Baypark up-and-comer sticks it on the tarmac

It’s been a busy summer for Baypark up-and-comer Ayrton Hodson, who has been busy at work in the Sprintcar and competing on the tarmac around the country.

The 18-year-old from Katikati has been racing in the renowned Toyota 86 Championship, as well as having a recent outing in the Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series 1-Hour race at Hampton Downs.

Along the way, he’s shown maturity beyond his years, showing dirt track racers have what it takes to stick it on the tarmac.

Starting at Baypark at just 12 years old, Hodson quickly got up to speed in Ministock and progressed to Six Shooters before eventually settling in for a full Sprintcar campaign this season gone.

His early achievements included success in the ‘ Future of Speedway’, first in the third tier of Ministocks in Paradise, second in the Waikato Champs and second in the 0800 Muscle Six Shooter Series, among others.

Hodson wears a similar livery in the Toyota 86 Championship. Image Bruce Jenkins

However, his transition to the big leagues early this season didn’t necessarily immediately go to plan, but in true Baypark fashion, he bounced back to achieve some strong results.

“I didn’t start well; we had a tip over on opening night, five laps into our first heat,” he told NZ Dirt Track Racing Magazine.

“That didn’t start well, but we’ve kind of made really good gains after each meeting. In our third meeting, we had a top five, which was really cool.”

It’s been a season of ups and downs at Baypark for the youngster, who admits that it’s been a massive step up.

“A lot of the time we’ve just had bad luck. We’ve had fuelling issues for about half the meetings we’ve been let down on fuel issues. It’s definitely been up and down; there’s been a few highs, but I think the lows outnumber the highs [this season], unfortunately, but otherwise, we’ve been taking really good steps forward.”

It’s always easy to let the lows outweigh the highs, but the signs are definitely promising for the youngster, who, in only his third Sprintcar outing at Baypark, stunned the field to take fifth in November’s Bay Circuit of Dreams Feature.

The next time he competed at the venue, in the massive ‘Bay International Superstars’ event, Hodson was also on point, with particular regard to Heat 2, where he finished third, upstaging the likes of Jonathan Allard and Shane van Gisbergen.

While he wasn’t able to finish in the Feature, it did showcase what he was capable of in front of a massive crowd and a host of renowned international drivers.

But the dirt oval exposure wasn’t enough for Hodson, however, as he then committed to a Toyota 86 campaign.

Hodson, along with Brett Sullivan, topped their class in the recent 1-Hour Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series race at Hampton Downs. Image Neville Bailey

“It’s certainly something new, but I’ve had my eye on it for a while, and it appeals because of how competitive it is,” he said when the announcement was made.

“We’re under no illusions as to how tough this will be with most of the competitors having run Karts or other forms of circuit racing already.

“Of course the Toyota 86 is a complete contrast to the oval cars I have driven and particularly the Sprintcars. Those cars have absolutely loads of power (800bhp+) and limited grip but the Toyota has limited power and absolutely heaps of grip. That’s a new process for me and I’m really enjoying learning it.

“The Sprint Car is almost instinctive in terms of lines, but there’s definitely a fast way and a slow way around the circuit in the 86. The engineering side is also very different because, of course, we cannot really get any track data out of the sprint car, and an in-car camera is as far as you can go when it comes to collecting any information.

“Everyone has been really helpful getting me up to speed on that side of things, and it’s exciting knowing exactly where you can be quicker in the 86 and whether you have the right braking points, throttle level and things like that. It’s really interesting for me.”

The differences between Sprintcar and Toyota 86 racing need little explaining, ranging from a hugely different car to a completely different style of racing.

For Hodson, that was expected, but one element, in particular, caught him by surprise. “I think how close the tarmac racing is,” he said when asked what the most eye-opening moment was of the transition.

“With all the cars being completely identical, the racing is super close, which I didn’t think it would be like.

“The door-to-door stuff has been a real challenge for me.”

“In Sprintcars, we really aren’t door-to-door a lot of the time, but I think the more racing kind of part has been the real challenge for me switching over.”

His tarmac racing debut at Highlands Motorsport Park did go to plan, where the ultimate aim was to walk away from the round a better driver.

The talented 18-year-old shows signs of becoming a star of the future. Image James Selwyn

“Highlands went well; we were near the back-ish most the weekend,” he says, “but we had some good battles and made some good passes and had a straight car at the end, which is always good.

“It was definitely a really cool experience. We didn’t start off well with quite limited testing; I think we had three to five test days in the 86 in total before our first race weekend.”

From then, his progression has been easy to see, most evident in the practice sessions ahead of each round, where he’s gone from averaging the 15th-fastest time at Highlands to averaging fourth, most recently at Manfeild.

Hodson’s big breakthrough, however, came at Taupo, where he qualified on the front row before driving to an incredible podium in the opening race.

“Yea, that was awesome,” he stated, evidently grinning through the phone. “The team gave me a bloody good car for qualifying, and we put it on the front row on the last lap of qualifying, which was even sweeter. To come away with a podium and even lead a couple of laps as well was awesome.”

Since then, the Toyota 86 Championship has been slightly more rigid on the Baypark 28M, with the latest round at Manfeild producing two unfortunate DNFs and an 18th.

Such results are character-building and an unfortunate part of racing for any driver. Ultimately, it’s the way you bounce back which matters. He has the opportunity to do just that in the championship’s final round at Hampton Downs on the first weekend of this month.

He currently sits 12th in the standings as the fourth-best rookie.

Back at Baypark, Hodson’s continued to run in the Sprintcar whenever possible, evidently continuing to better himself by failing to finish outside the top 10 more often than not in every race he’s finished this year. Along the way, he’s secured several more top-three finishes in heats.

That elusive first Feature podium, and win, is well within reach.

Most recently, Hodson ventured out in a Z4 M Coupe in the Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series 1-Hour at Hampton Downs on April 22, in Class 4 &5.

Sharing his drive with the ever-fast Cantabrian Brett Sullivan, the duo faced limited runtime in Friday’s practice due to electrical issues with the car.

A wet Saturday greeted the pair, but they relented, driving to overall class honours in a trying race that presented plenty of drama.

Hodson in action at Baypark. Image James Selwyn

It should be noted that the entire race was run on a wet tarmac track, further emphasising Hodson’s adaptability to perform at a high level on any surface presented.

They’ll return to action in the 1-Hour at Taupo later this month before heading to the South Island Endurance Series, where strong results will further cement their claim to the crown.

As it stands, Ayrton Hodson is a genuine possibility to be a New Zealand Endurance Series Champion by year-end.

Of course, at such a young age, a time will come when a decision needs to be made as to where his career heads.

For now, however, New Zealand dirt track and circuit racing fans will get to enjoy watching this talented youngster continue to grow.

“I love doing both,” he says. “There will come a point where I have to pick one or the other, but at the moment, we’re still exploring options and what kind of paths we can take with dirt and tarmac. It’s still kind of a plan in progress at the moment, I guess.”

With the backing of his father, fellow Baypark regular Paul Hodson, and sponsors including the likes of Llama Racefuel, Llama Engineering, Liquimoly, Raceworks, Eye Spy

Security, BOP Signs and Pacific Toyota, there’s little telling where this talented teenager could end up.

Scott Tennant Slams NZ Stockcar Grand Prix

It’s rare to see such domination as that seen from Scott Tennant at the Placemakers NZ Stockcar Grand Prix at the McDonalds Kihikihi Speedway on March 23 and 24.

The reigning 2NZ put in a performance for the ages at the meet, sweeping all three qualifying heats and backing it up 24 hours later with two more wins and a third to secure the Grand Prix title in grand style, claiming an astonishing 87 points out of a possible 90.

It was arguably one of the best displays of individual driving in a category where tribal alliances count more than solo endeavour. Even after allowing for the fact that the Aucklander had numerous track mates to help him if required, there’s no denying that his superlative performance came from his own effort.

