Kings coronated at Superstock Teams Nationals

The Kihikihi Kings added their name to the illustrious list of Superstock Teams Nationals winners on an overcast Sunday afternoon in Auckland in late April.

The great Kiwi summer of precipitation put paid to Saturday night festivities, and it was a pleasant surprise to see a reasonable crowd file through the gates in what is typically an abysmal market for Sunday afternoon speedway. A turnout of six teams for the highlight of the Waikaraka Park calendar was decent, given that regular attendees Waikato and Rotorua could not make the start line this year.

The line-up had a quality look to it. The Gisborne Giants were minus Josh Prentice but looked the team to beat on paper. Defending champions, the Palmerston North Panthers were not at their strongest but still looked capable of a repeat. Auckland All-Stars had a well-balanced team, and the Baypark Busters would look to former winners Kerry Remnant and Ross Ashby to guide the team to another title. Wanganui Warriors rounded out the field, a team capable of landing an upset.

It would be the Kings who prevailed after two come-from-behind victories. A win against Wanganui first up proved easy enough, a one-two finish securing good points to set them up for the final. However, their next matchup against the home team could not have been more of a contrast, with Auckland looking to target Asher Rees, putting the Kings on the back foot. Gary Lonergan once again proved to be a nemesis for the New Zealand champion in a blocking role.

Asher Rees almost came undone in his superb rollover on Lonergan. Image: Wayne Drought

Rees relented, executing a successful rollover on Lonergan at one stage during the crash, pointing his front bumper to the sky as the 1NZ threatened to lift off. Even that was not enough to send Lonergan to the infield, the local stalwart landing on his wheels and able to continue following the mandatory roll cage check.

All the while, Cody McKee led for the All Stars and took the white flag. With Auckland about to take the win, McKee slowed down the back straight. He found pace again into the final turn, just in time to be drilled by Kings blockman Shane Mellsop. With McKee pointing in the wrong direction, Rees swung by to steal the win and send the Kings into the final.

That come-from-behind effort would be supplanted by an almost impossible turnaround in the final. The Giants were so far in front that the engraver could have been excused for being halfway through adding the word Gisborne on the trophy. Ethan Rees was a full lap in front of the field, with Peter Rees running second, the Giants commanding the first two running spots.

The Kings blocking had been energetic but a touch ineffective. To their credit, they never gave up and managed to turn the tables as a result. Gavin Taniwha got himself in front of Ethan Rees again, only to get absolutely drilled, resulting in Ethan Rees losing power in the incident.

Peter decided the best course of action was to push Ethan around the track, which would have been a good idea had the race been over 12 laps, but the final was over 15 laps, and the strategy quickly came undone as son Asher Rees flew around the track for the lead.

As Asher passed for the lead, Peter Rees abandoned his pushing of Ethan Rees and set chase.

Tim Ross took the flag for the Giants in their opener against the Busters. Image: Wayne Drought

Unfortunately for the Giants, the remaining combatants were primarily out of the race, allowing Asher to win the race for the Kings once again.

For all his achievements in the sport, Asher’s career record at the Superstock Teams Nationals is poor, this representing the first time he lifted the trophy. Despite finishing second, the Giants kept an impressive podium streak intact, now stretching to 7 straight Teams Nationals.

The battle for third was no less entertaining.

The All-Stars and Panthers had met in the opening encounter on a wet track. Both teams agreed to race despite questionable track conditions and put on quite the race. Auckland lost Hayden Hart up the back straight wall after he and Cody Mckee went for the same Panthers driver at the same time. Gary Lonergan would join Hart on the infield after being on the receiving end of an epic barrel roll. David Lowe failed to make the distance for the Panthers, driven hard into the pit bend wall. An inspired performance from Rebecca Barr led the Panthers to victory.

The return matchup would be a different story. Auckland blocker Jamie Fergusson rolled Jordan Dare entering Cemetery Bend, seeing Fergusson sent to the infield for attacking off the grass. A disgruntled Fergusson would cop a second infringement for compromising safety by the way he drove into the infield. An inglorious exit from the Teams Nationals for the Auckland stalwart, who stated he plans to retire from racing at the end of this season.

In his extended teams racing career, the number of times Fergusson has run for the flag could be counted on one hand. There was little guesswork required from the opposition as to what role he would assume in teams racing. He’s always committed to the cause, and if you’re crewing for Fergusson at a team’s racing event, you’re likely to have a busy evening ahead. His intelligent approach to blocking would be an asset to any team. A future tactical role off the track would be a great fit.

3NZ Luke Brown took out the Auckland Modifieds title. Image: Wayne Drought

Even without their lynchpin blocker, Auckland looked good and duly took third-place spoils when Hayden Hart took the checkered flag.

Though not making the final round, both Baypark and Wanganui could take positives from the event. Dylan Marshall is a driver you can build a team around, and if the Warriors can find some more balance in their line-up, they will make strides forward. Zane Dykstra also stood out, and if they could find a top-level block man to complement what they already have, the Warriors could be a force.

Baypark endured a tough opening matchup against the Giants. They were all at sea in the opening stages, and it did not improve from there. The second time around they were much better against the Panthers despite Seth McConchie being stranded on the start grid for the entire race.

All five Warriors appeared for the consolation race when they could have been forgiven for making an early start on the long trip home. The Warriors were rewarded when they recorded a one-two finish in the traditional all-in $2,000-to-win race at the night’s end.

In other action on the night, Luke Brown took out the Auckland Modified title from Newton Gordge and national champion Brad Lane. However, fans will probably remember the race for the epic demise of Jamie Fox.

Lapped traffic became a factor through the latter stages, and as a group of lead lap cars approached a group of lappers, the situation had trouble written all over it. Fox would clip a lapped car, dumping his ride hard in the turn three safety fence.