The Baypark Busters will head into tonight's semifinals of the national Teams' Champs at Arena Manawatu with a real chance of dethroning the Palmerston North Panthers.
Baypark may not have faced the most difficult opposition last night at Robertson Holden Speedway as they steamrolled disappointing opponents the Auckland Allstar and a three-car Rotorua Rebels.
But there's no doubt they've got the drivers with fast cars and good blocking skills to combat Palmerston North's classy lineup which, except for Scott Joblin who debuted last season, have pretty much been together for the past decade.
Much to the annoyance of a large, expectant crowd, Baypark pulled out of a two-car four-lap runoff with Palmerston North after the teams were locked level top on 335 points.
The semifinal will pit Palmerston North against the Great Britain Lions and Baypark up against the young gun Manawatu team.
Palmerston North who fired past the Stratford Scrappers and a gallant Wellington Wildcats, will need to be wary of a Great Britain team who all worked for each other to secure two strong wins over the Wanganui Warriors and Auckland.
Great Britain kept promising youngster Ryan Harrison in reserve during the first race but he showed he'll be a big threat tonight, winning the second race with ease.
The capacity crowd of more than 16,500 will be waiting with bated breath to if Harrison can repeat his recent roll of Palmerston North's Peter Rees, or Rees will get his revenge.
Rees smashed his way through blocking traffic to win both races while Shane Penn finished second twice. Scott Joblin could be the surprise tonight with his blocking step up from last season.
Baypark have loads of pace with David Elesworth and Kyle Fraser with Ross Ashby, Kerry Remnant and Mark Decke supporting.
Baypark and Palmerston North will begin tonight favoured to make the final but don't write off Manawatu or Great Britain's chances.
Meanwhile, Manawatu Mustangs captain Simon Joblin said family and friends would take a backseat in tonight's semifinal of the national teams' champs.
Manawatu, who put on a brilliant display to win both qualifying races over the Rotorua Rebels (135-60), and the unbeaten Waikato Wanderers (150-45) have a real shot at a third national title.
Joblin, who won both races, admitted that his side had gelled well and benefited from a particularly close relationship with the Palmerston North Panthers, not just because seven of the drivers were family members.
"It has definitely helped us that Gary [Parkes] has had both teams pretty much doing things as one unit, Joblin said.
"But if we meet them in the final then we'll be out to take them out."
Joblin said it had also helped that Parkes and Scott Miers were part of the team meetings last night.
"It's been great they've come over and helped us with the tactics and just how to support each other.
"You have to listen to them, they've been there and done it plenty of times in the past."
Joblin admitted that all five drivers in the Manawatu team had bigger goals in teams racing long term.
"We're all pretty inexperienced at teams racing but obviously we all have aspirations of wanting to make the Panthers at some stage."
It fooled many of the opposition last night that Kerry Humphrey ended up blocking in both races, allowing Simon Joblin to race around the track almost untouched.
Asher Rees provided the hit of the night against Rotorua when he launched Scott Hewson up the wall and out of racing. Rookie Adam Joblin sat out the first race but blocked brilliantly in the second race, while Jack Rees blocked in the first race but showed the pace of the Tank to finish second against Waikato.
- Manawatu Standard
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