This has been an event a long time in the making, postponed from last season due to Covid, then postponed twice more because of a terrible run of weather. This time, the weather finally played ball, allowing such a breathtaking display of racing to take place.

Like so many events impacted by the weather this season, the continual postponements took much of the pre-event enthusiasm. However, there was still a good turnout, with all North Island venues, except for Wellington, represented.

Tennant won five out of six heats over the Grand Prix weekend.

A generous seven qualifiers from each group make the finals, plus two from the repechage, meant that Friday night qualifying was relatively tame for the light crowd in attendance. There were a few big hits and a couple of rollovers, but banking the points was the name of the game.

The most significant talking point from Friday’s qualifying was the large Auckland armada that had qualified for the final, with no fewer than seven Aucklanders making the final 30. Stratford had five, including national champion Josh Walsh who showed the confident pace that took him to the 1NZ and NI titles.

Huntly was next best with four, while Rotorua, Palmerston North and the host track saw three qualify. Cody Lockett was Wanganui’s sole qualifier, with nobody from Meeanee or Gisborne able to make the cut.

A far bigger crowd fill the banks of the Kihikihi Domain on a slightly nippy Saturday afternoon, anticipating a fine evening’s entertainment. They were not to be disappointed. Pole-sitter Keegan Orr narrowly emerged from opening lap carnage to add a fourth Rotorua car to the finals, taking the race win. Runner-up Alex Maule gave Palmerston North a fourth car in the finals thanks to Orr’s track mate Joel Steiner, who spun Maule’s clubmate Cody Hodge, who was in that spot, to protect Orr’s lead.

Tennant quickly moved into the lead from P3 in the opening heat and stayed there, shepherded from potential attacks from track mates Josh Simpson and Logan Peat, who finished second and third.

With fellow Aucklander and defending GP champion Gary Longergan in fourth, it was clear, even at this early stage the championship was going to stay in the Super City, with the nearest non-Aucklander being Palmerston North’s Kyle Rowe, who was sixth, and Rotorua’s Brent Stewart who was seventh.

Tennant capitalised on the early mêlée in Heat 2, quickly vaulting into third. He then diced with race leader Lowe for several laps following a stoppage, eventually taking the lead and winning over his rival. Third-placed Simpson and fourth-place Peat cemented their title chances, while Lonergan remained in the hunt with sixth.

Tennant had a perfect score of 60 at this stage, giving him a massive five-point buffer over Simspon, Peat and Lowe, all tied for second. Lonergan was next on 52, with Stewart completing the top six on 48. Dion Henderson was the best local on 47; he and Stewart needing something exceptional to happen to score a podium.

With the rare luxury of a five-point buffer, all Tennant had to do was cruise and collect. By his admission, he wasn’t pushing hard in the finale. Nevertheless, he took advantage of his car speed and early skirmishes ahead in the pack to finish third and claim the Grand Prix title by a whopping seven points.

This is not to say there was no attempt to give him a run for his money as Kyle and Taylor Lampp tried to assist Lowe, but the Auckland armada and their allies were far too strong.

Fourth place for Simpson in the finale was enough for him to claim second overall, on 81 points, with Peat, who ran shotgun for Tennant for most of the race, third on 79 for his first podium in an allocated title. Lowe was a solid fourth on 77, while Stewart was fifth on 75. Henderson gave the best performance by a Kihikihi driver to finish sixth He was one ahead of defending champion Lonergan, who lost ground in a skirmish in the final heat. Kyle Lampp on 63, Brad Simspon on 58 and Cody Lockett on 50 completed the top ten. Lockett did well to make the top ten after not starting the opening heat, a win in the finale vaulting him up the order.

Locals had something to cheer for when Cameron Taylor won the Rosetown Rumble for the non-qualifiers, with Rotorua’s Riley McDonald and Auckland’s Matt Stone completing the trifecta.

A Night Of Champions at Kihikihi

The Andrew Edwards Sprintcar Memorial returned to the McDonald’s Kihikihi Speedway on April 15 following a one- year Covid-inflicted hiatus. It was a night of fantastic open- wheel racing, with three of the five classes competing boasting the 1NZ and 2NZ. The entire NZ TQ Midget podium were also present.

Adding spice to proceedings was the final round of the Midas Midget Allstars series, while the Sprintcars were also racing the final round of the Auto Super Shoppe Sprintcar Master Series. It was no surprise to see a big crowd along the banks of the Kihikihi Domain expecting first-class action from a top-drawer programme. That’s precisely what they got.

The Andrew Edwards Memorial boasted a massive field of 22, minus defending champion Stephen Taylor who chose to contest Ruapuna’s Salute to Goodie that night. Despite his absence, there was still plenty of A-list talent on hand.

The Heats were competitive, with four different winners in as many races, being Rodney Wood, Dean Brindle, Michael Pickens and Brad Mosen, in a rare Sprintcar outing.

The feature was arguably the best Sprintcar race seen at Kihikihi in recent years, with excellent racing from start to finish, coupled with rarely-seen slide jobs as the race progressed. Dean Brindle grabbed the lead from pole and gradually pulled away in the early laps, only for O’Conner to pile on the pressure trying to lap Baypark’s Holly Williams, the pair running side by side until Dean cleared the young lady. The battle for second became just as fierce, with Cooper, Thomas and Pickens looking to make gains after a cautious start.

Dean Brindle celebrates in style following his historic Andrew Edwards Sprintcar Memorial win.

A caution for a stationary Lance Beale with ten laps to go made it a sprint to the flag, with Brindle checking out and Pickens quickly moving to second. With Brindle taking it easy approaching traffic, Pickens made a do-or-die lunge in the final turn that saw him clip the wall and roll. The restart saw Brindle grab the win, the first for a Kihikihi driver in the event’s six years of running at the venue, having previously been held at Baypark.

Brindle has placed in all but one of the Kihikihi editions of the event, making this victory that much more special.

Making it a Kihikihi one-two was Thomas, who got past Cooper in the final dash to the flag, the latter showing he’s no longer an up-and-comer but a regular front-runner. O’Connor and locals Brian Edwards and Keaton Dahm completed the top six.

The final leg of the Midas Midget All Stars saw a full grid of 20 on tap, with heat racing showing some of the best midget action seen at Kihikihi. Series leader Brad Mosen started the night with a DNF, though he bounced back to finish second next time out, but still had some work to do in the feature, starting from tenth.

Newly crowned 10-time NZ Champion Pickens only had a middling run in the heats, stalling in the first while leading but recovering to sixth. A fighting fourth in the second heat put him in an unusually low P9 for the feature, which few pundits expected going into this event.

Cantabrian Jack Low, Jayden Worthington and local Mitch Fabish were heat winners, but the most consistent were Aaron Hodgson and Hayden Guptill, who claimed the front row for the feature.

After a couple of early cautions, the race came alive with a long spell under green that saw Hodgson and Guptill have a big joust for the lead until Aaron got the upper hand to pull away. Further back, Mosen and Pickens were having a real fight, exchanging slide jobs for several laps until Mosen got the upper hand and clawed his way to third, albeit some way off the leaders but showing the pace to bridge the gap.

Another caution was the break Mosen needed, and within a few laps of the restart, he’d cleared Guptill and then Hodgson to win the race and the series. Hodgson was second, with Guptill delighted to grab a podium at his favourite track. The promising Jordan McDonnell, who has impressed this season, was a gutsy fourth ahead of Pickens, with Leon Burgess completing the top six.

The Dusty Rhodes TQ Memorial does not, as some may think, honour an overweight 1980s US professional wrestler, but instead, a man who not only did so much for Kihikihi on and off track but also did much to establish Meeanee after moving to Hawkes Bay.

