Harwood conquers his fears in Battle of Stocks
The drought broke at Woodford Glen on Saturday.
Not that it rained, just that Nelson superstock driver Shane Harwood finally took a long overdue step up to the top tier of the podium.
Harwood has had an impressive summer, with a string of top 10 finishes behind him at all of the major meetings he contested, the highlight - before the weekend - a third place at the World 240s in Rotorua in January.
But on Saturday, Harwood and his Bluebridge-ITM-Total Toyota V8 superstock had a breakthrough win in the Battle of the Stocks at AmPro Tools Woodford Glen Speedway near Kaiapoi.
The Battle of the Stocks is an invitation event which sees 16 North Island drivers drawn in pairs with 16 South Island competitors. Three heats are raced on Friday with three more on Saturday, drivers gathering points for their pair in each race.
Harwood was drawn with Palmerston North driver Shaun Pearson but, when Pearson's car had a major engine issue in heat one, Campbell McManaway was called on to fill the gap. The Invercargill driver had his car in Christchurch on its way to its new home in Nelson and he stepped in to race as Harwood's offsider.
Harwood had his best finish, a win, in heat two and his worst, an 11th, in heat three on opening night. But he was strong all the way through Saturday's meeting to tally 179 points, four clear of the next highest individual scorer, Manawatu's Simon Joblin.
McManaway had a tough time of it and could only contribute 48 points, leaving the pair in fourth overall.
Harwood was suitably chuffed with his effort in such a high-quality field.
"The boys said I have finally got over my fear of heights and got to the top of the podium," he said.
The leading pair honours came down to the final heat with national superstock champion Shane Penn and drawn partner Craig Boote having a narrow edge on the chasers. But Boote did not make it out the pit gate for the last race and, despite Penn working his way through the field for 25 points, they were overhauled by Simon Joblin and team-mate Malcolm Ngatai, each driver a past national champion.
Penn and Boote - who have four New Zealand championships between them - were second, with heat six winner Phil Ogle (Stratford) and Nelson's Ricky Boulton third.
Saturday's racing was a clean affair, compared with the Friday when Ngatai had been rolled, although Boote was targeted by Canterbury's Noel Inns and McManaway's car sported a badly bent siderail along with its SOLD sign.
Nelson's drivers had a difficult run with Boote, Brett Nicholls and Blair Cunningham all falling by the wayside during Saturday's meeting, Jared Gray, Thomas Stanaway and Nick Fowler working hard but without notable success and Ian Clayworth injured out of the event on Friday.
A race stoppage in heat three brought on the red lights and, when the field was sent on its way again, Rotorua's Lance Ashton was left immobile in the middle of the front straight. Clayworth, who had been accelerating from further back down the track, piled into the back of Ashton's car, knocking out the North Islander, with the Nelson man suffering a damaged ankle.
Aucklander Gary Ellis competed in - and completed - his 20th Battle of the Stocks meeting, having never missed one, a feat matched by Cantabrian Peter Field whose racing ended when he was shoved up the wall in turn one early in Saturday's meeting.
The final official meeting of the Nelson speedway will be run this Saturday with the modifieds coming to town for the Classic Hits War of the Wings.