Make That Seven North Island Titles for Todd Squad | From May ’21 Issue

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STORY Shane Hurndell

PHOTOS John Faulkner

TALK about delivering Easter treats for Hawke’s Bay speedway fans! Yes, several of the Hawke’s Bay Speedway Club’s favourite sons delivered the goods during the three meetings staged at Meeanee during the Easter Weekend.

Two-time national TQ class champion Duane Todd won his first North Island title after 16 years of trying, the Meeanee Maulers tasted Peter Barry Memorial Stockcar Teams title glory for the first time since the 2013-14 season, 2NZ Jason Long won the East Coast Superstock Championship and Shane Laking captured the East Coast Saloon Championship title.

Twenty-six drivers fronted for this David Jones Motors-sponsored North Island TQ title. In the only heat staged before the Good Friday meeting was postponed because of wet weather Aucklander Ben Morrison won heat one from grid four, his clubmate Troy Pennington was second from grid two and defending champion and 1NZ, Canterbury’s Jeremy Webb, was third from grid eight.

Heat two on Saturday night saw Aucklander Kaleb Currie win from pole, Todd finish second from grid six and Auckland’s Cole Morrison finish third from grid 10. While Auckland’s 3NZ Ryan Barry won heat three he was excluded from the race after failing to report to the weigh bridge. Aucklander Aaron Humble, who started from grid one, was awarded the win, Webb, who started from grid 11, second place and Ben Morrison, who started from grid 15, third place.

While the top 16 qualifiers gained automatic entry into the 20-car winner-takes-all 25-lap final the remaining cars competed in a 12-lap semi-final from which the top four finishers completed the 20-car field for the final. Kihikihi’s Reagan Tyler, Barry, Aucklander Jakob Le Cren and Kihikihi’s Brad Hewson were the top four finishers in the semi-final.

Todd, who started the final from grid four, took the lead on lap 12 but relinquished it to Cole Morrison with four laps remaining but regained the lead on lap 23 and remained in front. Cole Morrison finished second and Webb third. This was the seventh time a member of Todd’s family had won the title. His father, Steve Todd, and cousin, Craig Todd, both won it three times during their careers.

“I’ve been on the podium before, but this is the first time I’ve won it in 16 years of trying,” a delighted Todd told NZDTR after the championship. “My car went off the boil towards the end and people were trying to pass me. They were coming off the bottom of the track to see what would happen. I decided to stay down the bottom and be patient. After 16 years of racing, you learn to be patient,” Todd added.

Easter Sunday saw 18 of the TQ drivers return for the East Coast Championship. Points accumulated over three heats would determine the placegetters for this event and the final placings would then be reversed to determine the grid draw for the annual Easter 20 Lapper. Cole Morrison, Ryan Barry, and Tyler were the top three placegetters in the East Coast Championship. Tyler took out the 20 lapper from Currie. Pennington was third.

Nine teams fronted for the eighth edition of the Peter Barry Memorial Stockcar Teams Event. Friday night’s only race saw the Gisborne Gladiators with late replacement and former Mauler Mike McLachlan, shining with his blocking, beat the Meeanee Maulers 120-75. This would prove to be the Maulers only defeat during the weekend.

First out on Saturday night were the Wellington Young Guns and Wanganui Vulcans. The Young Guns won 135-60 and retained the Rees Shield in the process. Next out were the Stratford Stormers and defending champions Auckland Alleycats in a repeat of the 2019 final. The Stormers were dominant and recorded a 130-65 victory. Stratford’s Shaun Hall won $250 for being the first driver to roll another. Blake Brooks was his victim.

Next out were national champions Waikato Raiders and the Palmerston North Pumas in a repeat of this year’s national champs final. The Pumas got revenge with a 135-60 win. The Gladiators maintained their unbeaten run with a 170-25 victory over Hawke’s Bay’s Orange Roughies. The Meeanee Maulers kept their semi-final hopes alive and captured the Rees Shield with their 160-35 victory over the Young Guns. The Vulcans also kept their semi-final hopes alive with a 150-45 victory against the Stormers. Next out were the Raiders and Alley Cats and the Aucklanders prevailed 135-60. The final teams race on the Saturday night saw the Pumas demolish the Roughies 175-20. Roughies driver Caleb Ireland had one of the most spectacular rolls of the weekend when he attempted a hit on an opponent but ended up rolling himself.

The top four placegetters were: Palmerston North Pumas 310 points, Gisborne Gladiators 290, Meeanee Maulers 235, and Wanganui Vulcans 210.

Sunday night saw the Alleycats beat the Stormers in the battle for fifth after 3NZ Gary Lonergan secured the chequered flag. In the first semi-final the Vulcans dominated the Pumas and Cody Alabaster secured the win. When the Maulers took on the Gladiators in their semi-final, Brett Loveridge put Gisborne’s Nigel Hazelton up the wall. Loveridge was the only Mauler back from the 2013-14 season winning team. Hayden Hart, who was a member of Auckland’s 2019 winning team secured the win. Jason Lovell got the win for the Gladiators in the battle for third against the Pumas.

In the final Hart put an early big shot on Dion Mooney which proved to be crucial, and Regan Penn secured the win and the title for the Maulers. Cameron Swift was the other on-track member of the Maulers team during the weekend. Fifth driver Gibson Tout and reserve Daniel Melling didn’t get to race as the top four seldom put a foot wrong after their first race.

Maulers manager Andrew Powell saluted the self-belief within his squad. “I could see the belief in themselves. The belief in their ability to change tactics from race to race and their ability to read the races. They all stuck to their jobs,” Powell told NZDTR before prizegiving.

“This is a special night for our young fellahs. None of them intend moving up to the Superstock ranks and with some of the blokes in the Orange Roughies keen to race for the Maulers next year we will have a good squad to pick from,” Powell added.

Hawke’s Bay’s 2NZ and Magpie’s rugby prop Jason Long won the 17-car East Coast Superstock Championship on the Sunday night. Two wins and a third placing saw Long capture the title by seven points from Huntly’s Shay Hambling. Stratford’s Brad Uhlenberg was three points behind Hambling in third place. Long’s Hawke’s Bay clubmates produced some outstanding blocking on the visiting drivers who were a threat to Long’s title quest during the third heat. Hawke’s Bay’s Matt Demanser had a spectacular roll in the third heat.

Hawke’s Bay’s Shane Laking won the 11-car East Coast Saloon Championship. Hawke’s Bay-based Palmerston North-contracted Josh Smith beat his clubmate Ashleigh Halcrow in a runoff for second.

Twenty-eight drivers fronted for the second round of the Streetstock Tri-Series on Easter Saturday. With the previous night’s first round in Palmerston North being rained off this was the first time out for the field. Rotorua’s Shane Bracken, who won the Hawke’s Bay championship in his previous visit to Meeanee, won heat one from Canterbury’s Matt Peterson and Tri-Series organiser, Phil McNamara of Hawke’s Bay, was third. Balcutha’s 1NZ Darrell Richards won heat two from Rotorua’s former 1NZ Alan King. Gisborne’s Shaun Kingi was third. Gisborne brothers Brenden and Cody Gooch finished first and second respectively in heat three and Invercargill’s Steve Dryden was third.