A quality field of 21 put on some blistering action, with 2NZ Kayden Barker looking impressive with two heat wins, with Cole Morrison the other heat winner. So evenly matched was the field that there were no other standouts, apart from national champion Aaron Humble who started next to Barker in P2 for the feature. Barker led from flag fall, with Humble in hot pursuit, creating the possibility of a battle royal between the NZ’s best for the entire race. Unfortunately, Humble soon became unstuck with a spin that put him to the rear, followed by a flat tyre.

Barker, unfazed by several restarts, maintained an edge over the rest to win in a manner seen in his time in Youth Mini Stocks. Barker aside, Dylan Cooke was the driver of the race to finish second, compensation for a torrid season filled with bad luck, with defending champion Reagan Tyler finishing third. Hawkes Bay’s Duane Todd, Troy Pennington and 3NZ Terrance Dorrell completed the top six.

With the NZ Saloons coming to Kihikihi next season, the King Country Saloon Championship served as the first real step in the build-up towards it. Three amazing races, typical of the racing seen by the class, gave the crowd a taste of what to expect next summer.

It was clear from the first heat that title honours in the 14-strong field would be between national champion Jarrod Fletcher, 3NZ Trent Armein and national Super Saloon champion Chris Cowling.

Fletcher and Armein reeled in local Aaron Tonks, who led the early laps to be one-two in Heat 1, Tonks holding on for third over Cowling, who flew fourth after breaking clear of a fierce midfield battle. Cowling comfortably won the second heat, with Fletcher and Armein having another fierce battle to be second and third.

The 15-lap feature was another superb battle, with front-row starters Fletcher and Armein streaking away from the pack. Cowling struggled for pace in the early laps, possibly with brake issues, until he found his rhythm, clearing third-placed Tonks and trying to reel in the lead pair. Time looked to be against him until a yellow worked in his favour. He took the lead off Fletcher with a stunning outside pass to claim the King Country title. Defending champion Fletcher had to settle for second, who again had Armein right behind at the chequered flag. Tonks was best of the locals in fourth, followed by Huntly’s Reece Clements and Baypark’s Dan Hickman.

Also on the programme was a light field of Superstocks, with drivers either saving their cars for the Waikaraka Teams Nationals, the postponed second day of the Easter meeting at Rotorua the following evening or competing at the U26’s at Stratford that night.

It could have easily been a chance to grab a coffee. Still, to their credit, the quartet chose to play cat and mouse with each other to keep things entertaining, creating an amusing sideshow to the more serious business of the evening. Trevor De Malmanche scored two wins, with Mitch Vickery, back after sitting out much of the year through injury, the other victor.

Easter Sunday action thrills colossal Cromwell crowd

Night two of Central Motor Speedway’s Easter Champs took place Easter Sunday, in front of a bumper crowd on a beautiful Central Otago afternoon.

This meeting would see the Central Coyotes Stockcar Team go up against the Southland Spartans in teams racing, The King of Cromwell Sprintcars, the Stockcars’ Mark Nicholl Trophy, the Ron Spriggs Memorial for Saloons, and the Central Otago Production Champs.

Stock Cars: Central Coyotes vs. Southland Spartans

The event started with the Fastlane Spares Teams Trophy up for grabs for the first time, contested between the Central Coyotes and the Southland Spartans, both having won once over their opposition already this season.

The Coyotes team consisted of Casey McEwan, Jacob Boulton, Marcus Scott, debutant Brodie McDonald, and Jayden Nicholl as the reserve driver. The Spartans had father/son duo Peter and Shanan Knight, Jesse Hamilton, debutant Kahu Moxham, and reserve driver Harley Robb.

As the race started it was Scott who cleared away from the pack as the teams went to war. He would lead for several laps before Hamilton would wait to take him out. From there, McDonald took over the lead, well-protected from McEwan and Boulton despite many attempted attacks from the Spartans.

Moxham and Hamilton got dealt to mid-race, leaving just the Knights to try and cause the upset. McDonald was too fast, taking the race for the Coyotes. Scott came home second, and Peter Knight third.

Sprintcars: King of Cromwell

Sprintcars were racing for the King of Cromwell, a chance for someone to sit upon the giant throne at Central Motor Speedway and wear the King’s Crown.

Christchurch driver Steve “The Gasman” Duff fired the early warning shot to his competitors with a faultless Heat 1 win. Duff was fast and managed to hold off Cromwell’s Daniel Anderson, who was setting some fast laps to catch the leader but eventually settling for second, ahead of Jason Scott of Cromwell.

Heat 2 saw Cromwell’s Shanarrah Stronach start strong, leading for several laps until Joel Myers Jnr of Ruapuna would start to apply the pressure.

Entering Turn 3. Myers Jnr would slide up the inside of Stronach, making contact that sent her into the wall. Both cars continued to race hard, but Stronach soon fell back a couple of spots.

Myers Jnr raced off to take a strong win, only to be relegated to third for the contact, giving Cromwell’s Adam Evans the win over Anderson.

Heat 3 was a fast-paced affair, the only caution coming when John Sievwright lost a side of his wing. Out front in this heat was Evans, who had really found some pace throughout the meeting. Clear air worked wonders, with Evans pulling away for his second win of the meet. Josh “Young Buck” Buchanan of Cromwell was second, and the Californian Kid, Myers Jnr third.

This led to the 20-lap feature to crown the King, and for the second time this weekend, it was an all “Ranch Bar And Grill” front row with Anderson and Myers Jnr starting in prime position, as they did in Friday night’s feature.

It was one-way traffic for Myers Jnr when the lights went green, quickly putting three car lengths over the pack into Turn 2 before boosting away.

That didn’t last for long, however, with an early intervention required following a frightening incident when Buchanan powered into Turn 3 on Lap 2, his car going airborne and sending the impressive young driver upside down in a vicious roll. He would walk away but his car suffered considerable damage.

At the restart, Myers Jnr took off from the pack once again, with Anderson tucking in behind while Dave Kerr and Duff battled for third. With just four laps to run Stronach would spin at Turn 2, causing a caution. Immediately after that, Kerr would get tangled up with Tony Uhlenburg from Kihikihi off the restart, however, Kerr was returned to his original position of third.

Myers Jnr sailed off when the race commenced with just four laps remaining, putting in a stunning display of driving to be crowned King of Cromwell. Anderson would secure second with Kerr holding off Duff for third.

Stockcars: Mark Nicholl Trophy

Stockcars ran three interesting races, all with different starting procedures.

Heat 1 saw a reverse, two-deep Le Mans start. Christchurch’s Murray Greig took off and maintained a healthy lead, despite stoppages for Jayden Nicholl of Christchurch, Brian Taniwha of Cromwell, Shanan Knight of Riverside and Jamie Boulton of Christchurch. Greig would go on to win the heat, ahead of Shannon Simon of Dunedin and Peter Knight of Riverside.

Half the field would start on the front straight and half on the back for Heat 2, which saw Nicholl get taken care of early when Robb took to him at Turn 3, bringing the race to a halt. Following that, a big tangle of cars, featuring Peter Knight, Greig and Simon at Turn 4, caused the second stoppage.

Craig Robb of Christchurch would lead for much of this race, taking the race win over Cromwell duo Jack Honeybone and Jacob Boulton.

The final Stockcar race saw plenty of action, being the last chance for drivers to stake their claim for the Mark Nicholl Memorial Trophy.

While there was plenty of action, there were minimal stoppages. The first of the race was to retrieve Simons’ car, parked at the pit gate. The second was more dramatic, coming when Harley Robb rolled Shanan Knight at Turn 3, bringing the crowd to their feet.

Newcomer to the grade, Carl Gable of Cromwell, would lead this race early, which began with the cars starting five-wide on the back straight.

Gable would soon slip back a spot as Jacob Boulton snatched the race lead. So intense was the hitting and spinning, that Gable, who was spun in second, was able to tale to the infield with an overheating car before eventually returning to the track in the same position.

Boulton would eventually go on to take the race win, Gable second with Craig Robb third.

