Mini classes, maximum thrills for fans at Arena Manawatu
Saturday night at Arena Manawatu sees the running of the first Manawatu championships of the 2012-13 season, in the minisprint and adult ministock classes.
Although both championship fields have "mini" in their title, the level of commitment and skill involved in racing and succeeding in these vehicles is anything but small. Favourite in the Manawatu minisprint champs must be current 2NZ Declan Roe, the only Palmerston North competitor to place in the top three of this class at the national championships.
But the title is still wide open because no-one has really dominated so far; all six races to date have been won by different drivers. Others in the field with top chances include Christian Hermansen, Carol Golding and Trevor Stephenson along with Wellington's Shane Simpson and James Hadley.
The adult ministock title is even harder to pick, having had only a single outing this season because of weather interruptions. Tyler Gibbons looked the best on opening night, but there is likely to be a plethora of visitors keen to sneak the title out of town.
The Stratford contingent was particularly impressive on opening night, but Christchurch's Glen Redmond will be another to watch and must surely deserve some reward on his third trip north to compete. Redmond finished an unlucky fourth on his previous two visits.
Although the competition is expected to be close and competitive in its own right, it could also contain future stars of the sport in the making. Many competitors from these two classes have progressed on to bigger and better things.
Young hotshots Jamie Larsen and Stephen Taylor have just moved up from minisprints to the internationally recognised sprintcar grade, and will be competing with some of the world's best at Western Springs and Palmerston North this season.
A multitude of racers has made similar moves from adult ministocks to their big-bumpered brethren; cousins Kerry and Bevan Humphrey are current and former 2NZ in superstocks respectively. Shane Simpson is a stockcar NZ under-21 title and New Zealand Grand Prix winner, while Gavin Taniwha and Alec Wilson are members of the national championship-winning Pumas stockcar team.
Superstocks, stockcars and sidecars are also in action from 7pm on Saturday, minus the Manawatu Steelers stockcar team which is competing in Huntly.