Bikes thrill at Oreti Park Season-Ender

A rescheduled season finish at Southern Bolts & Fasteners Oreti Park Speedway saw the Southland club as the last of the lower South Island Tracks to run a meeting this season; a balmy autumns day is greeting competitors and fans alike.

While only a few spectators were on hand when the meeting kicked off on Saturday morning, numbers grew to a pleasing turnout by the end of Round 1 of racing. All those in attendance were certainly treated to some great racing across all the classes, particularly the Northside Sand and Gravel Southland Classic Sidecar Championship.

Heading into the event, it was a lottery with just four local Oreti combinations entered. The most experienced pair were Gary Wells and Jamie Harpur, a dominant force in the eighties at the venue. They would battle it out against combinations who are still riding at a competitive level now, including the current 2NZ pairing of Paul Humphrey and Chris Chatfield.

Heat 1 would give some form guide as to who was going to be the movers and shakers in this championship, and it took no time for the experience of Wells and Harpur to show as the pair powered into Turn 1 ahead of the pack to remain unchallenged for the rest of the race.

There was a solid fight for the minor placings going on behind, and Humphrey and Chatfield would get home for second ahead of Jase Kennedy and Jonny Casey.

The second heat was a much closer battle up front, with Humphrey and Chatfield leading early before being tactically taken down the inside by Wells and Harpur. Humphrey would try and stick with the new leader, but Wells and Harpur negotiated the corners with expertise, looking smooth and fast to take their second race win. Humphrey and Chatfield held firm for second, while Bradley Sharp and Erwin Tree would steal third.

The Cunningham family open Cunningham Lane in honor of Russell Cunningham.

You would be brave to bet against Wells and Harpur going three from three come Heat 3, and to be fair, despite the margins closing, these guys were still hitting their straps. They put in yet another dominant performance to all but seal the title. Sharp and Tree impressed to finish second, ahead of Humphrey and Chatfield third.

The deciding heat for the Southland Classic Sidecar Championship produced the best battle of the day, with both Humphrey and Sharp getting into Turn 1 ahead of Wells, who looked to bog down somewhat off the start line.

Wells would give chase and make a move on Sharp and Kennedy to slip into second and start to give chase on Humprey. This race was certainly one for the ages as neither combination would give an inch, Humprey and Chatfield looking as if they would cause the upset of the day. Wells and Harpur, however, worked their magic and flew down the outside on the back straight to steal the lead away, a lead that would not be challenged.

Wells and Harpur took the race win and the Southland Championship ahead of Humphrey and Chatfield, who were forced to settle for second in the race and championship.

Kennedy and Casey would get third in this race, but third overall would go the way of Sharp and Tree.

Pee Wees would kick off the day’s entertainment, and no one would get anywhere near Oreti rider Carey Sharp who was dominant in all four heats. Sharp got solid starts in all heats and powered off on the small track to remain unbeaten all day.

The battle for second and third was much more evenly matched, with two up-and-coming Oreti Park riders exchanging results across the day. Heat 1 saw Eva Chapman grab second ahead of Max Cracknell, while those positions reversed in Heat 2. Cracknell also claimed second in Heat 3 when Chapman stalled her bike on the line, but she bounced back to claim second ahead of Cracknell in the final run.

The overall results in Pee Wee were Sharp first ahead of Cracknell, with Chapman third.

A strong field of 125cc Solos were on hand and produced some of the day’s best racing. Heat one saw Oreti Park’s Slade Fordyce take the race win in Heat 1 ahead of clubmate Jack Chapman and Moore Park’s Cooper Lang.

The second race of bikes was dominated by Oreti’s Mauger Kelman, who was all class and used every inch of track available to him to grab early points. Second was club-mate Ollie Cunningham, with Jack Campbell third.

The third heat for 125cc Solos saw Cunningham race off to a fast start and never appear challenged, heading home for a comfortable race win. Second was Fordyce, with Lang home in third.

Kelman was a cut above his competition once again in Heat 4, pulling to an early lead and again taking the checkered flag with ease. Behind him, Chapman’s race would, unfortunately, slip away with a mechanical drama on the last lap, allowing Oreti’s George Kennedy to snatch second.

Kennedy turned on the gas in Heat 5, taking a well-deserved win. The win looked to be going the way of Fordyce but leaving a gap on the last lap allowed Kennedy to swoop through and take the win. Fordyce held second, finishing just ahead of Chapman.

Kelman again would come out hot in Heat 6 and tear apart his rivals, the young local rider showing off his skills to claim his third win in as many starts. Cunningham finished second, with Lang third.

Kelman was again smooth and fast to piece together a perfect day out to bag his fourth race win of the day in Heat 7. Second place went the way of Fordyce, with Kennedy third.

The final race of the day in the 125cc Solos was taken out by Cunningham ahead of Lang, with Chapman third.

Mauger Kelman won all five races in Junior Solos.

This gave Kelman the overall win for the day over Cunningham, with Fordyce would take third overall. Next up on the junior track were the 200cc machines who would battle it out over five heats.

Race 1 saw Oreti Park rider Kadin Cracknell take an early win in what was a top ride against strong competition. Second place went the way of Moore Park’s Chase Lang, while local Jack Campbell was third.

Lang would go one better in Heat 2, taking a solid win after getting away from the tape smartly. Campbell would also move up the order with a strong second, leaving Cracknell to settle for third. It was a repeat in the order of placings in Heat 3, with Lang starting to stamp his authority on the field.