Overall, the Mark Nicholl Memorial Trophy for biggest stirrer went the way of Harley Robb, with McEwan second and Peter Knight third. Shanan Knight won the Roll Over award, while the points for the night went to Jacob Boulton over Craig Robb in second and Honeybone third.

Gable should be recognised for improving dramatically over the weekend and driving well upfront. Brent Hayston of Riverside was also impressive in his Stockcar debut, following several seasons driving Modified Sprints.

Production Saloons: Central Otago Championship

Production Saloons were running for the Central Otago Championship, and it was a pretty wild event with plenty of thrills and spills. A big crash marred the start of Heat 1, a number of cars colliding on the main straight, including Laura Heads of Riverside, Nik Fraser of Christchurch, Liam Gillies of Dunedin and Jack Taylor of Cromwell.

The race only started to take shape when Gavin Hurring of Cromwell fired out of Turn 2, straight towards the wall like something had broken in his steering. Unfortunately for Dunedin’s Kaleb Marshall, he was between Hurring and the wall, both cars hitting hard and forced from the event.

The race would be won by Dunedin’s Aaron Brookland, who looked very fast early. Second was Vaughan Fairburn of Christchurch with Gillies getting up to third.

Heat 2 also had an ugly start, with Dunedin’s Tyler Kelk giving Cromwell’s Rob Gjaja a helping hand into the wall on the back straight, Kelk’s car propping up Gjajas’, both needing to be separated before fortunately racing on.

When the race resumed, Gilles got to the front and started to pull clear. Cromwell’s Sam McKenzie chased hard in a borrowed car but couldn’t match the pace of the leader. Gilles took the race win ahead of McKenzie and Brookland.

This race also had another dramatic stoppage when Riverside’s Blake Murdoch’s car burst into flames mid- race, putting on a spectacular light show for a lap or so.

Heat 3 was the cleanest of the night, despite a couple of cautions. The first was to retrieve a bumper on Lap 6, while the second was when race leader Gillies almost came to a standstill on the main straight. The driver that had dominated all weekend had suffered a mechanical failure with a few laps to run. Fairburn and Cromwell’s James Woods did well to avoid the slowing car, both almost hitting Gillies as they chased him.

From here Woods threw everything he had at Fairburn, but he was too fast, pulling away to take the win and the Central Otago Championship. Brookland attacked Woods late, slipping past on the line to secure second with Woods third.

Youth Mini Stocks

Youth Ministocks were racing for night two of the Easter Champs, a night dominated by Christchurch driver Jaxyn Houtos.

Houtos was upstaged in Race 1, which was clean and without stoppages.

Cromwell duo Ashdyn Gable and Dylan Jones battled hard up front, but Gable would do enough to claim the win, a fitting finish to his last day as a junior driver. Jones was second with Houtos third.

Heat 2 was another clean and fast race, although this time Houtos wasn’t going to sit in the pack and watch the Cromwell boys eat away at his points lead, racing off to a solid race win. Jones was again the best of the rest with another great drive for second while Cromwell’s Clay Dawson placed third.

There were a couple of spins and tangles in Heat 3, but the race ran caution free once again. Houtos put in a dominant display to take the win over Dawson and Jones, who drove from the rear of the pack to third.

This result gave Houtos the Easter Championship for Youth Ministocks, with Gable second and Dylan Prattley’s consistency paying off for third.

Six Shooters: Easter Championship

Easter Sunday was also night two of the Six Shooters Easter Championship. Heat 1 was the first race of the night, and Harrison Brown of Riverside continued where he left off with a strong race win. Tony Creighton of Cromwell was second with Duane Cracknell of Riverside third.

Heat 2 wasn’t so sweet for Brown, who suffered solid damage after Riverside clubmate Nigel Marshall got crossed up coming out of Turn 4, collecting Brown who scaled the wall on the main straight, ripping the front end out of the car. Brown walked away and remarkably returned for heat three.

As the race resumed, Cromwell’s Blair Smith worked his way to the front and looked to hold a commanding lead. Behind him, Emma Gordon of Cromwell was holding second but would have a rare spin late in the race giving her place away. Smith would go on to win the heat from Cromwell’s George Hedley and Brian Ellison.

The final Six Shooter race, to decide the championship, saw visiting driver Kirk Hawkins of Christchurch start from the front lead early. Cromwell’s Ben Smart would try to gather in the Ruapuna racer but had his own battles to remain in place with Ellison chasing hard, pressuring for second. Hawkins would hold his nerve to claim the win with Smart doing enough for second and Ellison third.

The Easter Champs would go the way of Smith, with Ellison second and Hedley third.

Super Saloons: Easter Championship

The Super Saloons were again a great watch on a big, fast-flowing circuit. There were no cautions across all three heats despite some close battles taking place.

Heat 1 saw Christchurch driver Trevor Elliott hold off a fast-charging Ian Burson of Nelson to take the win, Burson having to settle for second with Cromwell’s Euan Shearing third.

Race 2 was Greig Johnston of Cromwell’s time to shine. Just like in Friday night’s event, Johnston showed that he is a real threat amongst the grade in his first season behind the wheel of his new Hypermac. He was dominant to lead home Burson and Shearing.

Johnston would repeat the dose in Heat 3, this time having to reel in runaway leader Elliott, who got off to a flying start. Johnston’s car always looks fast late on, and this proved to be the case as he caught Elliott and made a pass to take his second win in a row. Elliott settled for second, with Burson third.

Burson’s placing would give him the Easter Championship, ahead of Johnston and Elliott.

Saloons: Ron Spriggs Memorial

The final heat to run would be Saloons, who were running night two of the Easter Championship as well as the Ron Spriggs Memorial. The crowd were looking forward to seeing George Phillips of Cromwell in action, but this would only be short- lived with the 2NZ pulling infield early in Race 1, not to be seen again.

Cromwell’s Steve Robertson would get a chance to stretch his legs in his brand new, homebuilt Mustang Saloon, a car which was lightning fast and took out a fast-paced Heat 1 over Aaron Andrews of Dunedin and Billie Woodhouse.

Heat 2 proved to be a dramatic affair, beginning on the opening lap when Mark Dobson of Riverside was forced to hit the brakes as a car in front of him checked up. This caused Dave McCallion of Dunedin to hit the back of Dobson and then fire off into Andrews, the pair making solid contact but able to remain running. Dobson was then instructed to start from the rear of the field, much to his displeasure.

Next up was Phil Burgess of Cromwell, who led early. Burgess looked in trouble coming out of Turn 2 while in battle with Riverside’s Graham Williamson, coming to a halt and leaving Williamson nowhere to go. The contact shot Burgess towards the infield, collecting Jason Gold of Beachland’s, who was at speed. Both drivers were forced out of the race.

Williamson managed to re-join and would lead from the restart to claim the heat win. Ivan Murdoch of Cromwell claimed second, ahead of Robertson in third.

The final race was an epic battle between Williamson and Willie Woodhouse of Christchurch. Woodhouse had a good early lead, but Williamson would chase down the former 3NZ and pass him for what looked like the race win. Williamson would lead four laps before Woodhouse, in his Stealth, would make the pass that would give him the race victory. Williamson would settle for second with Dobson claiming a well-raced third.

The Easter Championship went the way of Woodhouse, with Williamson second and Dobson third, while the Ron Spriggs Memorial was won by Robertson over Williamson and Woodhouse.

Thrills and spills aplenty in Cromwell at fantastic Good Friday meet

It wasn’t just the Sprintcar’s War of the Wings title fight that put on a spectacular Good Friday showing at Cromwell, with the large support bill also featuring plenty of thrills and spills for a great night of action-packed racing.

In typical fashion, the Saloons put on a fantastic show with some brilliant battles across all three heats. In Heat 1, Riverside’s Mark Dobson and his clubmate Graham Williamson pulled away from the pack following early pressure from Beachland’s Jason Gold. The two southern drivers never relented and managed to clear off.

