RACING RAY RACES AWAY
THUNDER BEFORE THE RAIN
Written by: Pete McNae
The MetService will decide whether or not this story has a sequel. Despite dire predictions of a downpour due at 2pm yesterday, the Nelson Speedway Association ended up with a perfect night for the first half of one of their biggest promotions of the season at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway. They are due to do it all again from 6pm but the forecast is even worse. The scientists couldn’t get it totally wrong twice in a row. Could they?
Given what was supposed to fall from the skies yesterday, last night’s meeting was a bit of a bonus. The club completed three stockcar teams races in the Nelson Automotive Solutions Stockcar Teams Brawl, the fifth (and penultimate) round of the Vertex Super Cup for super saloons and the first volleys were fired in the Ray White (Richmond) Youth Ministock Mania. There was also a best pairs for the superstocks and open racing among the production saloons. Tonight, the plan is to send the stockcars round again for another three races, wrap the super saloons with four heats, a pole shuffle and a 30-lapper and complete both divisions of Ministock Mania, weather permitting.
Depending on whether you’re a fan of the Kiwi taxis or the bump and grind brigade, last night’s lead promotion might have been the super saloons or the stockcars. Nelson’s Blacks Fasteners Tasman Thunder were the defending champions of the Teams Brawl and, if the rain arrives, Thunder team driver and Nelson Automotive Solutions owner and event sponsor John Everett can tuck his wallet back into his pocket. Two wins from two outings mean the Thunder carry a points buffer over KB’s Indians into night two with Greymouth’s Grizzlies facing a hefty workload to get back in to contention.
Race one saw the Thunder stand down captain Michael Paynter to meet the Indians, a privateer team made up of two Nelson drivers, another who is registered with Blenheim and three who race out of Dunedin. When the Thunder’s Adam Hall and Harley Robb for the Indians got tied in a Tank tangle in turn three and Everett clipped Robb’s Tank into a slow roll, momentum was firmly with the Thunder, who went on to a 120-75 win behind Brad Neiman, with Keightley Teece and Ben Smith blocking effectively, although Smith got offside with the referee and was excluded.
The Thunder were back mid-meeting to take on the Grizzlies and the combinations that have seen them feature at the national teams champs were in evidence, Teece running for home as Paynter did a mighty job of occupying three Greymouth cars at a time. With another 150 points on board, Tasman had 270 in the bank for their night’s work. Greymouth had to front again, against the Indians in the night’s final race and got out to a good start with George Watson in clear air at the front but Robb managed to run him up the wall and over, opening the door for Michael Arras to lead home Indians team-mate Dylan Clarke. KB’s Indians, with a hefty 160 from that race, totalled 235 for the night with the Grizzlies still in double figures on 80.
The Vertex Super Cup provided the chance for the super saloon class to race in Nelson for just the second time this season. National champion Peter Dickson had his first look at the track, 2NZ Richie Taylor was in attendance while Nelson’s Ian Burson was presented with gift horses when 3NZ Shane McIntyre handed over the keys to the Hypermac so fourth-placed Burson could still chase points even after his own car had sold.
Heat wins went to a very impressive Dickson, Cromwell’s Ray Stewart (second in the series points heading in to last night’s round), Invercargill’s up-and-coming Craig Phillips and the popular Burson, who put four seconds on the chasers. With time tight, the pole shuffle was abandoned and 17 cars fronted for the 30-lap feature with Stewart and Invercargill’s Campbell McManaway earning front row starts. Within a lap, 17 became 11. Lloyd Phillips got into trouble with Kane Lawson and a big turn four whoopsie saw series leader Taylor, Burson, Phillips, Trevor Elliott and Dave Manera retire infield. Another Nelsonian, Shane Carey, attempted to restart but a loosened hood scoop flipped up and he was out, too. The next 29 laps were relatively incident-free although the slick and dusty surface meant passing was at a premium. Lawson and Mark Grocott nursed home damaged cars, Dickson shouldered his way through to third, only to be relegated two spots, but out front Stewart drove a canny race to lead all 30 laps from eventual Nelson round winner McManaway, who tried every avenue but couldn’t get past. Stewart’s hefty haul and Taylor’s unlucky exit are likely to have changed the top of the leaderboard with Taylor desperate to race tonight to chase a change of luck.
The Ray White Richmond Youth Ministock Mania drew a healthy field with the local ranks boosted by drivers from Blenheim, Christchurch and Wellington. Competitors were placed in four groups, with each heat consisting of three groups. There was also a two tier system running with first year drivers chasing their own sashes. And, after night one, nothing separates Brayden Nell and Hamish Carter among the seniors. Both were in cracking form and finished night one locked on 52 points with Baiden Mailman-Byrman lurking close behind on 47. Blenheim’s Wade Sweeting and Kamrin Satherley round out the top five. Among the rookies, Canterbury’s Jordanlee Paratene in the nicely-presented 11C has a healthy buffer over Sophie Rangi and Jonti Austin. A big back straight wreck saw Canterbury’s Jesse Robinson pinballed into the wall and, while he was okay, his car was a bit crook and fellow Cantab Riley Keen was also taken from the track suffering neck pain from the contact.
The superstocks were drawn into best pairs, awkward with nine starters, meaning Alex Hill was left as Neville No Mates for the evening. Race wins went to Shane Harwood, Brett Nicholls and Blair Cunningham with Nicholls and teenager Josh Nell, who was handed the drive in Jared Gray’s 16N for the night, coming home as the top pair. Ken Nolan was named the superstock stirrer for standing on the brakes in heat three.
Production saloons wrapped the show with wins for David Allan, Vaughan Cornelius and Jared Blanchet, with Dave Leitch continuing to turn back the calendar with three seconds from his three starts and some wall of death driving on the outside of the track.
With the rain starting even before the pits had cleared, tonight’s meeting must be in some doubt. Notifications will be made on the Nelson Speedway Association website and Facebook page.
- Internet issues meant Imagepress photographer Tom Laney was unable to upload photos from last night’s meeting and this report has used file shots. As soon as Tom’s photos are available, this article will be updated.