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STURGEONS AMUSEMENTS KING OF THE CLAY
BASALAJ STILL HAS THE KNACK
Winning speedway championships must be like riding a bike . . . once you know how, you never forget.
Former international midget team competitor Nevil Basalaj made a rare appearance at Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway - the midget class has only run twice at Nelson's first 10 meetings and Basalaj missed that one - but the veteran showed he had lost little of his polish on Saturday.
In winning a heat, placing second in two others, then getting the better of a four-lap runoff, Basalaj scored his fourth South Island championship, denying Canterbury's Dave Kerr his seventh in a row. Kerr was still right in the hunt, a heat three win forcing the runoff, but Basalaj found something special when it was required.
The championship drew just eight starters, with two of the 10 entered unable to front. Kerr had momentum on his side but Basalaj's history in the class - and his knowledge of the Nelson track - meant the title was was never going to be a walkover.
Basalaj drew a line in the clay in heat one. With a favourable grid draw, he streaked away for the win as Kerr tried to chase through from the rear. But, mid-race, he drifted wide off turn two and smacked the wall, rearranging the rear of the 99C Aggressor midget. With the car unsteady, the best he could manage was third behind Tom Lumsden, opening up the championship race.
Kerr was untroubled in winning the other two heats but Basalaj kept him in sight for second placings in both, leaving the pair locked on points with Lumsden a clear third ahead of Scott Millar and Andrew Brown.