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.