Written by Pete McNae

The school reports for the six drivers in the Tasman Thunder probably read something like: “Does not play well with outsiders, refuses to share, seems to have aggression issues”. That’s assuming a couple of them stayed at school long enough to earn a report. What was clear is that stockcar teams shouldn’t expect to tow through the gates at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway thinking the Stockcar Teams Brawl trophy will be going home with them. For the third season in a row, the Dean’s Truck Services Thunder kept the trophy under lock and key, dominating squads from Southland, Canterbury and the Coast.

They had to play rough a few times but the Thunder’s combination of speed and teams racing nous shone through as they swept all three of their races for the Nelson Automotive Solutions and Jack’s Tyres promotion. With six strong cars to choose from, the home team were able to rest and rotate (are you watching, Coach Hansen?) and swap roles between and within races with more freedom and success than their rivals. Each of the visiting teams had something to celebrate in what was the best of the Teams Brawls so far, by far, but the Thunder were a clear cut above.

The first race of the night set the bar pretty high. Canterbury lined up the long-distance travellers from Riverside Raceway in Invercargill – Dan McNally and four drivers new to Nelson who took on a massive 1000km haul to compete. With the Spartans’ Logan McNamara rough-housing any Canterbury driver he could catch, the race could have seen a surprise result but Shane Boote nursed an overheating car through for the win, ahead of Ricco Gray. The Nelson club dropped the ball in that race, taking a ridiculous amount of time to clear a two-car tangle in turn one, allowing Boote’s car to get hotter and hotter while the Spartans raced all the way to the flag and beyond, putting a killer shot on Boote well past the finish but before the yellow lights came on.

The other issue, until the sun went down, was a significant dust storm making the early races difficult for both drivers and fans. The Thunder, with Brad Neiman and Adam Hall blocking cleverly for Dylan Clarke and Michael Paynter were far too astute for a tactically uncertain Greymouth team, although the finer points of the Tasman win were shrouded in dust.

Round two of three pitted Greymouth against the Southern Spartans, the two beaten teams from round one. Again, McNamara was a weapon with McNally dropping a heavy shot on Michael Arras as Peter Knight took the 100 points for the Spartans. Greymouth were second, third and fourth with Tony Stanton working hard but the Invercargill cars earned their win. In the second slugfest, the Thunder’s tactics and precision saw them bank the maximum with Neiman leading Paynter to the flag. Craig Tatnell made his debut and survived a turn three dive bomb by Awa Johns to block solidly for his runners.

The cracks were starting to show by round three, Canterbury taking on Greymouth with just two cars. And, for a while, it looked like Alex Rondel and Ricco Gray might pull off the upset until Dylan Robb, shouldering the blocking role alone, trapped Gray and then hampered race leader Rondel to allow Dave Houston Jnr in for the win. The Spartans managed to field four cars against the Thunder but looked a little like there wasn’t much left in the tank, going through the motions as Paynter preserved Tasman’s unbeaten record. With the Thunder well clear and champions again, and the Grizzlies next in line, Canterbury and the Southland team had a four-lap runoff for third with Rondel doing the business for the Crushers.

Open stockcar racing was meant to feature stirrer’s prizemoney but they left their bumpers at home with minimal (intentional) contact across the three heats. Troy Currie had a nibble and Tayler Forbes took a punt at Cleve Kokshoorn but, mostly, the three heats were flag-focused. Keightley Teece, who has chosen this season to step aside from teams racing for the Thunder, banked the first two wins but failed to finish the third, won by a rapt class rookie Josh Nell, who battled all race long with Brittany Carpenter.

Two memorial trophies were contested last night with the sidecars competing for the Brett Lusty Memorial commemorating a popular competitor who died in a road accident, while the superstocks were chasing the Dave Scott Memorial, named for a club life member who passed away two summers ago. The first round of sidecar racing was marred by an ugly prang when Stu Anderson and Shaun Harris nipped down the inside of a competitor, got sideways and tipped up and over, both men flying through the air and going under the bike at some point. Fortunately, they were not seriously hurt although that was their night done. Adie Drake and Kieran Satherley lapped up the smooth, flat track for three wins with Shaun Solly and Rosie Taylor their nearest challengers.

Nine superstocks fronted, thanks to the presence of four from Woodford Glen and the season debut of local Luke Ewing. The format for the trophy race was two heats with a marble draw and a reverse grid second heat, Alex Bright in stonking form as he grabbed both wins and pole position for the feature. He almost banked that one, too, until Harley Robb intervened on behalf of team boss Jacob Brownlees, blocking Bright out of the placings with Brownlees heading home Ant McKenzie (the only driver to crack the 15sec bracket in the class) and Trevor Lineham. There’s talk of two more Nelson cars coming for next Saturday’s meeting – fingers crossed.

A chocablock programme was rounded out by streetstocks and super saloons, the Blenheim club coming up trumps with extra entrants for both classes. The Eastern States raiders even banked a surprising win in the first super saloon race with Rob Flood turning in a mighty drive in his saloon on the sun-baked surface to fend off the supers on his tail. Ian Burson was having none of those shenanigans later though, winning heat two at a canter and chasing down a much-improved Dave Manera on the last lap of the feature. Manera’s been more ragged than rapid this season but drove a beaut until the impressive Burson machine thundered by with 150m to run in the 15-lapper.

The streetstock class had a healthy field with new cars, returning drivers and four Blenheim visitors pumping up the numbers.  Neville Soper, Steve Soper and Ryan Musgrove, forgoing his Falcon for the spare Holden for the night, were the race winners.

Nelson’s next meeting is this coming Saturday when the Hydraulink War of the Wings Series brings approximately 20 sprintcars to town. The class and Nelson club will be running a crowd collection for Nelson driver Simon Rieter, who was critically injured in a road accident last week. Rieter has a young family and faces a long battle to be well, with any money raised next week going to help cover their costs in some small way. Anything and everything would be appreciated.

Photos by Tom Laney,