Williamson had tried to make a couple of moves on Dobson, who was fast but also nervous out front following a nasty run of luck so far this season, a couple of big accidents knocking his confidence in his new Hypermac. Dobson would get the win he was looking for, with Williamson coming home second and Gold third.

Dobson was again at the pointy end of the field in Race 2, however this time he would again have to battle with Gold and Shane Greer, of Beachlands, for a good part of the race. While this battle was unfolding, it was Christchurch driver Willie Woodhouse who would power off to a commanding lead.

The field would come back to Woodhouse when Williamson was spun at Turn 2, bringing out a caution. This was followed by a caution one lap later when Darren McLeod, of Riverside, tagged the Turn 2 wall. The third caution came when Williamson came unstuck at Turn 3, his car stalling and needing assistance to re-join the field.

The stop/start race would eventually come to an end with Woodhouse taking the win ahead of Dobson and Gold.

Production Saloons raced wheel to wheel all weekend.

The final heat for Saloons went the distance with no drama unfolding. It was Dunedin’s Aaron Andrews who put in a remarkable drive to pull away from the pack and take home a solid win. Woodhouse chased hard but would have to settle for second, ahead of Williamson in third.

A small but quality field of Super Saloons hit the track for the Easter Champs. The burning question amongst the grade was around Nelson’s Ian Burson, and if his rotten run of luck would finally end. Burson has been hammered with mechanical woes since the New Zealand title in Dunedin, and this was another test to see if the team had the gremlins sorted.

Burson answered that question in Heat 1, having an epic one-on-one battle with Cromwell’s Ray Stewart at the front of the pack. The pair raced door-to-door, lap after lap, but Burson would get the edge and take the win. Stewart was second with Greig Johnston of Cromwell third.

Heat 2 saw Johnston get the jump on his rivals, holding off an attacking Burson and Stewart in his new Hypermac, which he is quickly coming to grips with. Johnston would take the win, ahead of Burson and Stewart.

The third and final heat saw Christchurch driver Trevor Elliott dominate out front, looking in full control until a late race spin at Turn 3 would see him fall down the order. This mistake allowed Burson to snatch victory from Johnston and Cromwell’s Ewan Shearing.

Six Shooters opened the event, again with a huge field of cars entered. Cromwell’s Blair Smith boosted off to a solid race start, running away from the rest of the field and looking as if he would win with ease. Cromwell’s Tony Creighton would spin at Turn 3 late in the race, allowing the rest of the field to catch up.

At the restart, Sophie Wills, of Cromwell, would slip down the inside of Smith to take the lead with only a lap to run. Wills would snatch victory, leaving Smith to settle for second with Cromwell’s Emma Gordon third.

The second Six Shooters race saw Creighton struggle with a spin at Turn 3 once again, his new car a totally different beast to what he has previously raced in. This was the only incident of note, which saw Riverside Speedway’s Harrison Brown taking a race win after failing to finish Heat 1.

Brian Ellison would place second, with his Cromwell clubmate George Hedley third.

The final Six Shooter race was also a good, fast, and clean affair. It was Hedley who fought off his rivals to bag his second win of the season, ahead of Nigel Marshall, of Riverside, and Brown.

A number of drivers in Youth Ministocks would be having their final weekend in the youth grade before going off into the senior ranks.

Race 1 saw Christchurch driver Jaxyn Houtos dominate, the young driver taking apart his opposition with ease, getting to the front and driving off. The big talking point was the drive of Cromwell’s Ashdyn “Smash” Gable who started this race at the very back of the pack, getting through and settling for second. Clay Dawson of Cromwell would place third.

A nasty Lap 1 incident in Race 2 saw both Brooke Marshall, of Cromwell, and Toni Lee Best, of Christchurch, come together hard against the Turn 2 wall. Houtos would drive away from his rivals off the restart, grabbing another race win. Dawson would chase hard for second, ahead of Dylan Jones, of Cromwell, in third.

Race 3 also started with a nasty crash on the main straight, Dawson and Cooper Whalon Frans, of Nelson, crashing into the wall, bringing the race to a halt while the safety crew dealt with the incident. This race would continue to be a very stop-start affair with multiple cautions due to cars spinning as the track slicked off under lights.

The race would be called early after Cromwell’s Paige McNally and clubmate Mikayla Colvin had a coming together in Turn 2, giving Jones the win ahead of Houtos and Gable.

Stockcars again put on a good showing despite several cars taking it easy knowing there would be teams racing on Easter Sunday. Cromwell’s Jack Honeybone put in a smooth, clean race in Heat 1 to take top spot ahead of Riverside’s Shanan Knight and Beachland’s Paul Simon.

Heat 2 brought a few tap and spins, but produced some quick-paced action. Cromwell teenager Brodie McDonald upstaged the competition by getting up front and pulling away, taking a solid race win over Simon and Cromwell’s Casey McEwan.

The final Stockcar race saw a couple of cautions for cars stopped on track, but nothing too major as far as big incidents went. Craig Robb of Christchurch would this time upstage his opponents and manage to fight off Woodford Glen clubmate Shi Robb to take the win, with McEwan again third.

The final grade to run was Production Saloons, the grade was over-subscribed throughout the week and was split into three groups, but actual numbers on the day dropped and ended up being three heats with a full field in each.

With such a big field it was always going to be action-packed, the first caution in Heat 1 coming when Nik Fraser of Christchurch stopped in Turn 1. This was followed by Cromwell’s James Woods coming to a grinding halt on the back straight. Besides those two cars stopping, it was a clean opener, with Liam Gillies of Dunedin taking the win over Nelson driver Eddy Frans and Scott Ritchie of Greymouth.

These results changed post-race with Frans being disqualified, elevating Ritchie to second and Kaleb Marshall of Dunedin to third.

Heat 2 would see just the one caution with Cromwell’s Des McTaggart stopping in Turn 3. This would be the heat that Vaughan Fairburn would show his class, the Cantabrian doing a number on the field to bank valuable points in the Easter Championship. Second would go the way of Gillies with Aaron Brookland of Beachland’s working his way to third.

Heat 3 was again a stop/start affair with multiple cars spinning, the race not flowing at any stage. Again, Gillies would work his way to the front of the pack and bag his second win of the event in what had been a dominating performance in a quality field. Cromwell’s Brad McTaggart finished second with Leo Bennett of Dunedin earning a well-earned third.

War of the Wings crown a new champion

There really is something to be said about Easter racing at Central Motor Speedway in Cromwell. It’s Good Friday, and nothing is open, so a big crowd always flocks trackside. It’s early autumn, the temperatures are bearable, and a Nordic- like breeze fills the arena. The cooler the air gets, the hotter the on-track action gets, and that’s exactly what transpired in Central Otago at this year’s final round of the Hydraulink War of the Wings.

Central Motor Speedway would play host to the event, which has this year been dominated by teen sensation Joel Myers Jnr, from California, representing Ruapuna Speedway.

Myers Jnr would roll into the final round with a 55-point buffer over Riverside Speedway’s own teenage sensation Jacob McIntyre, who is the only other driver in the series to lead the championship throughout the year, in what has been a breakthrough campaign for the youngster.

Cromwell’s Mathew Anderson has been the quiet achiever, consistently collecting points on a regular basis to sit third heading into the event, just 20 points adrift of McIntyre.

The meet would kick into life with time trials, which also decided the OEM Quick Time Award for the series which Myers Jnr was leading coming into Cromwell.

Joel Myers Jr, your 2022/23 War of the Wings champion. Image Blake Armstrong

Dave Kerr from Ruapuna would be the only driver to tap into the thirteen-second lap bracket late on, putting him at the top of the table. Myers Jnr was second ahead of Cromwell’s Daniel Anderson. Mathew Anderson was fourth with Connor Rangi, of Nelson, rounding out the top five.

