Broken cogs on Rotation System damaging NZ titles

The “Rotation System” is in desperate need of a good oil and grease with a few cogs needing to be replaced to make the system functional. The amount of ineligible tracks across several grades speaks volumes that the criteria are in need of a tweak or two.

This will allow tracks to get the best out of hosting NZ titles and not cause a reduction of numbers over grades which are limited to where they can run which becomes detrimental to the class. The flow-on effect of the loss of title-hosting eligibility includes the loss of drivers and cars at marginal tracks that have had a long history in the grade, simply because there’s no chance of having a home NZ title.

Minisprints are only just hanging on as a NZ title class, with just three tracks on the New Zealand rotation list. If one of those drops off, the grade is in trouble. The NZ Super Saloons are another with two tracks having to forfeit New Zealand titles, with the third under pressure but scraping in this season. Midgets were in the same boat, another high-profile grade struggling keep clubs on the rotation system.

The ever-decreasing number of tracks running titles does nothing to enhance growth and punishes struggling tracks, rather than supporting them. This could be the fatal blow that may see some clubs close in future years, with the lack of a club profile-boosting NZ title meeting forcing drivers and fans go elsewhere or be lost to Speedway in general.

The flow-on effect of dropping clubs has also upset the New Zealand titles line-up. Generally, both the NZ and Grand Prix titles are held on the same island, close to each other.

The first major example comes next season when the NZ Stockcar title was meant to run in Blenheim with the NZ GP held in Nelson. South Island clubs are known to work together to have the NZ titles back-to-back so North Island travellers can reduce costs to do both meetings in a manageable time frame, as well as halving ferry crossings and travel costs.

Blenheim lost the NZ Stockcar hosting rights which saw it allocated to the next track on the rotation, being Stratford in January. As a result, Nelson had to find something to help entice drivers across the Strait for a one-off GP meeting. History shows that one-off shows get far fewer entries from the North than joint title events. Nelson had originally opted to follow the South Island Title at Woodford Glen on February 16th and 17th, with the GP on the weekend following, creating an opportunity for a joint effort to attract cars across the Strait for both weekends.

The thorn that arose in this plan was that Waikaraka Park had submitted that the NZ Teams title was going to run the following weekend from the GP, in Auckland on March 1st and 2nd, the schedule then showed three of five SNZ Stockcar meetings running over a three-week period.

That would have meant that South Island teams had three huge weeks to fix cars between meetings, with three double-header weekends, plenty of travelling, and time required off work effectively meaning teams drivers from the North will not risk travelling South. Let’s not forget to mention what will happen if someone receives an 8-day, or even worse, a 21-day standdown during that period.

It instantly became a topic on Facebook when drivers worked out that the dates were going to be a nightmare. Woodford Glen already had the South Island date on their website, so Speedway NZ was copping abuse about how they allowed the conflict to happen.

The end result is that Nelson has opted to switch the dates so that the Grand Prix is now the weekend before the South Island title, creating a one-weekend gap between the South Island and NZ Teams title in Auckland.

Rotorua was also up in arms when - having already advertised a huge Charity Super Stock event - the GP was approved to run on the same dates. The Charity Show is a club event but is unlike other private promotions, having a strong public interest with famous personalities stacked throughout the line-ups.

If it was a promotion of Speedway outside of normal channels, then SNZ titles would get preference, but given the complexity of the charity event, an effort should have been made to avoid the clash. It’s going to be a tough choice for cars committed to the charity event to miss the GP, which could water down that title if some of the top names stay with their original plans to support Rotorua.

From this, we can say there appears to have been no correspondence between the host Stock car tracks as to when they were submitting their planned dates, other than Woodford Glen and Nelson, who were chin-wagging on a multitude of titles to fit both calendars.

The Nelson President mentioned in a recent chat with me that he had no idea when Stratford were planning the NZ title date, as each club submitted dates that suited them. As I understand no-one from SNZ messaged the clubs to say that these were possible dates for NZ titles, leaving clubs to talk to each other directly. It also appears that the dates are put forward and if there’s no major clash then they get approved.

Stockcar and Superstock titles can’t run on same weekend, with the same applying for Saloons and Super Saloons.

The line up of NZ and GP dates has generally been put on the same island, but now when a club gets pulled from the rotation it upsets the apple cart in future line-ups.

Perhaps the wise move is to make the title go to the next eligible track in the same island. This is especially more important for South Island title hosts to attract cars across the Strait, which in recent years has been a headache, with ferries disrupting the past two seasons with more issues on the horizon.

