Parkes the Panthers' sixth man

It was a tough call Gary Parkes made yesterday to tell Wayne Hemi he would be the Palmerston North Panthers' sixth driver for this weekend's national Teams Championships at Arena Manawatu.

Parkes had named his six-man squad at the beginning of the season, but always intended leaving it as late as possible before naming his final five-man team plus a reserve who would step in during the championships if another driver got hurt.

"Wayne has been a big part of the team for quite a few years now, and it wasn't easy telling him," Parkes said. "Like all the Panthers, Wayne is very competitive, and wasn't happy with the news, but he understood the reasons for my choice."

Parkes said his call came down to Hemi's car's reliability.

"He is having teething problems, and they are affecting his confidence during a race.

"In a teams race, you have to be completely focused on what is happening around you, and you can't be concerned with your car's reliability."

Parkes said Hemi would be the ideal sixth man if he had to step into one of the other drivers' cars during the meeting.

"Wayne is an experienced driver, and I'm sure he wouldn't have any problems driving someone else's car."

Parkes said it was not ideal leaving the final selection until the week of the ENZED national teams championships at the Robertson Holden Speedway. But he wanted to be assured of his team, and decided to wait until last weekend's national championships at Huntly.

"We've never left it so late to pick the team but, surprisingly, this is the first time everyone is 100 per cent fit and ready to go."

The only newcomer in the Panthers team is Scott Joblin, who will join regulars Scott Miers, who has a record seven titles, as well as six-time winners Peter Bengston and Peter Rees and five-time winner Shane Penn.

Parkes believes Joblin has a huge future and is eager to be part of the Panthers.

"Scott has everything to make him a good teams racer; he can give a hit, he takes a hit, and he understands what a teams race is about.

"Just as important, he wants to put himself and his car on the line for the team."

Manawatu Standard