This result would see Myers Jnr win the overall OEM Quick Time Award from Jayden Dodge, of Cromwell, and Rangi.

Heat 1 saw an early restart when Cromwell’s Whetu Taewa came unstuck early. Once the race found its rhythm, a harmless spin between Cromwell’s Nigel Colvin and Jason Scott would see Sam O’Callaghan roll at Turn 2, resulting in the Nelson-based driver heading off to a nearby medical facility. It was another major blow for the team in what has already been a testing season.

It was “The Gasman” Steve Duff of Ruapuna who would lead away off the restart, charging away to a superb race win, the second-generation Sprintcar driver really starting to string together some strong results. Second place went be Daniel Anderson, with Kerr charging home for third.

O’Callaghan and Scott retired from this heat.

Heat 2 saw both McIntyre and Myers Jnr facing off for the first time, and it was McIntyre’s time to shine as he raced off from the front of the grid to build a handy lead until Kerr’s car would come to a sudden standstill at Turn 2, halting proceedings.

McIntyre was out of the blocks fast once again, starting to run clear with Josh “Young Buck” Buchanan of Cromwell in hot pursuit. Myers Jnr was also starting to come through the pack before a second caution was called, when Allan Chapman of Ruapuna and Tony Uhlenburg of Kihikihi came together.

Again, McIntyre would need to be on his game to fight off Buchanan at the start, and that’s exactly what he did. Once again, he was fast out of the blocks before bagging a solid race win that would see him advance to the Top Six Dash. Buchanan drove well to grab second ahead of a hard-charging Myers Jnr in third.

The third and final heat would go the distance with no stoppages and also showcased the speed and class of Rangi who was simply in a league of his own. Rangi raced hard in the early stages of the race with Cromwell’s Finn Cleveland, who is also punching out some solid results late in the season.

Cleveland would lead early but Rangi would chase him down and make a pass on the local driver, racing off to a heat win. Cleveland placed second and Myers Jnr third.

From here the top six cars would go through to ‘The Dash’, which determined the front three rows of the grid for the 30- lap feature finale. Kerr rolled out on track but would take no further part in the event, a disappointing end for a driver who had impressed early. The other cars lining up for the dash were McIntyre, Myers Jnr, Rangi, Daniel Anderson and Duff.

McIntyre got off to a solid start leading early but soon fell to the rear of the pack, his car looking like a real handful in the short sprint. Anderson would upstage his younger teammate, Myers Jnr, to make it an all ‘Ranch Bar & Grill’ front row, with Anderson first, Myers Jnr second, Duff third, Rangi fourth and McIntyre fifth.

The scene was now set for the thirty-lap feature final of the Hydraulink War of the Wings, the heats and dash had produced some stellar battles and an entertaining season had now come down to this race.

Anderson raced off to a fast start, only to be chased down and passed by Myers Jnr. He was lucky to avoid disaster when he rocketed out of Turn 4, hitting the wall and riding it the entire way down the main straight. He did well to gain his composure after the wild ride, before beginning to fight back.

McIntyre had fallen down several spots but was starting to make his charge through the pack until he caught the cushion at Turn 3 on Lap 11, throwing him into the fence in what was an ugly incident.

This instantly bought out the red light, the race coming to a full stop as McIntyre was helped out of his car and made his way infield. The contender was visibly upset that his chances of claiming the series were now done and dusted, also now subject to having to watch the remainder of the race from the inside out.

As the cars fired up again it was Myers Jnr who raced off to a solid start, but only for a brief moment, as Rangi bought the crowd to its feet by making a move on the American and racing away to a handy lead.

Rangi looked unstoppable at this point and both he and Myers Jnr were well clear of the pack, where Duff had worked his way forward to third. Rangi would also hold off the advances of Myers Jnr after another restart for stranded cars, the two young drivers again driving away before, in no time at all, battling with the back makers.

This is where Myers Jnr made his move, with Rangi a sitting duck in traffic. The leader had worked his way through several cars, but the gap he had over the American was gone, allowing him to slide past Rangi before unleashing his skill to drive clear.

The big crowd in attendance had just witnessed an epic battle between two young drivers, and Myers Jnr’s move had certainly bought them to their feet. With the white flag out, the round and series wins were within reach for Myers Jnr, who had won every single final that he competed in throughout the series.

This win was the full stop on a remarkable campaign, and the teenage sensation celebrated taking the chequered flag and the Hyraulink War of the Wings title. Second home was Rangi who threw everything he had at this event, while Duff took a well-driven third.

Mathew Anderson drove a strong race and managed to get himself up to fourth, stealing second place in the series, while McIntyre can still be extremely proud of his achievements to finish third overall.

Epic beachlands battle deliver the goods

Modified Sprints

Jayden Fraser was the man to beat in Modified Sprints, the Riverside driver having been the class of the grade this season. He would smash the opposition in Heat 1 to secure victory over Glen Johnston of Beachlands and Shae McKenzie of Dunedin.

Johnston would turn the tables in Heat 2, despite Fraser having multiple attempts at making a pass. He couldn’t make it stick, giving Johnston the race win with Fraser second with McKenzie third.

Fraser’s redemption came in Race 3, racing off to a fast start and easily taking the win. McKenzie pressured Johnston but would get home in second, McKenzie consistent with his third 3rd placing of the night.

Heat 1 of night two produced a shock winner, with former 2NZ Streetstock driver McKenzie upstaging Friday’s winners to claim his maiden Modified Sprint win. Fraser settled for second, with Johnston third.

Johnston held out a fierce challenge from Fraser in Heat 2, with McKenzie not far off the pace. Those three drivers would remain in those placings when the checkered flag dropped.

The final race for Modified Sprints saw Fraser dominate from out front, smashing his rivals to cap off a big weekend of racing for the Riverside speedster. Fraser’s clubmate Vernon Helms struck some excellent form over the weekend, getting up to second, while McKenzie raced home in third.

Youth Saloons

Youth Saloons provided some excellent clean racing with no cautions until the third heat. Dunedin’s Max Kemp was chased after breaking away to a solid lead. He would fight off clubmate Jayden Cron to take the Heat 1 win, with Cron second ahead of Noah Kitto of Dunedin.

Cron would go one better in Heat 2 following a solid battle with Riverside’s Joshua Richardson, who got away to a good start. Cron would snatch the lead late in the race to claim the win, with Richardson second and Brooke Soper of Beachlands third.

It was newcomer Lachie Robertson of Riverside who bought Heat 3 to a brief stop with a big rollover in Turn 2, the car hitting a rut and firing upside down. At the restart, Cron would again get his way to the front of the pack and go on to win the race. Madi Stewart of Dunedin claimed a well- driven second, with Kemp up to third.

The next day’s Heat 4 saw Kitto hit the wall before passing the green flag, bringing a complete restart. On her last night of racing in the Youth grade, Stewart got off to a flying start, getting past the cars on the front row and powering off unchallenged to take her last-ever win in Youth Saloons. Richardson placed second, with Beachland’s Ashley Bennett fast in third.

The fifth heat was a heartbreaker for Kemp, who was fighting hard with his clubmate Cron when his engine blew, causing the car to catch fire. Kemp was visibly gutted but would return for the finale thanks to a great act of sportsmanship from Richardson, who gave up his car to Kemp to participate.

Beachland’s Max Fleet had a tough race, two spins bringing out cautions. The race win would go the way of Cron, with Soper second and Kitto third. The final Youth Saloon race for the season was fast and tidy with no cautions. It was fitting that Cron would get to the front of the pack and win the race in his last meeting in the grade. Kitto placed second, with Cayden Race of Riverside Speedway third.

With this race done, The Young and The Restless Championship went the way of Cron, Campbell and Schumacher, with Dunedin’s Lycan Cuff – Willman, Lavender and Andrew second and Bennett, MacHattie and Jenkins third.