The rotation system affects the South Island more than the North as the Modifieds and Midgets are pretty much down to a single S.I. track to run all their SNZ titles. While they do run at other tracks, the numbers post-Covid haven’t met the threshold under current rules, having a huge impact on tracks who rely on South Island titles to attract visiting drivers and generate revenue. Without these titles their event are reduced to club meetings all season. When you’re struggling to attract drivers and fans, losing titles is just a kick in the guts.

The other issue down South is that Nelson, Woodford Glen and Ruapuna have a tennis match of South Island titles that bounce back and forth each year. Each of these clubs ends up with a multitude of S.I. titles in a season, with Woodford Glen having five South Island titles to fit in this year.

This was the problem that started with a consent issue in Nelson, when several titles needed to be run and the season was expanded, resulting in a resident complaint. The new consent limits the amount of two-day meetings the Nelson club can run per year. The T.Q. title will run with the Sunshine Sprintcar Classic over two days in December to preserve the two-day meetings that make the event attractive for punters to attend.

The removal of Greymouth from the T.Q. and Modified titles is a major setback for the club and the grades. They have had the minimum number of registered drivers but have failed to run enough meetings with weather and clashes affecting many meetings. The Modifieds have struggled on both sides of the Southern Alps this year. With Greymouth no longer on the SNZ title list, it means that Woodford Glen will struggle to attract North Islanders to one-off NZ or GP titles.

It’s always been a good system when Greymouth and the Glen followed each other when NZ and GP’s came South.

The T.Q.’s, which have had a big grown strongly in recent years, have frequently run in most Greymouth meets. While numbers have fluctuated, they have a core following from Ruapuna and Nelson who are the only other two tracks running them in the South Island.

It’s vital that Greymouth continue to be able to host the South Island titles at a minimum.

Nelson already has the NZ title, so the West Coast town would be a good place to hold the S.I. title, having lost the hosting rights to the GP which would have been a good boost for the club had it followed Nelson’s NZ title.

Leave the Stockcars, Superstocks, Streetstocks and Saloons rotation as is, they seem to be functioning ok, but if a host falls out then make its replacement come from the same island rather than the next in the queue. There needs to be flexibility in an ever-changing world.

The rotation system was put in ten years ago, and while some bits have run as required, it’s like a mobile phone.A ten-year-old phone may make calls and texts, but it’s outdated for modern day demands. The rotation system is falling short in today’s society as well.

It’s getting to the stage where some classes are only eligible to run titles at a only a third of the tracks in NZ despite racing on a large majority of tracks over the year. Sprintcars, Super Saloons, Midgets, and Modifieds are slowly losing coverage because of clubs not meeting outdated criteria, yet many of their members have been racing for decades but now won’t earn home titles.

One idea could be dropping the minimum meeting criteria and making a longevity rule to allow tracks to run NZ titles (eg 4 drivers that have been registered for 5 consecutive years). This would especially work in grades that are low in numbers, such as Super Saloons and Modifieds.

There will be many tracks that might struggle to meet criteria this year, with the likes of Kihikihi, Stratford, and Wellington all having been heavily affected by adverse weather. Some credit needs to be made when clubs have been unfairly affected by uncontrollable events.

Various series around the country have also influenced numbers at clubs, with drivers having had clashes on many home dates to travel for series meetings, meaning their home club missed vital meetings to meet criteria.

It’s in the club’s interest to allow drivers to travel to meaningful meetings, even if they are struggling to host the numbers on a regular race night.

A club may have four drivers yet fail to attract enough visitors to make a decent field. The Flynn brothers were a victim of this, while promoting the “Burger King Series” they were great ambassadors of the grade, but their dedication meant their home club Meeanee failed to host enough meetings to qualify for the NZ title. With all their hard work, the title should have come their way.

The Nelson Club are aiming to host the NZ Superstock title in 2025. Plans are underway to create a committee to start sorting sponsors, improving facilities, booking vendors, among more, but a lot of the confirmation is on hold until SNZ sign off hosting rights, which won’t happen until the club ticks off five more meetings next season that meet the criteria.

Covid and consent process had a major effect on the club, meaning they missed a year to meet the criteria. The pressure is on, but with a couple more cars coming out the plan is to knock the first five meetings off so that club can get on with the planning which will gives them just over 12 months. The club will need every minute once signed off.

