Thunder dig deep to return for final
The Tasman Thunder have been turning pockets inside out, emptying the swear jar and digging down the side of the sofa to travel back to Palmerston North tomorrow.
The Nelson-based stockcar team is facing another cross-strait trip after the finals of the Machinery Specialists national teams racing championship were delayed a week by poor weather.
The Thunder made the top four in tier one, and towed home this week to check over their cars before turning around and heading back to Manawatu.
It's an expensive exercise - around $6000 in travel and accommodation alone - but manager Doug Morris said there was no suggestion the yellow cars would bypass the semifinals.
"It's an unfinished project," he said. "Our goal on debut at the nationals was to show we belonged there - now the goal is to complete what we have started."
The Accessman Tasman Thunder - captain Justin Hearne, Cody Teece, Adam Hall, Michael Paynter, Phil Krammer, Keightley Teece and seventh driver Liam Smith - took twists and turns on their way to the top four.
They raced Auckland in their first appearance at the national championships, and initially appeared to have suffered a close loss, with an Alleycats car first across the line. But that result was rapidly erased when the meeting referee decided Paynter had been illegally blocked while leading on the last lap, Tasman being elevated to a 1-2-3-4 finish.
Needing a solid result in their second outing, against Stratford, Tasman almost threw away their hard work with an ineffectual effort. The Taranaki cars were allowed to circulate safely as Tasman raced in a pack, half a lap apart from their opposition.
"It was a race we misread," Morris said.
"There was contact, but we'll take it on the chin and know that we can't allow that again this weekend or we will be on the trailers."
Tasman sneaked into the top four when a Hawke's Bay driver was relegated in the last race of qualifying night, costing his team a semifinal spot.
As fourth qualifiers, the Thunder have to square off with the highly-ranked Rotorua team in a semifinal on Saturday. Titleholders Palmerston North will meet Stratford in the other semifinal.
Morris said tactics had already been discussed, while the final five to meet the Rascals would be revealed on the track. Last weekend, Tasman lost teenage flyer Keightley Teece when his car's engine blew on the warmup laps. Teece has sourced another engine and will take his place on the Bluebridge ferry tomorrow.
The Teece family's commitment to get two cars back to the meeting was typical of the Thunder's attitude, Morris said. "It's not just the drivers, it's the behind-the-scenes people, the families, sponsors and supporters, who are getting us back up there.
"The dedication can't be questioned but, financially, we are emptying the accounts.
"We have a little donation site running through our Facebook page if anyone is able to give anything at all, because it has honestly been a case of beg, borrow and steal to race again this weekend."
The Tasman Thunder race with the backing of Accessman, Top of the South Nelson Speedway, Speights Ale House (Nelson), Footie Signs and Design, Pub Charity, Pro Karts, Hanmer Holiday Homes, Richmond Fibreglass and Nelson Vehicle Logistics.