Gaining a semis spot is not going to be easy for Palmerston North outfit.
Any suggestion the superstocks Teams Champs draw was rigged in favour of the Palmerston North Panthers went out the window yesterday.
With seven wins from the past eight years, Palmerston North have been given the stiff task of getting past the Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes and the Wellington Wildcats in group D to reach tomorrow's semifinals.
Last year's top four Teams Champs placegetters will race in the first four and the last four qualifying races at the Robertson Holden Speedway tonight.
The Panthers, who have one enforced change, with Asher Rees coming into the team after his father Peter was knocked out at Meeanee, Napier, last Friday, have a tough opener in race four against Hawke's Bay.
The Napier-based team were unbeaten last year, winning four from four, but didn't secure enough points to reach the semifinals.
Winning the race assures a team 100 points, but the semifinalists come from the top four points-scorers with 40, 25, 20 and 10 points awarded from second to fifth.
Palmerston North's other race against Wellington will be an interesting match-up, with regular Palmerston North driver Wayne Hemi returning to race for the Wellington team with whom he won his first of six teams champs - the other five have been for Palmerston North, where he is contracted.
Ron Tye, who has raced for the Palmerston North Pumas stockcar team, has also returned to the team he began teams racing with.
The Manawatu Mustangs' group C, which includes two hard-hitting teams in the Christchurch Gleneagles and the Wanganui Warriors, looks to be one of the most even groups and is sure to see plenty of mayhem, with any of the three capable of being semifinalists.
Manawatu face a strong-looking Christchurch first up, before meeting Wanganui, led by one of the great attacking drivers, Kerry Podjursky.
But despite only Jack Miers, who will captain the team, and Adam Joblin back from last year's beaten finalists, the Manawatu team have loads of pace and drivers who will be keen to show they're as good as their more vaunted Palmerston North team-mates.
On paper, the Baypark Busters look assured of a semifinal spot, but with the vagaries of teams racing, where one mistake can see the leader rolled or a win turned on its head due to mechanical problems, Baypark will only be happy when they've knocked off the Stratford Scrappers and Auckland Allstars.
Neither Auckland nor Stratford look to have the firepower to beat Baypark. Stratford though have often surprised the top teams and with four titles in eight finals, they have a history of winning.
There's a huge battle looming in group B, where one of the perennial favourites, the Nelson Tigers meet the rejuvenated Rotorua Rebels.
The Rotorua club has invested a lot of time on their stockcar and superstock teams and with the Rotorua Rascals securing the national teams stockcar title, they're keen to make it a stellar year with the ENZED Teams Champs title as well.
They must get past the third member in the group, the Great Britain Lions, who don't appear to have the firepower of previous years.
The British team will have world formula one BriSCA champion Tom Harris back from England. Harris has proven he has the pace and hitting power to cause mayhem.
- Manawatu Standard
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