The Stockcars were as entertaining as always, with Dunedin’s Zane Tuhura in one of those moods where he would inflict as much pain as he could. Trazarn Ryland-Annabell would take an easy Heat 1 win from Dunedin’s Nico Tuhura, with clubmate Liam Squire third.

Ryland- Annabell would start from the front row in Race 2, remaining unchallenged for the second race in a row. Nico Tuhura was second, with Squire rounding out the top three.

The third heat saw plenty of biff and bash, showcasing a Tuhura versus Simon family battle, with three members of each family attacking each other at every opportunity.

Squire would work his way to the front in this heat and remain there to take the win. Savannah Simon drove an excellent race for second, while her father, Paul, settled for third.

The next day, Nico Tuhura was too strong for the opposition taking the opening heat ahead of Dunedin’s Zac McClenaghan and Ryland-Annabell.

The second race saw more action and some solid hits, notably when Riverside driver Adam Naber placed Beachland’s Mike Holley up the wall at Turn 2. Ryland- Annabell would take this race over Nico Tuhura and Shannon Simon.

This left one race to run, with an early stoppage required when Naber put Shannon Simon into the Turn 2 wall. It wasn’t long after this hit that Holley would again be up the wall, this time in Turn 3. When the flag dropped, Nico Tuhura was the first man past the line, ahead of Ryland- Annabell and Savannah Simon.

The results for the Man of Steel went to Nico Tuhura over Ryland-Annabell and Paul Simon, while Zane Tuhura took the stirrers award ahead of Naber and McClenaghan.


Saloons were running a 40-lap race to cap the opening evening off, first running two 10-lap heat races to determine that grid.

Heat 1 saw Christchurch driver Ashton Osborne easily take apart the opposition to bag top points. Second went the way of Dunedin’s Travis Smith, who held off a fast-finishing Aaron Andrews of Dunedin.

Race 2 was another race dominated by a Christchurch driver in a Stealth, this time Peter “Dutchy” Schouten clearing out from the front to bag the win. Ryan Bennett of Dunedin was second, while Andrews was again at the top end of town in third. Andrews would lead the field into turn one of the 40-lap race, having never been beaten in previous years in the event, once again looking the part early. It was only a matter of time before Osborne and Schouten would start to make a move for the lead.

There was an early caution when local driver Wayne Bennett spun but managed to re-join, while Smith suffered steering damage heading into Turn 3, putting him out of the race.

At the restart, Osborne bolted from the field only to come to a grinding halt when Dunedin driver Calvin Todd spun in Turn 2, the leader making light contact with him but able to continue. Riverside’s Mark Dobson was starting to put together some fast laps and began making his way through the field, but a spin late in the race saw the Southlander fall down the order.

Osborne would continue to impress to come home first, winning the 40-lap race with ease. Schouten would be second, and Andrews third.

Saloons were back on Saturday, racing for the Donald Maclean Trophy, Osborne continuing from where he left off in Heat 1 with a dominant win over Bennett and Dobson.

Dobson got away to a flying start in Race 2 while the pack battled hard behind and would take the win, with Gold driving well to get to second and Andrews third.

The final Saloon race was again fast and clean despite Osborne being forced out with steering issues, which opened the fight for the silverware. Gold and Andrews put on a fantastic show, with the latter constantly threatening to pass in a fierce battle for the lead.

Gold would take the heat win ahead of Andrews and Shane Greer of Dunedin.

Victory in the finale saw Gold claim the Donald Maclean Trophy over Andrews and Dobson.

Production Saloons

Friday’s meeting also saw the final night of action for Production Saloons, with the grade not competing on Saturday. You could not fault the driving in the first three heats with just the one caution when Lucy Greer of Dunedin had her bonnet flip over her roof in Heat 1.

Dunedin’s Liam Gillies and Clubmate Aaron Brookland were both class acts across the heats, with Gilles taking the opener over Brookland and Dunedin’s Clay Marshall.

Heat 2 would also go the way of Gillies following a post-race penalty for Brookland. Dunedin’s Tyler Kelk was second, with Brookland pushed to third.

Gillies made it three-from-three in the finale off the back of a charging drive, Brookland was second, and Marshall third.

The feature saw Gillies and Brookland start from the rear and work their way through. Dunedin’s Ricki Pilley would get the lead mid-race, but Gillies and Brookland would eventually get to him before both suffering problems.

Brookland looked to have mechanical issues but still raced home for sixth, while Gillies looked good for the win chasing Pilley before hitting the wall on the last straight while in second. This gave Pilley the win over Dunedin’s Kaleb Marshall and Gillies.

Super Saloons

A strong Super Saloon field was also at Beachlands for the Otago Super Saloon Championship. Christchurch’s Josh Boulton was an early scratching, damaging a rib before racing. A handy replacement was found in the way of three-time New Zealand Champion Mark Osborne of Christchurch.

Cromwell’s Owen Dixon bought out Heat 1’s only caution, hitting the wall hard coming out of Turn 2. Out front, it was Osborne who took apart the opposition, claiming the win from Ray Stewart of Cromwell and Ricky Boulton of Dunedin.

Osborne had an uncharacteristic spin in Turn 3 in Heat 2, his clubmate Trevor Elliott dominating the race from the front, holding off a strong Boulton challenge for the win, with Alister Lister of Dunedin third.

Boulton raced hard off the front in the finale, trailing Cromwell’s Greig Johnston early before eventually powering his way through for the lead which he held until the end on his home track. Johnston capped off a good race with second over Elliot in third.

Boulton would take the Otago Super Saloon Championship, with Elliott second and Johnston third overall.

Chaos & Carnage at Beachlands! Battle of the Streetstocks comes down to the wire

The Battle of the Streetstocks is fast becoming one of the most popular meetings on the calendar at Custom Signs Beachlands Speedway in Dunedin, with the event sponsored by Gillies Contracting this year attracting 30 cars, 15 locals paired off with 15 visiting South Island drivers, racing six heats over two nights.

Heavy rain leading up to the event brought a sodden infield. What was expected to be a damp racing surface was anything but, with Track Manager Russell Stewart putting on a track surface that needed no attention all night, a top job in a testing lead-up.

To kick the night off, each pairing would send a single car out to qualify in the Streetstock Shootout. Dunedin’s Mitch Lavender would bag the fastest time ahead of clubmates Ben Jenkins and Matt Stewart.

All eyes were on Stewart come Heat 1, who was leading on the timing monitor and was in a heated battle with both Jenkins and Lavender at the front of the pack. This race would see a couple of stoppages, the main one when Riverside’s Steve Dryden came together with Scott Palmer of Dunedin, Palmer retiring to the infield while Dryden continued to battle.

What looked like a race win to Stewart took many by surprise with Christchurch driver Jono Garthley collecting the winner’s flag, Garthley not appearing on the timing due to a MyLaps fault, actually taking the win, with his partner, Scott Ashton of Dunedin sixth. Stewart was second with his partner Jono Bower of Riverside suffering a DNF, and Ben Jenkins third with his partner Dillon MacHattie of Riverside also parked up, not finishing.

Heat 2 of the opening night was a good, fast race, bringing just one red light period when Riverside’s AJ Lapsley was stopped with a flapping front guard. The race would restart from there and run the distance without another stoppage. The win would go the way of Beachlands driver Braden Adams whose partner Ben Turner of Christchurch suffered a DNF. Second was New Zealand Champ Paul Leslie of Christchurch, his partner Adam Stewart of Dunedin eighteenth. Corey Schumacher of Christchurch was third, and his partner, Kelly Campbell of Dunedin, also not finishing.

The third heat saw plenty of action, beginning at Turn 1 on Lap 1, when Lapsley was minding his own business looking for a way around the outside of the pack, only for the in-front Adam Stewart to be spun by Palmer, shooting into Lapsley and causing the Invercargill driver to have a remarkable rollover, bringing the race to an early stop. Lapsley would walk away, and once the car was righted, he could remarkably drive it to the infield.

