Every silver lining has a cloud. And, for national three-quarter midget champion Dylan MacGregor, the only possible cloud in his career is that he is going to have a hard time replicating his 2012-13 speedway season.
The 32-year-old Gisborne resident took out the TQ trifecta last season; the New Zealand championship, the New Zealand Grand Prix and the North Island title. That is a remarkable list, given the strength and depth of the class at Western Springs, in Hawke's Bay, and at Ruapuna in Christchurch.
But MacGregor is no one-hit wonder.
Since he ran third at Nelson in the 2010-11 New Zealand championship meeting, he has racked up the rewards with amazing consistency.
Tomorrow, he leads the list of 32 entrants in the Oxford Court Motel New Zealand TQ Grand Prix to be held at Nelson's Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway. MacGregor is not putting the cart before the horse(power).
"I have 1NZ on the car, but this is a new season. We start from scratch, trying to win it again," he said.
Frustrated by a lack of cars at his home track, MacGregor and his dad now roll through to Auckland's Western Springs - a six-and-a-half hour drive each way - to be part of the strongest open-wheel fields in the country.
"You need that exposure to big fields of top cars," he said. "You need to get better in traffic and you need to gauge yourself against the other really quick cars before the championship meetings come round.
"That's part of the reason we like to get down to the South Island, to see what they are up to in Christchurch and Nelson and get familiar with the surface and the setup."
The strong field at tomorrow's grand prix meeting has meant an earlier start to accommodate qualifying.
The field will be split into two groups, and racing will start at 6pm to get four qualifying heats through before the traditional 7pm meeting start.
Nine cars will come out of each group from the heats, then the final two will be added through a repechage.
The finals will see 20 cars racing in three heats for accumulated points to find the grand prix champion.
While MacGregor wants to be that person, he has not had the best start to the season.
After winning a feature race in Hawke's Bay, his two visits to the Springs have been dogged by car trouble.
An engine swap was made before the team left Gisborne this week, and he will still be running in the car through qualifying.
"I think there was a blown head gasket for the last four or five meetings, the car was getting very hot and I wasn't finishing races," he said.
He needs to turn around that run of results quickly to defend his grand prix title in his TQ, which is backed by BSL, Kip McGrath Learning Centres, Jetwash, Nomac Upholsterers and MacGregor's own business, DJ Mac Automotive Paint and Repair.
"There are a couple of Todds and Rachel Melrose coming, plus those South Island drivers who know the track and have got a lot of laps on board already," MacGregor said.
"I'd like to think I'll be in the mix but we are just happy to be back in Nelson.
"The club and the weather and the welcome make the trip for me, and the results have just been a bonus."
Oxford Court Motel NZ TQ Grand Prix, qualifying tomorrow from 6pm, gates open at 5pm. Also featuring superstock club championships.
- © Fairfax NZ News