A little luck and a lot of pluck - that's the recipe for racing speedway sprintcars.
The lightweight open wheelers have engines producing upwards of 800 horsepower while wings on the nose and the roll cage generate huge downforce so the cars stick to the track like chewing gum on a jandal.
Nelson's Greg Teece comes from a rallying background but he has learned the hard way that what works in a Toyota Starlet on a closed road doesn't always translate to a sprintcar on clay.
"I've been upside down twice and hit the wall pretty hard another time," Teece said. "They bite if you get it wrong for a fraction of a second."
Teece had the right combination of confidence and courage last weekend, though, when the 27-year-old engineer won the opening round of the General Tyres "War of the Wings" outlaw sprintcar series at Templeton's Ruapuna Raceway. He earned a front-row starting spot for the final after performing well in his three heats, then took out the 20-lapper when Palmerston North's Bryan Menefy was sent to the back for causing a collision.
That is where Teece cashed in his chance card. Initially, he was blamed for the incident and sent to the rear but a camera man was able to show frame-by-frame footage that proved the Nelson man was an innocent bystander.
"As they were push-starting me after I stalled, I was so angry. I was swearing inside my helmet and they were threatening to black flag me," he said. "It's a pretty rare thing that they would reverse a decision like that, so I had some luck on my side."
Teece, who leases a car from Kevin Freeman, his employer at Aimex in Port Nelson, held off a charge from Ashburton's Matt Honeywell to tie up the round one lead in the 10-meeting, seven-track series which boasts a $60,000 prize pool.
Rain and hail just before the meeting saw drivers spend an hour packing the track to salvage a racing surface and Teece said passing became difficult once a large cushion of clay built up, reducing the track to one lane.
"It was good to have some points on the board from the heats and a good grid for the final because it was always going to be hard to make a lot of passes."
This weekend, the travelling troupe race at Blenheim tonight, then at Nelson's Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway from 7pm tomorrow. Teece and car owner Freeman are keen to keep the momentum going in their territory.
"I've raced on Nelson with four cars, not 15, and brushed the wall and I haven't tried Blenheim and those huge straights so it's going to be a busy learning weekend. There's an opportunity for guys to make a big move in the series."
Freeman has a second car in the field, being run by another Aimex staff member and rally refugee in Kris Gerard, while fellow Nelson entrant Brett Sullivan's father, Steve, is Freeman's business partner. Both Freeman and Sullivan Sr raced multiple classes in Nelson. There is also a possible - and secret - late entry from a fourth Nelson driver who is usually a frontrunner in another class.
"The series is certainly the way to go," Teece said. "The field we had in Christchurch was very competitive. Guys will find tracks they like or get the setup spot on and you will see different guys coming through at different rounds."
General Tyres "War of the Wings" sprintcar series, backed by Rattle and Hum Bar in Nelson, 7pm tomorrow, Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway.
- The Nelson Mail