Pumas grab third title win
If the Palmerston North Pumas' semifinal win was a Peter Rees show the national Stockcar Teams' final victory was a masterful team effort.
The Pumas won their third consecutive title at Arena Manawatu and in doing so keep the right to hold the trophy on their home track for a third time next season.
Any arguments about whether Peter Rees is one of the greatest stockcar drivers went out the window at the Robertson Holden Speedway when he single-handedly clutched victory from the jaws of defeat in the semifinal win over a gallant Auckland Alleycats.
With cars damaged and only Alec Wilson circulating Rees went from last to first and smashed his way past Auckland cars throughout a 12 lap mad dash for the chequered flag. On four occasions Rees was thumped into the wall but without buttoning off the throttle he blasted through to keep in front.
The biggest hit came when he was fired up the wall and vertical in the air before coming down and still kepton going. Even the most ardent opponents of the Palmerston North Pumas applauded him.
"Once I saw Josh [Prentice] rolled on the first lap, I decided I just had to go for it," Rees said. "It was a pretty amazing ride and it's taken a long time for me to stop shaking."
Many in the crowd of about 6000 thought it was the greatest single drive they had seen.
The final wasn't so friendly for Rees who blew an axle on the start line virtually taking him out of any of the action although that didn't stop first-time finalist Eastern State (Blenheim) from still attacking him.
But it was a skilful effort from Palmerston North who were never threatened, with a particularly strong blocking drive from Gavin Taniwha allowing Alec Wilson and Asher Rees to cruise around the track with Josh Prentice riding shotgun for them.
Taniwha said the three-peat has made him hungrier for success and although his "Rees Tank" is up for sale he's not about to retire.
"I don't know about the rest of the team but I've got a goal of beating Wellington's record of five consecutive titles," Taniwha said.
"I'm looking to upgrade to one of Peter's new cars and I'll be around for another 10 years yet."
Taniwha also hit back at the critics who called for multiple changes to the Pumas after they had been beaten by the Palmerston North under-23 team at the recent Stampede team's meeting.
"There's a big difference between racing around a track and the pressure of a team's semifinal or final with a national title at stake.
"A lot of us have teams raced together for a long time and we're all aware of what's going on around us and what the other drivers are doing," he said. "If you made big changes then we'd be like the other teams and struggle when things got tough."
The young drivers that teams racing selector and manager Gary Parkes has brought into his teams, have all been ready to step up to the big time. While Peter Rees, Alec Wilson, Ron Tye and Taniwha have been in the team for five years Josh Prentice, Asher Rees and now Jay Knight have come in over the past two seasons.