An upset was on the cards in Heat 4 when Campbell would ride his best ride of the event, upstaging both previous winners to take the flag, leaving Lang to settle for second ahead of Cracknell.

The final race for 200cc Solos again saw the finishing order shuffled around, Lang finding himself back in the front of the pack, with Cracknell delivering a solid second placing over Campbell.

Overall results went the way of Lang, with Campbell second with Cracknell third.

Sidecars combination Humphrey and Chatfield were hot favourites heading into the event, the current 2NZ team being the benchmark of the grade all season.

They were upstaged in an epic fight with Oreti Park combination Shaun Kerr and Harley Biddle in Heat 1, the winners looking extremely fast considering they are a new combination. They’d hold Humphrey and Chatfield to take the win, leaving the 2NZ second and Jason Harpur and James Dawson in third.

The second heat saw the local riders upstaged by Moore Park duo Ben Morris and Graham Partridge, the pair getting off to a flying start and beating the pack into Turn 1. They rode away from the field with ease to take the race win over Heenan and McDonald and Oreti’s Scott Ayto and Ramon Nikora Balloch.

Kerr would show that his first-up win was no fluke at all in Heat 3; he and Biddle again upstaging Humphrey and Chatfield to take their second win of the event. Humphrey would place second, while Gary Stalker and William Little of Moore Park were third.

Late race controversy was on the cards in Heat 4, where Harpur and Dawson comfortably led over Morris and Partridge. Behind them, Ayto and clubmates Dallas Kelman and Brent Nicholson came into contact, Kelman being deemed at fault. This handed third to Ayto and Nikora Balloch, while Harpur and Dawson held firm for the win over Morris and Partridge.

It looked as if Humphrey and Chatfield would finally get back to the top spot in Heat 5, leading Kerr and Biddle by a handy margin for the majority of the race. The checkered flag was out, and Humphrey powered out of Turn 4 on the way to take the win, only to stop mid-track with mechanical issues which put them out of the race just meters from the line. Kerr and Biddle peeled past for another win, with second going to Morris and Partridge over Kelman and Nicholson in third.

Harpur and Dawson were again in sublime form in Heat 6, getting away from the tapes fast and powering off for another well-deserved win. Behind them in second was Ayto and Nikora Balloch, while third went to Stalker and Little.

Humphrey and Chatfield finally got a clean break to take the lead into Turn 1 in Heat 7, despite a strong challenge from Harpur and Dawson. They would hold firm for a hard-fought win. Harpur rode well all day, and he and Dawson would place second over Morris and Partridge in third.

The final Sidecar race was another quality battle and caused the upset of the day. If you were a betting man, you would have put the house on Kerr and Biddle, but the pairing struggled off the line. Despite putting in one hell of a chase, Heenan and McDonald would snatch a famous win, with Kelman and Nicholson pressing them hard for second, leaving Kerr and Biddle to settle for third.

This result still gave Kerr and Biddle the overall win for the event, ahead of Harpur and Dawson, and Morris and Partridge.

There was an early upset in Solos when Oreti Park rider Dakota Crengle stole the show on a borrowed bike, racing clear to a solid start and pulling away to claim Heat 1 victory on a surface that was testing for the grade early on. Second went to Crengle’s clubmate Finn Reed, with Alex Cunningham placing third.

The current 3NZ, Reed, and Crengle were locked in a tight fight on the opening lap of Heat 2. Crengle would, unfortunately, drop his bike in Turn 3 of Lap 1 but would get back on and try and charge back through the field.

Reed was storming home fast out front and had the race win in the bag as Crengle raced back through. On the last lap, Crengle’s bike high-sided in Turn 1, sending him into the safety fence hard and leaving the young rider injured on the track. Crengle would return to his feet after being checked out and walk from the incident but not return again.

Paul Humphrey and Chris Chatfield were made to work hard in Sidecars.

The win would go the way of Reed, with Lucas Colvin second over brother Ryan Colvin.

The track team went to work on the track surface for some time after this incident, producing a far safer racing surface for the meeting to resume.

Reed stole the show again in Heat 3, taking the win by almost half a lap over second-placed Ryan Colvin, who, this time, upstaged his brother Lucas in third.

Reed did it easy again in Heat 4, the youngster showing why he currently holds the 3NZ and that he’ll be a force in the Solo class for some time to come; his speed and skills are an absolute joy to take in. He would win over Ryan Colvin and Cunningham.

These results would be replicated in Race 5, giving Reed a comfortable win overall for the event, with Ryan Colvin finishing second overall and Lucas Colvin third.

The final grade to run was the Classic Solos, and Oreti Park rider John Tuffley was simply untouchable across all five heats. Tuffley would have looked competitive in the A Grade Solos with the dominance shown, leaving the real battles for second and third.

Oreti Park duo Les Payne and Allan Crosbie battled for the minors in Race 1, with Payne grabbing second ahead of Crosbie. These results would be the same in Race 2, but Crosbie would turn the tables in Race 3 to come home in second.

Payne wouldn’t be upstaged again, however, and would take second over his rival in the final two races of the event.

These results saw Tuffley take the overall win, with Payne earning second over Crosbie.

This meeting was also the unveiling of Cunningham Lane, the entry road to the pits, named in honour of the late Russell Cunningham, who had been an integral part of Oreti Park Speedways’ history as a competitor, sponsor and official for a number of seasons.

This was a fitting way to cap off another successful season of action at Southern Bolts and Fasteners Oreti Park Speedway.