Larsen in great end to season

TONY COFFIN
Last updated 12:00 18/03/2013

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Youngster Jamie Larsen capped off a sensational season for Palmerston North drivers when he won the New Zealand Minisprint title at Arena Manawatu on Saturday night.

Larsen's masterly win secured an unprecedented fourth national title to join Shane Penn (superstock), Peter Rees (stockcar) and Paul Humphrey and Ben Franklin (sidecar), and two teams' titles (superstock and stockcar) with the Panthers and Pumas.

Larsen won the Tim Buys Auto Services national title with ease, one of the few drivers to go out to the wall during the three heats, resulting in three podium finishes in each of the three final heats.

Larsen, who was runner-up two seasons ago, is one of the rising stars of open-wheel racing and only races the minisprints occasionally, having made a promising step up to sprintcars.

Although he's had his share of problems in sprintcars, Larsen has speed to burn and has managed an impressive fourth in that national championship.

The most unlucky competitor was Stephen Buys, whose improved, mature driving style looked likely to secure him a podium finish until a right rear wheel came adrift and destroyed his chances. However, like everyone, he was no threat to Larsen.

Kihikihi's Jade Barnett and Shaun Rice (Stratford) steered clear of a few accidents to finish second equal with Barnett winning the four-lap runoff.

The AFC Motorcycles North Island Sprintcar final was one of the best sprintcar races seen at Robertson Holden Speedway in a few years with Auckland's Daniel Eggleton leading by a big margin until run down by Dean Brindle (Auckland) on the last lap.

An indiscretion when Brindle used the infield to pass a slowing Eggleton on the final lap cost Brindle the title. Brindle was relegated to second place giving Eggleton, who finished third in the New Zealand final behind Brindle, his first major title.

Midget car star Michael Pickens, drove well for third, while Skinny Colson looked a big threat passing Brindle, only for his engine to go up in smoke with four laps left.

Rookie Benji Sneddon will be one to watch after winning his first race, impressively holding off Peter Rees. Stewart Rackham is collecting wins regularly, with the other win going to Cameron Renwick ahead of Chevron Taniwha.

Simon Joblin and South Island partner Malcolm Ngatai, who overcame being rolled, won the Battle of the Stocks in Christchurch, heading Shane Penn and Nelson team-mate Craig Boote. Joblin and Penn scored most of the points for their teams.

Despite being beaten by the Baypark Busters on the opening night of the superstocks' Teams' Nationals in Auckland last weekend, it didn't stop the Palmerston North Panthers.

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They demolished Baypark in the semifinal, then did the same to the Nelson Tigers in the final. Scott Joblin was the star for the Panthers with Scott Miers blocking brilliantly in the final.

The only time the Panthers have been beaten in almost a decade in Auckland was when they were relegated after beating the Waikato Wanderers in last year's final.

- Manawatu Standard

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