Nelson club has new man at the wheel

THOUGHTS OF PRESIDENT BRIDGO

Written by: Pete McNae

One week out from race night at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway and Darryl Bridge has a lot on his mind. The 45-year-old Englishman is the new president of the Nelson Speedway Association, the leader of a vast team of volunteers and the steward of a family-focused sporting business that provides excitement and entertainment for thousands from around the region and the country between October and Easter. No pressure then, Bridgo?

“I’m not sure if I will feel the same way next weekend or in a couple of months’ time but I’m looking forward to this,” Bridge said. “It’s an honour and a privilege to be trusted with the job of president.  I look at my Dad, who was the captain of his golf club before he died and he took a lot of personal pride in being trusted to do that for a club that meant a lot to him. I feel the same, really.”

 

Darryl Bridge

Bridge, the boss man at A.D. Bridge Builders, came to New Zealand from Kent more than 13 years ago. His family settled in Nelson, having had a look around earlier, and he set up the business which now has a staff of between six and eight. He took his sons along to speedway and got involved on the other side of the wire mesh when crewing on Carl Baker’s streetstock. Bridge and son Jordan raced production saloons together, crashing head-on in one memorable family bonding moment, before Jordan left the sport and Bridge stayed involved with a couple of Honda Preludes and an Integra. A brief flirtation with an immaculate Suzuki Swift proddie ended in a multiple barrel roll at Blenheim leading into last summer.

When the Nelson association was building its new clubrooms, Bridge’s hammer hand was handy and he was encouraged onto the committee — “probably because we had to fix the turn one toilets at the time”, he said. With Wayne Martin standing down after three seasons as president at the last AGM, Bridge was shouldertapped to step up.  “I guess I can be vocal but I’d like to think that when I say shit, I am prepared to back it up,” he said. “I haven’t got much time for people who stand outside and pick holes or only exercise their hands to get on social media and have a crack – so I try to follow through on jobs and be true to my word, if you like.”

Despite having served on committee, Bridge is getting a full immersion induction into what is involved in heading the team at New Zealand’s No 1 club run track. There are dozens of issues each week, many of which the paying public never notice. The Nelson club is in the midst of delicate negotiations with neighbours and the district council over operating conditions and last season’s rainouts and natural disasters have forced a rigorous look at this season’s calendar. “We are absolutely determined to put a great package out there – that means being organised and professional and putting on meetings that people will want to see. You can’t control the weather but, with the things we can control, you try not to leave anything to chance. We have a fantastic team at the track – the whole range of skills are in there somewhere so it’s a matter of putting the right jobs in the hands of the right people.”

He’s upbeat about the calendar the club promotions team has put together, starting with Trackman Trophy night for most classes from 6pm next Saturday. There’s a national title meeting for TQs, South Island championships for midgets, superstocks and sprintcars, two Tigers teams races, the stockcar teams brawl, two cracks at the War of the Wings series and the super saloon Vertex Cup. Fireworks night is October 28 and the successful Racing for the Kids concept will return.  The Nelson Speedway Association will give a percentage of its gate takings to the Child Cancer Foundation on January 27 and, with the demo derby on that night, there should be a substantial crowd. Bridge was also happy to see the street car race revived after being tried once three seasons ago. “I like it because you can build a car for the street car meeting and race it again in the derby so you get two bites of the cherry once you have gone to the trouble of putting your car together. And, because they are dirt cheap, we will see a half a dozen people getting into the speedway family that might not normally be able to race – it builds our base and that’s something I’m pretty passionate about.”

Bridge has reason to want to grow numbers in the sport. He acknowledges that some classes, specifically superstocks and sidecars, are thinly populated. With Nelson’s long history in the superstock class in particular (six national titles spread across four drivers) , that’s a concern but Nelson will aim to bring in travellers where possible while there is a better support structure around the Tigers for teams races against Canterbury and Palmerston North. ”It’s a bloody expensive game and some of the boys who have been there a long time have moved away at the same time but it’s a class that is important to Nelson and I think it will cycle back up, as long as we get through this little gap all right.” Conversely, stockcar numbers are still healthy and sprintcars are capturing the attention locally.  “I’m a believer in the idea that a good field in any class will provide entertaining racing so the focus is on putting on a show 15 race nights in a row.”

Bridge and the dedicated team behind the scenes at the Richmond raceway have a clear idea of what they hope to achieve before the final flag falls on March 31.  “We aren’t afraid to try a few things but the goal we have to keep in sight is that a season doesn’t just happen – it’s hard work, passion and patience. My wish list for the season is no rainouts and a calendar of really good shows that people will want to watch. If you told me at Easter that we had bums on seats and smiles on faces, I’d be pretty bloody happy with that.”

 

·         The Nelson Speedway website www.nelsonspeedway.co.nz and associated phone app and Facebook page, Nelson Speedway Association Inc, will be updated often through the season with meeting previews and reviews, links to videos by Cayden Watson (cjspeedway on Facebook), Tom Laney’s photo galleries (www.imagepress.co.nz), news from the junior members club (which now has its own Facebook page) along with promotions and competitions.