Nelson round done and dusted
There will always be casualties of war.
So, it came as no surprise on Saturday that a potential field of 18 starters in the Tyre General War of the Wings sprintcar series became eight finishers at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway.
A couple of cars did not even make it to the track, Palmerston North's Brian Menefy suffering damage at Friday night's Blenheim round of the 10-meeting, seven-track series, while a car that had been tabbed for top Nelson stockcar driver Cody Teece blew a diff at the same meeting and could not be repaired.
Qualifying took place over six heats with accumulated points deciding grid positions for the 20-lap final. Only one more car failed to make it through the heat stage, former international cricketer Nathan Astle riding the wall in Gun Club Corner and bending the rear end of his Challenge-Triple XXX out of alignment.
The rest of the field of winged open wheelers appeared fast. But then, there was "Ray Baughan fast".
While Nelson's Greg Teece, Jason Scott from Cromwell and Ashburton driver Matt Honeywell were impressive in qualifying, Teece continuing his strong form from the first two rounds of the series with a pair of heat victories, Baughan was on another plane.
A relegation for being too aggressive while passing cost him an opening win but there was no reining in the 800 horses in Baughan's Mopar engine. He set the fastest laps of the night and managed to earn a front row start for the final , alongside Teece, whose only hope was to chase hard and hope for a mistake.
The Nelson driver gave himself a shot with a psychic reaction to the green flag that got him away on lap one, but Baughan went by after a lap and was steadily pulling clear when the race started to come unglued on lap eight. Cromwell's Daniel Anderson spun in turn four and was collected by Scott, while six other cars spun out to avoid contact.
On the restart, Teece got close to the leader again as Cromwell's Andy Erskine tagged the wall but Baughan was beginning to march clear until he made an error on lap 13. Diving down the inside of backmarker Scott Gordon (Invercargill), Baughan's car and the lapped car made solid contact, the crash ending Baughan's race, spoiling a shot at big points in the series.
Teece was poised and precise as he held off Scott and Honeywell over the final seven laps, a period which was marked by a frightening moment when the right front wheel on the car of Nelson's Brett Sullivan came off, bounced over the safety fence into the spectator area and cleared the toilet block before landing in the carpark.
Teece's victory, while fortunate, was no fluke. The Nelson engineer has now won two rounds and is a very tidy operator in the Aimex-Triple XXX. Workmate Kris Gerard came home in an impressive fourth place with Greg Clemence from Canterbury filling out the top five.
The $60,000 series looks set to become an annual event and, due to superior track preparation from Murray Teece, didn't look out of place on the tight Nelson speedway.
Despite the presence of the sprintcars, Saturday's meeting became more of a marathon, with the Nelson club working overtime to get three other feature promotions through.
Nick Marquet is the 2012-13 club midget champion and Jack's Tyres performer of the night after three flawless drives resulted in three heat victories. A small, but perfectly formed, field contested the championship with Marquet and rival Nevil Basalaj swapping the lead frequently in heat one before Basalaj pushed too hard, clipped the wall and dumped his car heavily.
His crew managed to fix the rollover damage well enough to make the other two heats but Marquet proved untouchable, claiming the honours from Dunedin's Gavin Wilkie, with Basalaj securing enough points from two finishes to place third overall.
The stockcar triples drew 27 starters with Whanganui's Kyle Heibner and a pair of Blenheim entrants bolstering the strong Nelson ranks.
With miniature teams races taking place on every lap, wins were a precious commodity, both Ben Smith and Ben Taylor opting for the spectacular smash when points were just around the corner. Smith, Blenheim's Ralph Gillespie and first-time stockcar winner Andre Evans got to carry the flag but the teamwork of Dallas Murray, Andrew Quy and Nick Brunning earned the overall honours.
The other class with silverware at stake was the sidecars, where riders and swingers contested the Mark Thorn Memorial. Competitors of the night award winners Adie Drake and Owen Hunter completed a sweep of the series, winning all their heats with room to spare, with Daniel (Sav) Satherley and passenger Tony McKenzie the best of the chasers.
A huge turnout in the youth ministock class saw young Connor Rangi score the first victory of his brief career. Less than an hour later, he had another, showing good car control as he held off the likes of Roydon Winstanley and race one winner Brad Neiman. Club officials took a firm line with driver discipline in the field of 22 with relegations and disqualifications affecting some results.
Others to show out alongside Rangi included Leitham Schwass, Shawn Pomeroy and Kohu Whalon.
The final field on show was a tight group of TQ midgets, although the field would have been smaller if Nelson's James Nicholson had not gone to great lengths to get back from Thailand in time for Saturday's meeting. He was rewarded with a second and two thirds as clubmate Jason Riley won twice and Canterbury's Kyle Glover claimed the other.
The next Nelson meeting will see a return race in a new superstock series with the Wellington Wildcats crossing over to take on the Nelson Tigers on December 8.
The Nelson Mail