Daniel Thomas Wins… | From June ’21 Issue

Posted by

STORY Jody Scott

PHOTOS Rebecca Connor-Maling

The final race at Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway ended in drama as the 2 leading cars crashed out of the Sunshine Classic Sprint car feature while in sight of the finish line.

Wellington’s Stephen Taylor had led the 25-lap feature race from the start and was just metres from claiming the victory  when himself and Daniel Anderson both ended upside-down when a backmarker spun in front of them just out of the final corner. It was a dramatic conclusion to an epic weekend of Sprintcar racing that had produced lap records, big spills and plenty of thrills as the 2-day event involved the Dirtworks South Island Sprintcar title and the inaugural Collision Centre “Sunshine Classic”.

The crash benefitting the 3nz car of Daniel Thomas who was unstoppable on night one winning the South Island title, breaking the lap record in the opening time trial. He had made a few errors mid-race in the night 2 feature dropping back a few places after looking strong in the opening laps but the Taylor /Anderson crash put him into the lead to finish the last lap of the feature race to claim the $3000 winner’s cheque and Sunshine Classic trophy.

Daniel Thomas was running one of the 2 Kevin Freeman Nelson cars with regular Cromwell based driver Sam O’Callaghan pedalling the other. It was a Freeman 1-2 as O’Callaghan finished 2nd behind Thomas on night 1 in the South Island title. American Jonathon Allard was 3rd after struggling most of the meeting with an electrical fault in the borrowed Jamie Duff car who was on new baby duty, starting off grid 18 in the feature race he made it all the way to 3rd, before running out of laps. There were plenty of spills on night 1 including Matthew Leversedge climbing high into the fence, bending one of the support poles in the process ending his night with 3 wheels and a badly bent car. Alicia Hill looking strong until a huge tap sent to towards the wall. She made a good recovery to avoid structural damage, but the magneto lost a cog a lap later. Dean Millers trip from Invercargill involved a few days of early sight-seeing and it was more sight seeing on the first night when he suffered drive issues at the start of the meeting ending his nights racing however, borrowed gear meant he got track time on night 2.

Allard was only able to attend the opening night as a prior engagement took him away from night 2, once the car was on point, he was a class act. Greg Teece was ineligible to compete in the Connor Rangi Machine having not done enough meetings for the SNZ event. Rangi himself on a holiday after the final Cromwell meeting and he was not the only one. There were a few drivers less than impressed with some of the calls being made by visiting officials at the meeting. That’s another story though.

The track was in top condition with multiple race lines with the drivers relishing the surface that provided plenty of bite and Taylor wheel-standing his car on several occasions to the delight of the crowd.

It was a busy weekend for Nelson’s Queen of Speedway, Alicia Hill who was doing double duty on the first night, competing in the Sprint car and T.Q. Midget. Although it was mixed results, she took out the overall club championship in the T.Q. Unfortunately, she was spun in the Sprintcar in the feature race while battling for a podium spot early on, the hit damaging the magneto and ending her race. The 2nd night Hill concentrated on the Sprintcar and the car was strong, making the top 6 shoot-outs for the feature grid positions. She kept it clean and was fighting for a minor podium spot before the crash involving the leaders left her sitting in 2nd on the restart which she held to the finish line. Greg Teece was quick to get to grips with the car on night 2 after a season or two away from racing. His efforts rewarded with 3rd place in the Sunshine feature making it 3 Nelson based cars on the podium.

The ¼ and T.Q. Midgets ran both nights. Kyle Glover winning the T.Q. Midget feature on night 1 and 2nz Liam McCoubrey won the night 2 feature with Alicia Hill doing enough in the feature race to retain the club championship after the final round on night 1. Locky Martin won the opening ¼ midget races on both nights. His 1st win on his home track and he took the most points over the night to become club champion. There were no speeches but was wrapped that his car would feature on next year’s calendar.

The Stockcars were also featuring both nights and although light on numbers there are a couple of new drivers that have appeared in the latter part of the season. Piper Blackbourn and Kohu Whalon were making their debuts and visiting drivers made up most of the numbers. Roydon Winstanley was making an appearance in his hometown and the Palmy registered driver enjoying his old home track. He took the honours on night 1 and Wade Sweeting returned from the teams race up north to take out the points on night 2. The Superstocks were out on the first night only and there were a few driver changes for the final home hit out. Hurricane Brendan Higgins piloting the Alex Hill Machine, Kerry Walker was in the Brett Nicholls car while Ian Clayworth was in Trevor Lineham Superstock. Michael Paynter was in his 2nd appearance in the Supestock class and Josh Nell ended his debut season with the final race win.

The belated Easter Champs was held for the Production Saloons and it came down to the fastest lap to find the winner after Kaylim McNabb and Eddy Frans were tied on points, McNabb getting the nod over the S.I. Champion. The feature race was a ripper, won by Cam Lankshear from McNabb by 0.0006 of a second.

Regular visitor Dave McSherry made another trip up from Christchurch with his Streetstock and while he an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the lap record lost at the South Island title in January, he still had a good weekend winning both nights. Even a last gasp spin by Simon Bland to win heat 2 on the first night over the finish line kept the crowd entertained. There were the usual bashes and crashes and the numbers are good and expect plenty of fun heading into next season.

The Youth Ministocks are oozing talent. A good peak into the future might see some possible champions in the making. Jack Burson has a knack of getting through traffic at will, his only drawback is reliability with a DNF in heat 2 ruining his chances in the final meeting. Blake Hearne was consistent with a 3rd 1st and 4th which was enough to take the points from Jacob Skurr, Callum Russ was 3rd.

It was a solid finish to the season with the first 2-day meeting held after the resource consent battle was finally resolved in January. Now the focus is to head to the SNZ Agm and secure a couple of major NZ championships to give the fans top racing that they have been missing over the past few years, plus give the club a much-needed financial kick after the consent battle emptied the coffers. The new track surface has paid dividends, lap records dropped in every class, the racing was close and there is a wee stockpile to keep the track in top condition for the next few years. It was announced that a new Superstock was in the works being a collaboration between Smith/Frost families with Brendan Higgins and Marsh Motorsport on board and will have former Stockcar champion Ben Smith behind the wheel. It’s a wrap for the season with the major hurdle of the consent in the past, its planning for the future. While Covid and weather can still throw curve balls into the programme, having a flexible calendar and a top race track, its full noise into getting bums on seats and planning a top notch race programme to keep everyone entertained.