The McDonald’s Kihikihi Speedway’s April 29 fixture was initially planned to be their closing night until a dire run of washouts saw the season extended to the following week. Rain that night also saw the meet washed out, save for the demolition derby, meaning the April 29 meeting did indeed round out the season.

Four feature attractions made for a solid night of action, with the King Country Stockcars and Rosetown Stockcar 25 lapper, Rosetown Midget 30 lapper and Saloon Battle of the Sexes making for some great racing.

While this was quite a solid bill, it traditionally wouldn’t get the punters in big numbers at the end of the year when public interest in Speedway is on the down. But, to the crowd’s credit, there was still a reasonable turnout.

The early 3 pm kick-off was a good call on an overcast day which saw a family-friendly finish shortly after 7 pm. It also meant the queues for coffee and food were short for a change.

The Waikato Placemakers King Country Stockcars is usually a well-supported event with plenty of out-of-town cars present. Unfortunately, the dire run of weather all venues have suffered from this summer meant that it clashed with Memorial events at Baypark and Huntly, plus the Stratford teams event.

This, plus quite a few local runners opting to garage their cars for the winter after the NZGP, meant that a relatively modest but still healthy field of 24 cars were trackside. With few heavy hitters in the field, the action could have been more extensive, the main point of interest being the battle for honours between local Dion Henderson and 2NZ Scott Tennant.


In the end, it came to a run-off which presented a fair bit more drama than the three heats proceeding it. Henderson won the run-off, becoming just the second local to win the King Country Championship since it was inaugurated in the 1997/98 season. Third was Rotorua’s Sean Wepa.

8M Midget Shayden Austin was one of the stars of the show in the season-finale. Image: Sportsweb Photography

The Rosetown Stockcar 25 lapper, back after not being run last season with the heavy disruption caused by Covid, was an entertaining affair, with some big hits and heavy attrition that comes with a long race, making for a reasonably good way to finish the year. This was a reverse grid affair, with the highest points scorers from the King Country title starting from the rear. Henderson, in training for his Kings Superstock debut at Huntly the following week, went into block mode, impressively stopping any visitor, especially defending champion Wepa, from any chance of winning.

Ryan Marshall led for many laps only to get spun around, allowing fellow local Chris Shingleton to grab the lead and take the win. Marshall was right behind in second and was able to catch back up to Shingleton, but admirably played fair towards a fellow local and didn’t punt him off the track when unable to make a clean pass. Caleb Hayes made it a Kihikihi trifecta by coming home third.

Also back after a year of Covid- inflicted absence was the Saloon Battle of the Sexes, which this year was expanded into a two-round series with a Palmerston North leg in March.

There was excellent racing in all three heats, and as the ladies found some great form, Ashleigh Halcrow taking two wins and Angela Wintle the other.

It was the men who won the war by a wafer-thin one-point margin of 158-157, even after a minor setback when veteran Nigel Ross had a violent rollover in the elderly Monza he drove with great verve in the 90s up to the early 2010s, which is still competitive today against more modern equipment.

The Farmline/Giltrap Rosetown Midget 30 lapper suffered a little numbers-wise, with Western Springs also running at Waikaraka that night. The dozen on tap still put on a good show, with Hayden Guptill and local Mitch Fabish winning the heat races.

Baypark’s Shayden Austin, impressive in the heats with a few slide jobs, established a big lead in the feature after a super joust with early leader Fabish in the opening laps. Guptill, who started mid-grid after a Heat 2 DNF, was also flying to quickly sit second, unable to get on terms with Fabish until the Te Awamutu flyer had to retire with 11 laps to go when his car slowed to a stop.

The yellow to remove Fabish’s cars allowed Guptill to hit the front. However, Austin was not about to give way, keeping in pursuit to make a do-or-die slider on the final corner. Guptill was just able to sneak in for the win, but Austin was an absolute star of the race, showcasing that with his maturity and confident sliders, suggesting he is one to watch in the future.

Taking advantage of a high attrition rate was Greg Jones of Stratford, who rounded out the podium, and locals Leyton Kendall and the unique Brent Curran rotary were the only others to greet the chequered flag.

Five Super Saloons and three Saloons came along for the ride and provided great support to the features. Damian Orr ran partner Caitlin Hayward’s car to great effect to take a trio of wins. Saloons 3NZ Trent Amrein had a taste of big horsepower for the first time as he ran the Steve Cowling car, looking right at home from the get-go.

Local Mike Wilson showed some welcome reliability and fair pace, while Craig Marsh in the Mustang saloon was right up with them in the first two heats, embarrassing the more expensive cars in the process.

There was also good racing from the 20 Youth Ministocks, with Rotorua’s Cohen Wright in a class of his own and winning all three races.

The Classic Stockcars were a welcome addition with three exhibition races, and the sight of the Gary Parkes car that won the 1991 NZ Championship was a highlight for the writer. The car is from an era not that long ago in the overall scheme of things, so it’s sobering to reflect that a top-flight championship-winning vehicle from that era looks like a museum piece relative to today’s cars.


Driving home following the meet, there was the sense that Kihikihi was lucky to avoid the weather, with roads damp in places. This was a harbinger of what was to come as the forecast for the following weekend looked dire. It seemed that everyone mentally had already written off any chance of the final meeting a week later running.

A week later, the weather, despite heavy rain over the days prior, wasn’t as bad as predicted. There was no wind or sunshine to dry the track out; however, which meant Kihikihi postponed their May 6 finale to the following afternoon as the track would have taken too long to dry out.

With a demolition derby set to attract many families with children, they couldn’t be expected to wait that long to see any action on an overcast, dull day going into dusk.

Sadly, the weather was wetter than was forecasted, with a shower striking minutes before the meet and an even heavier one following during the driver’s briefing. There was no option but to abandon the meeting.

With club officials tired from a long and disrupted season, there was no desire to extend the season another week, this already a week after the original closing night. The rainoff marked an unfortunate, if not slightly ironic, end to the season.

This meant the Ministock Stampede and King Country Sprintcars that were supposed to race will go down in the history books as not running this season. At the same time, the Saloon Tribute to Jumbo endured its sixth rainoff, organiser Steve Williams just not able to catch a break.

The Central Metals Demolition Derby could be run despite the conditions, however. Kihikihi showed a sense of fair play by giving the few patrons that paid a free ticket for a meeting next season; those ranks swelled by quite a few that got in for free after the call to abort the meeting was made.

As always, it was an entertaining affair won gallantly by Brian Coombe in a Suzuki Alto, up against far larger cars.

Given that the year began with a rainoff, it was rather apt, if somewhat unfulfilling, to finish with one.

Thankfully we witnessed some fine racing and solid crowds in between.