It’s Wilkie all the way

Shakeup up for series standings

By Pete McNae

Christmas is a time for surprises. Sometimes, they are disappointments – like when you hope to unwrap a Fitbit and you get a three-pack of tighty whities instead. And sometimes, the surprise is a pleasant one, like last night’s meeting at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway. It wouldn’t be unkind to say that expectations were low. Superstocks and stockcars were initially on stand-down, sprintcars too, and the super saloons couldn’t muster a field to get a run. Even The Hits 89.6FM streetcar race was shelved with just five entries by the deadline.  But, presented with a tough hand, the Nelson Speedway Association served up an entertaining night.

Credit the competitors. Across six classes, there was no lack of endeavour – even five streetstocks managed to mix the muck enough to be good viewing. Meanwhile, the feature promotion – the fifth round of the Stables Restaurant and Tavern Southern Midget Series – managed a first corner, first lap roll, a sharp pole shuffle and a 15-lap feature that delivered a winner from the lower reaches of the points table.

The midget round drew nine starters, with points leader Glen Durie (the defending champion) and fourth-placed Gary Chadwick sitting this one out. Second on the table was Tom Lumsden, who was the driver catapulted into the turn one wall in the first heat. Some sharp crew work got the car back for the feature but Lumsden missed both heats and the pole shuffle. Scott Millar had a healthy win in heat one while seven-time South Island champion Dave Kerr trusted the high line on a slick track to win heat two. Kerr also bagged five points from the pole shuffle and earned a front row start in the feature, alongside Shane Clark but, on lap two, Dunedin’s Gavin Wilkie in 21N slipped past Kerr and was never seen again. Lumsden climbed from ninth to fourth, Clark gathered good points in third and Kerr chased for 14 of the 15 laps but Wilkie wasn’t going to be caught, posting the quickest lap times and winning by a clear two seconds. While drivers can drop their worst round in the series, Wilkie – ninth before last night – will have made ground on two or three drivers ahead of him.

More open-wheel action came in the third and final round of the Nelson club three-quarter midget championship. Points leader Darkie Armstrong was ruled out before the meeting, having had a sleep at his last race night. His knockout opened the door for a new leader – in fact it was a familiar face who walked in. Alicia Mclauchlan bagged her third club title on the trot finishing a handsome 28 points clear of Jayden Corkill with Morgan Frost in third. Heat one was marred by a big back-straight tangle that took out Christiaan Fish and Jason Jones and bent a couple of other cars while exclusions in heat two were costly for race one winner Frost and Dylan Stone-Cuthbert. Cantabrian Liam McCoubrey took the second heat but Stone-Cuthbert proved his point in the feature, leading from flag to flag for 22 points, enough for seventh overall after some issues in the earlier rounds. Meanwhile, Mclauchlan started from mid-pack and picked off placings on each lap, adding a third in the feature (along with nine passing points) to her pair of fifths from the heats.  Twenty cars, including visitors from Greymouth and Ruapuna, fronted last night but McCoubrey was the only outsider to crack the all-Nelson top 10 across the three rounds.

Christmas is meant to be a time of peace and goodwill to all men but you might wonder if you checked out the production saloons and streetstock closed club champs. Clearly Eddie Frans was on Santa’s naughty list among the production saloons with his abrasive style earning him a clip around the rear from both Jarod Fisher and Steve Watson. Fisher took a relegation but probably thought it was worth the trip to the tower. Heat one winner Pam Nixon earned a big cheer from the holiday crowd — seasons of striving rewarded with a tidy front-running drive and a popular chequer.  As she said later, the win wasn’t her first — but the flags are few and far between and Nixon was thrilled to perform so well for her four children, their partners and 11 grandchildren. Other race wins went to talented rookies Kaylim McNabb and Cam Lankshear.

The closed club champs for the streetstocks was a quirky collection of three races, plus a runoff. There were driver changes, mass defections, a little bit of club feuding and a tame runoff for second. Heat one winner Ryan Musgrove lost yet another engine and has his race package for sale – his success with Ford engines is like Christmas ham, it’s good, then soon after, not so good. Aaran Findlay made a return to the class and took away the title by two clear points from Kyle Davies who comfortably headed Hamish Tomlinson in the runoff. Ian Musgrove was the most willing stirrer in the class – but somehow missed being selected as such.

Pam Nixon’s rare win was a highlight, there was another among the youth ministocks when, finally, Cameron Thompson bagged the flag he has chased so hard across five seasons in Nelson. He’s won elsewhere but last night’s race three breakthrough was his first in Nelson and was a popular result. Earlier races were won by Raiden Hearne and Brayden Nell while Canterbury visitor Jordan-Lee (Oilcap) Paratene had a pair of seconds and a fourth in a solid night’s work.

The last class on the programme was the Stuporstocks … err, Stockpers … a combination of the available stockcars with six drivers away representing the Dean’s Truck Services Tasman Thunder and three superstock competitors who chose a race night over a seat on the terraces. Brett Nicholls played games with the field in the first two races, although Cleve Kokshoorn’s immaculate Greymouth stockcar took second in heat one, before Trevor Lineham won race three then handed the flag to the first stockcar driver home, John Everett. Luke and Paul Ewing had a bit of a stab at a few stockies until heat three when Levi Collier and Blenheim’s Scott Alexander decided the night was over for both Ewing and Kokshoorn in a big turn two tangle. Combining the classes isn’t to everyone’s tastes but, on a night where other fields couldn’t front, it was an experiment worth trying.

Nelson’s next race night is two weeks into the New Year when the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway hosts another round of the Hydraulink War of the Wings, presented by Ezy-Lift Cranes, with Brett Sullivan back from racing in Australia to turn a few laps last night, whetting the taste buds and filling the lugholes with clay.

Images by Tom Laney, www.imagepress.co.nz