Dirt tactics done dirty

TONY COFFIN
Last updated 12:00 03/01/2014

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OPINION: It's time officials stopped races and dragged drivers from the track immediately for illegal tactics to stop them further influencing a race's outcome.

The numerous changes to race results after stewards had reviewed race incidents was a blight on qualifying night for the New Zealand Stockcar championships at Arena Manawatu last night.

Despite drivers having the law laid down to them at a 45-minute pre-meeting talk by Speedway New Zealand officials, drivers continued to transgress.

One of the worst was in the final team's race of the night when two unbeaten teams, the Palmerston North Pumas and the Meeanee Maulers met in a winner-take-all match up.

Palmerston North's key man Peter Rees, who had won the first race against the Waikato Raiders came in for plenty of attention at the start of the race.

Clearly the Meeanee tactic was to take Rees out of contention. Unfortunately, Meeanee's Randal Tarrant resorted to smashing Rees while he was at least two car widths off the track on the infield.

In the same race, Brent Loveridge came off the infield after being put there by Palmerston North's Gavin Taniwha, smashing Taniwha into the wall.

It didn't matter though as debutant Jay Knight, protected by Taniwha and Alec Wilson easily won the race with Darrel Wallace third.

There were plenty of other indiscretions with the biggest punishment going to the Auckland Alleycats when Tasman Thunder's Michael Paynter had their race sewn up until Auckland's Gary Lonergan came off the infield to take out Paynter. The stewards also disqualified Auckland's Troy Power giving the debutant Tasman Thunder a huge 185-0 win. They then went on to blow it in the next race with fellow first-round winner Stratford Stormers. Tasman showed their inexperience with every driver racing instead of blocking as well especially when they were half a lap behind the three leading Stratford drivers.

The Baypark Bulldogs paid a heavy price also after a brilliant, smashing win over the Canterbury Crushers. With all race winners being weighed after each race, Baypark winner Ian Daniel went on the scales and was disqualified for being over the 1500kg maximum weight allowable.

It was all smiles for Tasman (Nelson) at the end of the night though, with Tarrant's tactics seeing him relegated after finishing third in the race with Palmerston North, allowing Tasman the luxury of coming back next Saturday to compete in the semifinals of the Machinery Specialists national teams' stockcar champs. In the semifinals, Palmerston North will face Stratford and Rotorua meet Tasman, who showed they'll be no pushover.

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There is no doubt teams are closing the gap on Palmerston North and Stratford got their team's racing tactics perfect in their two wins over last years runners-up the Eastern State Titans from Blenheim (135-60) and Tasman (160-35).

Palmerston North's two hard-fought victories gave them enough points to secure third place behind an impressive Rotorua Rascals (325 points) and the equally classy Stratford Stormers (300 points). When racing ended last night, Meeanee were still in fourth place but there were potential disqualifications still being discussed by the stewards.

The top eight teams are back next Saturday to complete the event with teams finishing from fifth to eighth still having the opportunity of finishing third overall. The top four will fight for a place in the final.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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