American sprintcar ace Jonathan Allard retained his North Island title with a brilliant drive in the 25-lap final at Arena Manawatu on Saturday night.
In the three seasons he's been racing fulltime in New Zealand, the Auckland-based Allard, who narrowly failed to retain his New Zealand title recently when second to fellow American World of Outlaw star Sammy Swindell, has set an imposing record.
Although beginning the feature in fourth place, Allard bided his time before going past Ryan O'Connor (Auckland) and another American Ricky Logan in one flying lap.
Despite the field being closed up twice for rolls by Daniel Egglington (Auckland) and Dean Brindle (Hamilton), Allard made light work of the restarts as he blasted away from Logan and O'Connor to win easily.
O'Connor has a liking for the Robertson Holden Speedway, having won regularly over the previous four seasons, and he looked on track to do it again after a blistering qualifying time of 13.36 seconds, just outside the lap record.
It wasn't a flash night for the Palmerston North drivers with Nelson Hartley well off the pace, failing to finish the feature as did Rob Garratt and Bryan Menefy.
Of the local drivers, only veteran Ian Easton and Chris Uhlenberg finished the feature, but both Easton and Garratt showed plenty of pace earlier to win qualifying races. Garratt's race with Allard, when he held him off for six laps, showed he's maturing as a driver.
A lot of the youth ministock drivers are now stars of the stockcar and superstock classes and it looks like Nic Davey, if he has the money to move up, will be the next star on Arena Manawatu.
Although the field consisted of only 16 drivers, Davey won all three races, two of them from the back, and his ability to pass set him apart in the competitive class.
Others to place behind Davey included David Lowe, James Mallia, Michael Butcher and Mitchell James, son of former top superstock driver Robbie James.
Wellington's Stephen Taylor won the first minisprint race with Christian Hermansen winning the second. Hermansen added to his win with a second place in the feature, but he was no match for race winner James Hadley.
Jayden Ward won the first stockcar race with Stewart Rackham taking a rare win in the second. Rob Mason then dominated the feature to win by nearly half a lap, with Gavin Taniwha and Cameron Renwick coming through a battle with six others to fill the podium.
Hopping over the Tasman to regularly race in Australia paid off for Andrew Buchanan and Phillipa Burns as they finished a close second to Gisborne pair Rob and Dean Miller at the New Zealand champs in Gisborne. It was a top night for another Palmerston North duo with Derek Ramsay and Tony Hislop finishing third after just a handful of meetings on their new bike.
Peter Bengston kept up his consistent form, finishing second in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Waikaraka Park, Auckland.
Shane Simpson finished second at the North Island stockcar champs at Gisborne on Saturday with Rob Miers sixth in the 68-car field.
- Manawatu Standard