This race saw multiple stoppages, mainly for flat tyres, which killed the race’s momentum. There was a nervous period in the race for Dunedin’s Ben Bisset when he got spun on the main straight; Bisset was parked head-on into an angry pack of cars all coming for him at speed with no gaps to turn around, so the race went red for him to go infield.

Heat 3 would eventually be won by Garthley, bagging some more vital points, with Ashton adding to that total with a solid third. Leslie would snatch second with his partner Adam Stewart not finishing.

After night one, it would be Garthley / Ashton leading the way, ahead of Lavender and Shaun Andrew of Christchurch in second, with Campbell / Schumacher third.

A new day of action on Saturday didn’t make the racing any less dramatic, with an early Heat 4 stoppage required for Jono Bower. Schumacher was strong in this race, fending off solid challenges from several fast cars. He would get home to win the heat, with his partner Campbell scoring good points in fourth. Second went to Garthley, his partner Ashton finishing sixth, while Lavender was third and his partner Andrew fifth.

Heat 5 was the highlight of the night, and it was brutal. Cars that were out of contention went out to put on a show, and a show they delivered.

The race was only half a lap in when Adam Stewart put a killer blow on Schumacher on the back straight. This sent Schumacher into Palmer, who will then feel the full force of Riverside’s Chris Kergozou coming through to tear the back end of his car to bits. Schumacher was ordered off the track with a damaged front bumper. Dunedin driver Jacob Campbell was in menacing form, going after Ashton, which led to Ashton being ordered off the track with a flat tyre. Campbell would then hit Ashton’s partner Garthley, putting both championship leaders to the infield and opening up the competition.

The race looked to be won and done when Blenheim’s Jorden O’Connell-Inns would tear in from Turn 3 at pace, cleaning out Kergozou, who would roll heavily. The Invercargill driver stated in his post-race interview that his car would be fixed, and he would be out looking for O’Connell-Inns.

The race went the way of Mike Jones of Christchurch, with Matt Stewart second and MacHattie third.

The crowd were now amped and ready for the sixth and final race of the event; who would be the Battle of the Streetstock Champions now that the event was wide open?

The race was a relatively clean affair, with Jacob Campbell out early, followed by Palmer and Ashton bringing out red flags.

Up front, Kergozou’s car was repaired from the rollover, and he made a statement that the crowd loved. He was being chased hard, but the Riverside racer, who has never won a race at Beachlands Speedway, wasn’t about to give up the top spot, taking a famous race victory. His partner, Craig Blackler of Dunedin, was tenth. Turner was second with partner Adams ninth, while Jenkins placed third with his partner MacHattie seventh.

At the end of all the carnage, Lavender and Andrew were crowned Battle of the Streetstock Champions, Jenkins and MacHattie were second, with Schumacher and Kelly Campbell third.

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.

Wanganui drivers to the fore in Oceanview finale

As the speedway season came to an end at Fast Lane Spares Oceanview Family Speedway on Sunday 2nd April, it was the turn of local competitors to shine. Wanganui contracted drivers and riders took out seven of the nine championships on offer, with local drivers also featuring on the podium in the other two events.

Superstock driver Dylan Marshall has been knocking on the door of a big result all season, his time finally coming with victory in the West Coast Superstocks title, along with the Craig Heibner Memorial.

A win and a second place in the first two heats had Zane Dykstra well-positioned to win the title heading into Heat 3, however, Palmerston North Panthers veteran Scott Joblin had other ideas, zoning in on Dykstra early, leaving him briefly parked in the wall. Dropping to the back of the field, Dykstra’s five-point buffer was gone, and despite his best efforts, he finished a lap down.

Marshall drove a brilliant final heat, finishing comfortably ahead of Kaelin Mooney and Trent James, who finished tied for second on points with Dykstra. The latter was awarded second place overall on a lap-time countback.

Dykstra also won the Noel Kensington Memorial, and Mooney, whose championship chances were blown by a DNF in the first heat, won the George Podjursky Memorial.

Aaron and Bryce Rose took honours in the Karl Barritt Memorial Sidecars.

With plenty of young talent on hand, the future of the Superstock class at Whanganui, and that of the Wanganui Warriors team, is in very good hands.

Cody Lockett has had an outstanding last month, in which he won the Wellington Stockcar Championship and finished tenth in the New Zealand Stockcar Grand Prix at Kihikihi. Adding the Charlie Berntsen Trophy to his resume emulated the feat of his father Blair, who won The Charlie ten years ago.

Dion Mooney set the early pace, winning the first heat ahead of a field of 29 cars, with Callum Sturzaker coming home second, and Palmerston North brothers Taylor and Kyle Lampp finishing third and fourth respectively.

Lockett drove beautifully to win Heat 2 from last season’s 2NZ, Sheldon Arapere, with Dion Mooney and Kaelin Mooney next across the line.

Heading into the final heat, Mooney topped the standings with Lockett three points back, and Taylor Lampp and Sturzaker a further two points behind. However, Dion Mooney had a series of incidents in the final heat which eventually led to him retiring from the race.

Kaelin Mooney won Heat 3 over Lockett and Blair Reeves-Smith, with Sturzaker finishing fourth. Only 10 of the original 29 cars completed the race. Arapere was into everything and everyone, but his resistance ended when he tried to roll Jason Pointon in Turn 2. Pointon’s car came to rest on its wheels whilst Arapere rolled onto his side, ending an entertaining performance of which Big Bad Charlie himself would have been proud of.

Lockett won The Charlie with an impressive total of 81 points, four ahead of Sturzaker with Kaelin Mooney a further two points back in third.

The field for the Karl Barritt Memorial Sidecars was depleted following the withdrawal of John Hannon and Nigel Sturgeon with engine issues, and a threebike crash on the first lap of Heat 1.

Two wins and a third gave locals Aaron and Bryce Rose the title ahead of Craig Boaler and Anne Plummer, who had three second placings. The Rose Brothers were delighted to reclaim the trophy they lost just last season.

A competitive field of nine Modifieds turned on some fast and spectacular racing around a track that seemed tailor-made for them. Stratford’s Jason Kalin won the first heat, but when his car wouldn’t fire up for the second, his night over.

1 NZ Brad Lane showed his class in heat

2 with an emphatic win over Wellington father-and-son duo of Brian and Blair McPhee, and on the way delivered a blistering 14.265-second lap. Blair McPhee led the points standings after two heats, one point ahead of Lane, with Newton Gordge and local driver Ricky Dykstra tied for third.

Starting one place ahead of Lane in the final heat McPhee drove a faultless race, holding off Lane and Dykstra respectively, giving him the title by two points, with a delighted Dykstra taking the final step on the podium.

Brent Hackett had a near-perfect night in the Ray Purdy Memorial Production Saloons, winning the first two heats and closely following teammate Ray Jaggard home in the final heat. Jaggard finished second overall, with Mike Lovell finishing third.

The final Championship of the season, the Heiby Memorial Youth Ministocks, drew a massive field of around 50 cars. Rotorua driver George Crawford took out the final with an excellent drive to get home ahead of Rotorua clubmate Dan Holland, with Wanganui driver Fletcher Hoskins coming home third, ahead of fellow locals Ethan Linklater and Harry Jurgens.

After celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Oceanview track at the club’s opening meeting in October, the 51st season of racing in Whanganui has been a mix of highs and lows, with most of the lows weather-related.

Seeing so many local drivers on the podium at the season finale showed that the Wanganui Stockcar and Speedway Club is on an upward trajectory, and the 2023-24 season will be one to look forward to.

In the meantime, many drivers will retire to their sheds for the winter, not to hibernate but instead refresh and upgrade their cars, or in some cases, build new ones.

Speedway is a summer sport, and next ‘summer’ can’t arrive quickly enough!