Hit me with your best shot

From One trackman to another

Written by Pete McNae 

There will be a couple of former national champions in the pits when the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway opens the gates to the paying public on Saturday evening. One will be obvious – sitting front and centre, all chrome and golden arches will be the mighty Hypermac super saloon of Mark Osborne, 1NZ in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2015-16. You’ll have to go exploring to find the other previous champion, though …

Way round the back live the streetstocks, speedway’s slightly misshapen cousin. It’s where the hardcase Falcons and Holdens — and their hardcase drivers — hang out.  You might even spot a “Proud to be Streetstock Scum” t-shirt, in black, of course. But, for all their rough edges, the streetstocks and their drivers are a popular part of speedway’s backbone. Each weekend, the class clobber the crap out of each other, spend a few nights reskinning and putting steering and suspension parts back in place, whack on some more matt black and do it all over.

Canterbury’s David McSherry doesn’t really fit the stereotype, though. For a start, he’s 52, a business owner with two sons who race alongside him. And while there’s black paint by the litre, he likes his cars to look tidy, at least for the start of a meeting. And maybe he races a little more cautiously these days, too.

“You don’t win on lap one or two of a 10-lap race, the young fellas haven’t clicked on to that yet,” McSherry says. “I used to be all attack but I prefer now to pick my way through, it seems to work out most of the time.”

It does. McSherry won the national streetstock championship on his local track, Woodford Glen, in 2014-15 and has a string of other podium finishes behind him. One of those is a second place in the inaugural Trackman Trophy meeting in Nelson, named in honour of the late Murray Teece. McSherry, a trackman himself, would like to take a trophy home on Saturday night. Starting 15 seasons ago, he began learning track prep under Dennis Bolt at the Glen and is still the trackman at the Kaiapoi oval. McSherry jokes that his 1NZ might have been partly due to his role in preparing the race surface.

“I guess there is some inside information there,” he says. “It was still a heck of a shock. I was fourth after two heats and that’s when you start to think that maybe things could go your way and you might sneak a 3NZ. In that last heat my boys and a few other drivers went riot on some of the other contenders and I got the title by a point.

“I couldn’t really process it – in streetstocks, you’re only one hit away. I had a good night but the little deals in the pits before heat three certainly factored in. You see everyone glancing across to see who is talking to who, but luckily I had help on my side.”

McSherry got involved with speedway crewing for Neil Baldwin and they shared a stockcar at one point but family, work and life got in the way for a while and he really only returned to fulltime competition eight seasons ago, following son Robert into streetstocks. Another son, Tom, is in the class too and will also be in Nelson on Saturday, making a two-car team until Robert’s race car is ready and he becomes number three under the North Canterbury Engine Reconditioners banner. McSherry Snr bought the business a wee while back when his boss retired and he and wife Karen run it from a workshop at home. There’s a stockcar engine in there, a 308 for an A9X Torana, a 351 Cleveland …

“I have to be smart with my time,” McSherry says. “On a Monday, my car is the first into the shed and Tom and I will spend three nights getting it ready because Thursday, Friday and all of Saturday are track prep. I am at the track from 8am Saturday so I need to be ready with my gear by then. The boys have the end of the week to get their cars done but my time is pretty much mapped out.”

Woodford Glen has had one practice but Nelson’s one of the first tracks in the country to start the 2017-18 racing season. The McSherrys enjoy the trip up, the Richmond track and the club atmosphere. “I’ve got the Glen on my doorstep but Nelson has always been a good place to come. We like the club up there and, even though there is a lot of traffic on the road now and it’s pretty cut up, we are in no rush. It’s a family thing to load up and come through and we get that chance to share our sport as a family.”

The New Zealand title this season is at the Riverside Raceway in Invercargill and it’s speedway wisdom that, the further south you go, the more borderline the streetstock racing becomes. But Woodford Glen has a field of 30+ cars and it wouldn’t surprise to see a C car or two on the podium again. The NZGP and South Island champs are also on McSherry’s patch, a bonus for a driver who has travelled to every national title meeting since he resumed racing eight seasons back.

Who knows? The trackman might even prepare a special rut for his rivals in turn four that only he knows about ….

  • Dave McSherry’s 62C Ford Falcon EL is raced with the support of wife Karen, sons Robert and Thomas and sponsors Bridgestone Tyre Centre (Kaiapoi), Mandeville Tavern (Kaiapoi), Gem Kitchens, Kaiapoi Monograms and North Canterbury Engine Reconditioners Ltd.
  • Saturday’s season opener from 6pm features Trackman Trophy racing for streetstocks, TQs, sidecars, stockcars, production saloons, super saloon/saloons and superstocks. Most classes will run three heats with TQs and super saloons doing two plus a feature. At least four classes have attracted visiting competitors.

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