi was spun early in heat 2 spending the whole race trying to regain lost ground. 127p Ethan Rees right rear suspension gave way in this heat ending his hopes and 31p Andy McCabe lost 7 places on the last lap after a tangle with 351r Paul Vazey. 186n Jared Gray tangled with 46w Alan Levien both spinning which would ultimate cost them a qualifying place. Heat 3 and Hemi from grid 2 would need a win to ensure a finals night appearance and thats exactly what he did. 3nz Graeme Barr would be spun and then suffered a flat right rear meaning his only hopes lay in the repecharge. Nelson's Jared Gray and 17p Kenley Brown would tie for 6th place overall requiring a runoff that was spectacular to say the least. Brown taking a sensational win after Gray went airborne.
Qualifiers: 19c Ngatai, 79p Humphrey, 591p Hemi, 351r Vazey, 85n McKenzie, 17p Brown

Blue Group 57p Dave Tarrant picked up a great first up win but the rest of his night would not follow suit, red lights for 95n Alex Hill and 42s Shane Hurley finished their chances. Jordan Dare, Murray Long and 45r Nick Vallance all picked up great points. Heat 2 and 59p Stephen Penn almost had 471p  Benji Sneedon on his roof in the turn two crush, while 81w Grant Littlewoods great run in heat 1 counted for nought spun by 67p Richard Hart. Another local, 22w Richard Gaskin just couldn't get the set up right and struggled all race. 118r Bryce Steiner was spun and dragged the length of the front straight dropping him down to an 8th place finish. 88p Jack Miers looked the goods only passed by 2nz Dare who took the win. Going into heat three Dare, Miers, 71p Shane Mellsop, Vallance and 96b Murray Long looked good for qualifying while Steiner and 52p Scott Joblin were tied for the last spot. 88p Miers was first to fall, on a red light for 471p Sneddon, gearbox issues forced Miers to the infield. 48n Nicholls won easily, clearing out from the rest of the field while 67p Hart assured himself a place coming home second ahead of Vallance and 46b Quinn Ryan. Long's chances evaporated unable to pass 2nz Dare for most of the race.
Qualifiers: 45r Vallance, 2nzp Dare, 48n Nicholls, 71p Mellsop, 118r Steiner, 67p Hart

White Group 73w Karl Ross took a great win in heat one while a few drivers nights ended pretty much here, 23r Lance Ashton didn't reappear and 119m Kerry Remnant who ended up on the bonnet of 68p Alec Wilson with only a lap to go. 95r Tony Fabish looked sluggish while 15r Steve Pribicevich and 622w Tony Barrow both retired on the red light. 58p Peter Bengston and 16b Steve Jude rounded out the top 3. Heat 2 and Chad Ace took the lead immediately from grid 6 start, but a spin for Jude and 135r Scott Hewson held up by a spinning Tony Barrow dropped them well back. 38m Ross Ashby retired to the infield. 10p Rees and 53p Keven Roberts tangle with a panel flying off the front of Roberts tank activating the red lights. 73w Ross had a flat right rear tyre costing him a lot of places. Ace, Rees and 62p Adam Joblin top three, while Fabish and 9b Adam Groome also scored good points. By heat three Rees was leading the group points ahead of Bengston, Ace, Groome and Jude, while 8p Scott Miers, 62p Joblin and 135r Hewson were all tied for the last spot. A lap one spin for Joblin ended his hopes while 5s Nik Kiser gave Chad Ace a scare putting him into the wall in turn 4. Ashby and Ross finished in 5th and 6th place but not enough points to qualify. 8p Miers took the heat 3 win ahead of Fabish, Rees and Benston. An 8th place finish got Hewson enough points for a runoff with club mate Fabish and Jude. Jude the unlucky one not to qualify.
Qualifiers: 10p Rees, 58p Benston, 8p Miers, 4p Ace, 95r Fabish, 135r Hewson

Red Group 29a Scott Tennant lead from the start for an impressive heat one win while a pile up in turn 4 would involve 72p Simon Joblin, 52w Paul Fairbrother, 126p Asher Rees and 10n Alex Bright. Rees wheel guard gets him sent infield. 34p Rebecca Barr towed to the grass also on the red. Within two laps 8 cars had retired. 72p Joblin sustained a flat left rear tyre and 46n Blair Cunningham had a guard jammed against the wheel ending both drivers chances. 89w Dale Robertson, 282s Phil Ogle and 95p Clive Elliot followed Tennant across the line. Heat two Elliot, Bright and 75s Carl Shearer tangled in turn one leaving Elliot facing the wall for a lap, Asher Rees took over the lead by lap 4 and held on for maximum points after his dnf in heat 1. Turn 4 dramas for Barr and 18n Shane Harwood drop them down the running order, while Bright retired. Elliot spun 282s Ogle. Tennant picks up second ahead of 98p Humphries and 39s Michel Willemsen. Joblins 8th place finish not helping his chances of qualifying. Heat 3 and the leading drivers were Tennant, Willemsen, Robertson, 87b Stanaway, 99n Trevor Lineham and 282s Ogle. It turned into a massive flag race with Asher Rees leading Simon Joblin for the majority, spins were basically the difference between who would get through or not and Robertson, Humphries, Lineham all facing the wrong way at some point. 72p Joblin hit the wall in turn 4 dropping valuable points. Rees picking up his second win but narrowly misses qualifying while Lineham also dropped out of the top six.
Qualifiers: 29a Tennant, 87b Stanaway, 89w Robertson, 282s Ogle, 18n Harwood, 39s Willemsen

Qualifying done for 24 of the places with two repechages to follow on Finals night for the last two. Biggest shock for me was no Joblin cars making it to the final which is pretty unusual, and also how well some of the newbies to this title did, four debut drivers qualifying with Scott Tennant and Nick Vallance both winning their groups, while Richard Hart and Kenley Brown both did exceptionally well to qualify. As we have seen with so many championships, Palmerston North cars were leading the qualifiers, while Rotorua and Nelson both had decent numbers too. Red group was the only one not to have any P registered cars get through. The run-off between 186n Jared Gray and 17p Kenley Brown will go down as probably the most memorable moment of the night.

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Finals night review coming...

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