Tigers favour old methods

PETE MCNAE
Last updated 13:00 10/12/2012
Dale McKenzie
BARRY WHITNALL/Shuttersport
RACE FACE: Superstock driver Dale McKenzie focuses on his tasks as he prepares to race for the Nelson Tigers against the Wellington Wildcats.

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Technology was playing tricks on the Nelson Tigers, so they reverted to tried and true methods.

With the electronic lap scoring throwing up random results at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway on Saturday, the Tigers superstock team removed any input from cables and computers by giving the Wellington Wildcats an old-fashioned bum smack.

Wellington had travelled to the top of the south looking to do better than their round one effort in the Carter Cup, where Nelson posted a relatively comfortable win on the Wildcats' home track. Instead, they were royally served by a Tigers team smarting after a heavy loss to Palmerston North and a patchy outing in Christchurch.

Nelson turned in a balanced team performance with Brett Nicholls running for the flag and Dale McKenzie getting his car in the way of every car sporting a W. Their more experienced team-mates, Jared Gray and Dale Ewers, were free to roam between roles, Gray initially slapping aside Dale Robertson and Mike Pye before settling in to ride shotgun for Nicholls as Ewers battled a damaged car to dodge a huge swipe from Allen Levien and complete nine laps without a clutch or anything but top gear.

As the flag fell, Nelson had Nicholls and Gray classed as finishers, Ewers three laps down and running and McKenzie abandoned the immobile wreck of Pye's car to also cross the line, while Wellington's four cars (Paul Fairbrother never made it past the warm-up laps before the meeting) all left the track behind a tow truck.

McKenzie's drive was perhaps the most notable. The teenager is in just his second season and has very few teams races under his belts. Tested in the unfamiliar role as blockman he didn't miss a beat, sticking closely to the job description and hampering or haemorrhaging every one of the Wellington cars.

Superstock open racing saw a couple of the visitors able to get back on track, along with five cars from Christchurch, for a hit-to-pass series. However only Jason Smith in the 89C car truly troubled the lap scorers as hometown drivers controlled proceedings.

Thomas Stanaway was awarded the hit-to-pass prize, which combines race placings with points awarded for making contact with the opposition on the way through the field, Ewers and Blair Cunningham among the others favoured by the format.

Stanaway put the debate beyond doubt as he took out the flying farewell for the superstocks, Ewers, Smith and Craig Boote also right on the pace as teams tweak their cars for the New Zealand Home Loans NZ championships, to be held in Nelson on January 11-12.

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Championship season is also on the mind of competitors in the super saloon and stockcar classes. Kaiapoi's Woodford Glen is hosting the nationals for both classes and drivers are clocking up the kilometres to prepare for the main event.

The presence of Mark Osborne's new Hypermac super saloon added weight to a field of seven cars, Osborne chasing Ian Burson home in heat one, then catching a clean break to run away with race two. In the third, Osborne's car lasted just three laps, Burson winning the decider as Mark Carey and Robbie Flood fought over second place.

A stockcar field of 24 included five visiting drivers, Blenheim's Ralph Gillespie carrying the chequer twice, although one win rightfully belonged to Liam Smith. Official results reinstated Smith, who also won the third heat for the class.

In such a big field, something had to give, with Nick Brunning a target for the likes of Andre Evans and Craig Iles, Justin Hearne mixing it with a strangely subdued "Recca" Ricco Gray and Wayne (Wog) Martin coming off a sorry second-best when a freight train of cars powered into turn two and his was left rolled, bowled and on its side.

There was a rollover in the sidecar class, too, Noel Puklowski and swinger Ben Keys coming to grief not far from where Martin had his oopsy-daisy. They were quick to recover, winning the next heat in a field where there is little between the bikes of Puklowski-Keys, Adie Drake and Owen Hunter, Nathan Ching and swinger Justin Smith and the Daniel Satherley-Brent Steer-Tony McKenzie machine, this time with Steer on the handlebars.

In the second group of bikes, Neil Hill and Rodger Delany scored a hard-earned win while Blenheim's Lester Schroder and Mike Stevenson stepped up as Stevenson learned the fine art of hanging off a 1000cc motorcyle that races with no brakes and no downshifts with his face 10cm from a concrete pole line.

Streetstocks and production saloons completed Saturday's programme, the normally wild and woolly streeties being very well behaved while the productions veered into the Twilight Zone.

Streetstock wins went to Bradley Evans in his impressive hardtop Valiant, Neville Soper and Shannon Marr while round one of the production saloon club championships saw Steve Watson, Patrick Ward and Steve Russ gathering points.

However, Ward's win came in race that took 13min to complete and the first and third-placed drivers disqualified as the field of 15 seemed unable to form a straight line.

Following a yellow flag delay, drivers appeared incapable of getting back into their race positions and, when Jeremy Denley, then John Everett each jumped the start, they were sent infield. The race was eventually cut short with Ward leading after eight of the required 10 laps.

Perhaps New Zealand Cricket was in charge of that race?

Nelson speedway deviates from the normal fortnightly rotation when it races again this Saturday, hosting a round of the 20-car ELF Super Cup series for super saloons from 7pm. That will be the Nelson club's final meeting before Christmas, with racing to resume on December 29.

- The Nelson Mail

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