If clubs have a link to the class, then it needs to be opened up to grow shrinking numbers and help gain interest rather than killing off classes.

The rotation system is now on its second five-year cycle and has developed broken cogs that will only create further issues if not addressed in the near future. It’s making the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.

Chaotic King of the Coast concludes Greenstone Park’s season

A perfect West Coast day ended Greenstone Park’s stop/start season on a high, with a good crowd, plenty of cars and a few antics that make the “King of the Coast” an adventure every year.

The “K.O.C” is traditionally raced on the weekend immediately after Easter,  when Christchurch and Nelson have closed their season, with the majority of the visiting cars hailing from those clubs.

The meeting had plenty of moments, including a contingent of non-contact drivers waiting at the naughty box at the bottom of the tower, drivers trying to take gaps that weren’t there, post-race donuts from Steve Thompson, Harley Robb on hunt mode, a tail-happy water truck soaking the track for the derby, and the final act to end the derby making for plenty of talking points over the meeting.

There was consternation when the date was changed in early March, but it was the wisest option with the original date likely to have been a whitewash due to the weather, and the fact it clashed with several other track’s promotions.

The Stock Cars continue to be Greymouth’s bread and butter class, with solid support from Christchurch and Nelson following hard work done by Housty Jnr and Co.

It was a classic N v C battle, with Riley Eathorne and Jack Rarity flying the Nelson flag. They were leading contenders going into the final heat, up until the C cars slowed them down. The writing was on the wall when Harley Robb was spun early, going into hunt mode on N cars and stopping Brenton Coleman in his tracks. Jay Huggies Holtham was the benefactor as his Crusher teammates got him the title win.

A strong line-up of Production Saloons has been a feature at most meetings this season, seeing local speedsters taking on a couple of quick Nelson cars. The 17c of Vaughan Fairbairn, who has much been on nearly every podium around the South Island, took over regular Dave Filius’ spot, but it was Nelson’s Vaughan Cornelius taking overall honours.

Eddy Frans broke the lap record but found an early park in the final heat via the referee, ending his chances of keeping the title in the family after Fee Frans won it last year. Abby Carter was awarded the Queen of the Clay title for the weekend, a regular traveller to the Coast and finishing 3rd overall on her favourite track.

Steve Thompson won in Modifieds
Abby Carter fought hard for her “Queen of the Coast” crown

The T.Qs are always a fun watch at Greenstone Park, with the track contours providing plenty of crisscrossing on the corners. Multiple lines produced close racing, which saw Canterbury’s Ben Morgan take honours, beating home the local Thompson boys in the feature.

Morgan has been racking up the titles around the Mainland, but the Thompson boys picked up the heat wins to the delight of the crowd, with James pipping brother Rodney in the feature to finish behind Morgan.

Tom Harris picked up the win in the Adult Ministocks, where a few were left waiting for the referee after the final heat got a bit messy.

An eight-strong Modifieds field also graced the track for three races, with local driver Steve Thompson winning the opener over Iain Whyte and Kevin Ban. Hayden Corbett bounced back from a sixth in Heat 1 to win Heat 2 over Thompson and Andrew Naven, while Thompson returned to the top in the finale to take a commanding victory over Corbett and Naven.

The Super Stocks were the bonus class, the roar making everyone in town know we were racing. A few new drivers in the class were keen to get track time, but seven of the eight Super Stocks combined would’ve only matched half the track time that the eighth driver Peter Field has had behind the wheel, a regular visitor to Greymouth when Supers Stocks are invited.

It was Nelson’s Alex Hill who dominated all three heats here, collecting three wins along the way.

Vaughan Cornelius won in Production Saloons, with Vaughan Fairburn coming second and Abby Carter third.

The K.O.C. is a benefit for the whole of Greymouth, bringing many stayers for the weekend and the influx of cars can be seen around the town over the weekend. It’s the signature meeting for the Greymouth club, with few major titles set to be held at the venue in the near future.

Once again, the King of the Coast concludes a weather-interrupted but busy season for Greenstone Speedway. There’s been plenty of change throughout the season, with plenty more work required to ensure the long-term success of the venue.

The growth of the Production class has continued to be a big achievement, building new cars and having five youth Saloons hoping to make the track next season.

The Sprint Cars and Super Saloons have been outstanding bonus meetings that are already pencilled in for next year, while Super Stocks may be on the cards a few more times now a couple of cars live in Greymouth.