The best things in life are free - and worth more
As a show of good faith to patrons who sat in showers for a total of just two races on Friday, the Nelson Speedway Association elected to make entry to Saturday's re-run free. Given the quality of the show that night, most of the huge crowd would have paid five times that much to get in.
The Nelson club took a financial hammering from Friday's rainout, electing to throw the gates open for qualifying night at the ENZED New Zealand super saloon championship.
And the people flocked in by the thousand. Jammed shoulder-to-shoulder, the fans were served a superb night of racing as an initial field was whittled to 18, with the final two cars qualifying through a repechage.
The track surface was in wonderful condition, allowing two racing lines for most of the night with no ruts and minimal dust, while the three classes on the card held nothing back.
As always, qualifying night had its hard luck stories.
Aucklander Lance Jennings looked to be unfortunate to be sent to the back of the field for spinning during heat two for Red group after getting tangled in Mike Verdoner's mess. When Jennings didn't restart from the right spot on the track, he was black flagged and his fourth place in the sudden death repechage meant no shot at a first national title for the 40-season veteran.
Nelson Mail featured driver, Kristin Vermeulen from Tauranga, was another on the outside, looking in, when transmission issues ended a likely shot at the finals at the start of heat three. The Bay of Plenty teenager was unable to take her place on the grid for the repechage.
Among those who did get through were last year's top three; Shane McIntyre (Baypark), Hawke's Bay's Grant Flynn and Cantabrian Richie Taylor. Each had a story.
McIntyre's new car was finished just a day or two before the trip south, ended practice behind a tow truck twice and appeared to be labouring on Saturday. Flynn brought the crowd to their feet during – and after – his heat two drive in Red group, starting from near the rear, being stuck in eighth place until lap four, then blasting home around the wall to pass Craig Cardwell on the last corner for victory by 0.7sec.
And Taylor made it through by the narrowest of margins, his Corvette getting sucked into the wall in the last heat for Black group. He qualified by virtue of crashing a metre or two further down the track than Roger Nees, who followed him in. That one point meant Taylor could avoid a pre-repechage runoff in which Blenheim's Paddy North beat former titleholder Steve Williams.
The high-profile golf caddie still made it into yesterday's finals, winning the repechage and going through along with clubmate Nigel Mouat.
All four Nelson cars made the cut, Shane Carey tallying 25 points from three heats to be second in Red group and the best-placed of the locals. Carey had a fourth, a third and a dominant victory from his three starts. Neville Wood also progressed safely from Red group, a second in race one his best finish.
Mark Carey qualified in fifth spot in White group, a strong third place in heat three enough to lift him into the finals field while Ian Burson kept his powder dry to go through in third place from Black group. An overwhelming 6 1/2sec victory in heat three showed Burson had tricks up the sleeve of his fire suit.
The support racing came from the midget class and stockcars.
While Nick Marquet officially only recorded one win from four starts, his form in round two of the club midget champs was impressive.
He held off a spectacular Dave Kerr in heat one, was bumped to fourth by the officials as Nevil Basalaj took heat two, chased Basalaj home again in heat three, then made a death-or-glory pass in the final corner to deny Dudley White a first win in the class in an extra race late in the programme.
Officials again saw Marquet's driving in a dim light, relegating him one placing with White scoring the win.
The stockcars carried over their points from Friday's early end and completed their triples promotion with the combination of Cody Teece, Dallas Murray and Daryl McDonald the overall champions. Justin Hearne's race win helped his team up to third.
Teece and Murray each won open races, along with Ben Smith and Christchurch's Paul Anderson, but that was as good as it got for Teece, a long-running feud with Blenheim's Ricco Gray costing Teece a 15-day suspension, which will rule him out of the Nelson club champs.
Smith's victory was another stunner, the young Ford pilot tracking Blenheim's Brent Goulding all the way to the line before spinning him out within sight of the flag.
The Nelson Mail