A lot to like about opening night

PETE MCNAE
Last updated 13:00 29/10/2012
Nelson speedway

MISSING PERSON: Rider Noel Puklowski looks back to see swinger Ben Keys skidding across the track surface during the sidecar heats at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway. Photo: BARRY WHITNALL/SHUTTERSPORT

Nelson speedway
GRINDING HALT: A heavy shunt into the wall was enough to end the night’s racing for Nelson streetstock driver Hamish Tomlinson.

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Facebook has become our emotional compass. People hook up, get knocked up and break up through its pages.

And if the traffic on the social site yesterday was any indication, a lot of folk were clicking LIKE in response to the Nelson Speedway Association's opening meeting.

Saturday's racing was shrouded by cloud, a steady shower 90 minutes before flag fall keeping away a few fans, but the thousands who made it to the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway were treated to good fields, new highs in presentation and preparation and the always-impressive Coca Cola fireworks display.

Blustery winds almost resulted in the fireworks being shelved to a later date, but meeting organisers grabbed a gap in the gusts to stage the popular show.

The club rattled through 21 races without incident, although some early-season setup issues with electronic transmitters created the odd random outcome, a situation solved by Nelson's hardworking team of lap scorers.

There's always one or two racers who get the jump on the others on opening night, with the two teams to stand out on Saturday being Blenheim streetstocker Matt Watson and the sidecar pairing of Adie Drake and Owen Hunter.

Watson claimed the season's first chequered flag and went on to sweep all three races, his Falcon panel van chopping under the lap record as well. Best of the chasers were Ryan Bowater and Shannon Marr, while Jon Jimmink was the favoured target, feeling the squeeze from Watson, Ryan Musgrove and Cody McCarrison. The meeting ended abruptly for Hamish Tomlinson, his Valiant christening the turn four wall, head-on.

Drake was an instant hit as a rider after many seasons as a swinger on the former 2NZ Suzuki sidecar, teaming with Hunter for wins in the first two races. But there was no catching Noel Puklowski and Ben Keys in the final race, the new pair prevailing in a very tight field. Puklowski was returning to the sport after a long absence and Keys had made the transition from stockcars. Their season started with Keys skipping like a smooth stone on a lake across the track when he was dumped off the chair, but they rebounded to take the last race.

Not so lucky was the combination of Neil Hill and Rodger Delany, an infield prang prompting both men to seek the services of the St John Ambulance crew.

There was less carnage in the classes where collisions are not just allowed, they are expected; the superstocks and stockcars.

A field of 14 superstocks started the meeting with race one winner Nick Fowler failing to return after his initial success due to an ignition fault in his car's Chev V8.

The other wins went to Shane Harwood and Jared Gray, both drivers making the Tigers team to fight for the Challenge Cup against Palmerston North at Nelson's next meeting. Harwood's win was officially awarded to Blair Cunningham in another computer quirk, but Cunningham will be happy enough to have also made the Tigers, along with Carey Harwood and Ian Clayworth.

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In an impressive opening night show of commitment, the stockcars just kept rolling through the pit gates, with a final field of 21, including Blenheim visitors Ralph Gillespie, Ricco Gray and Steve Biddulph. Gillespie appeared to have earned one win but final results saw Cody Teece win twice and set the fastest laps each time while Nick Brunning scored his first win in the class and added a second and a third. Brunning was field fodder last year in his first car but a change to a Ford 6 purchased from Hawke's Bay has moved him straight to the head of the pack.

Race three for the class was the most hectic of the meeting, Levi Collier slamming the wall, Ben Smith mixing it with Adam Hall and Biddulph taking a rapid ride through the infield without brakes before he piledrived into the stationary car of Wayne Martin.

Speedway's next generation welcomed five new drivers as the youth ministocks contested the ProKarts best pairs promotion. Drivers were drawn into invisible pairs with the results of the combined points only revealed after the meeting.

Brad Neiman was the most impressive individual with a full set of first, second and third placings, team-mate George Watson sharing the load as they ended as the top pairing.

Keightley Teece also scored a win and was second overall with Willy Delany, while Roydon Winstanley took out the second race. Both Neiman and Teece scored their first wins in their race career. Third overall with a string of solid finishes were Dylan Clarke and Brittany Carpenter, Clarke logging the quickest laps for the class.

Three seconds a lap quicker, however, was the 800-odd horsepower Corvette super saloon of Ian Burson. With two wins from three races, Burson again looked likely to dominate the small fields in Nelson, but he had to concede one win to Mark Carey, who drove immaculately on the inside line, forcing Burson out to the marbles near the concrete wall where the 800 neddies were more of a hindrance than a help.

Production saloons completed the card and managed a notable early-season achievement with every listed driver fronting for the first race.

While the Black Racing Team's five-car transporter was a daunting sight, and a nightmare to pass on Queen Street in Richmond, they were forced to share the wins around, Mike Arnold getting one for BRT before Steve Russ and Jared Blanchet came through in the later heats.

Nelson's next meeting is scheduled for November 10 when the formidable Palmerston North Panthers superstock team crosses the strait to take on the Tigers.

- The Nelson Mail

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