Three weekends, a couple of thousand kilometres, a few thousand dollars and three top 10 finishes - it has been a hectic start to 2013 for Nelson speedway driver Shane Harwood.
The 25-year-old engineer runs two cars, a stockcar and the Bluebridge-ITM-Total superstock, and he has shuttled back and forth between the two as speedway's congested championship season hits full stride.
His first commitment was the New Zealand stockcar championship at Woodford Glen, near Kaiapoi. Harwood and Wayne Martin were the only two Nelson drivers to qualify, Harwood placing seventh overall.
The following week the Harwood team parked the stockcar and fronted for the New Zealand Home Loans NZ superstock championship on his home track. A first lap crash in the first finals heat wrecked a suspension component and, with it, went any chance of a top three finish. A second heat win and a steady final heat lifted Harwood to eighth, but the damage had been done in race one.
Last weekend, he was back at the Glen for the Leech Drainage New Zealand Superstock Grand Prix. A pesky misfire was not enough to stop him qualifying on Friday and the team had it sorted in time for Saturday's finals.
Again, luck deserted him in heat one.
Palmerston North's Jack Miers was spun and Harwood had nowhere to go but into the side of the 88P car, dropping him to the rear of the field. He clambered back to 12th in the 26-car field.
Heat two saw Nelson's Jared Gray win from the front row as Harwood moved through from ninth to second. The points after two heats had Palmerston North and Rotorua drivers in the box seat but, with seven cars in the field, there was an opportunity for Nelson's entrants to alter the outcome.
In the end, in stark contrast to heat three of the national championships here, little happened.
Points leader Chad Ace (Palmerston North) punctured halfway through the race, Gray's car blew a gearbox and Nelson's Ian Clayworth missed a gear off the start grid when he had planned to do some blocking in support of his team-mates.
Harwood ran solo for fourth in the race and fourth overall after Dale McKenzie and Blair Cunningham managed to hamper national champion Shane Penn in the last two laps.
Manawatu's Adam Joblin became the Grand Prix champion ahead of Scott Hewson of Rotorua with Penn third.
Harwood was pleased to have placed in the top 10 at each big meeting, but knows things could have played out differently.
"I know I gave 120 per cent each time but we had our issues, got tangled up when I shouldn't have, had that suspension collapse in the first finals heat [in Nelson]," he said.
"It gives you total respect for the drivers who get a podium because it's a bloody hard thing to achieve."
Harwood said he understood why his fellow clubmates ran their own race in heat three in Kaiapoi on Saturday, rather than blocking for him.
"I did the same thing in Nelson and I wouldn't ask any guy to wreck his car on my behalf," he said. "It would have helped and it would have been nice but I have no complaints about how things panned out."
Falling in the week between the New Zealand champs and next week's world 240 meeting in Rotorua, there was very little intentional crashing at the Grand Prix, most of the action coming courtesy of a rutted track that proved hard on parts.
Harwood will be gridding up in Rotorua next weekend, travelling back to Nelson for a club night on February 2, then hoping to be part of the Nelson Tigers at the teams nationals in Palmerston North on February 8-9.
"It's busy, busy, busy but we're enjoying it and we like getting around the tracks with the car," he said.
"We haven't had any huge damage and we are on the road with the family so it's all good fun at the moment.
"I wouldn't mind getting a top three somewhere soon, though."
In Saturday's support races, Nelson super saloon driver Ian Burson continued to hone his race preparation for next month's national championships with a fourth (from the rear of the grid), two wins and a series of fastest laps.
The poor track conditions hampered the lightweight 800 horsepower super saloons, but Burson was happy with his night's work.
"If I keep it straight, it goes fast," Burson said. "It's not that spectacular but it works and that's where it is going to matter."
- The Nelson Mail