Thunder leave nothing to fate

TONY COFFIN
Last updated 10:00 11/01/2014

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Nelson's Tasman Thunder hasn't spent a small fortune returning to Arena Manawatu for the national stockcar teams racing semifinals just to make up the numbers.

Rain a week ago curtailed the stockcar teams champs after qualifying, leaving Nelson needing to come up with more money for the return trip to Palmerston North.

Team captain Justin Hearne admitted it had been a stretch to get the cash together for the six cars and crew to get across Cook Strait but they weren't going to miss a shot at glory on their debut.

"We went back to some of our sponsors and they've been great helping us come back," Hearne said. "It's been a big ask with getting the cars and most of the crew back up here.

"But we're here to win and, despite what some of the sceptics may say, we've got the same chance as the other three teams."

With the winner of the stockcar teams' title hosting the Machinery Specialists champs the following year, Hearne said it would be an incredible boost for Nelson and the South Island to take the trophy home.

"To win in our first time here would be amazing," he said. "The chance to defend this title on our home track would be a huge boost for the class in Nelson."

Hearne said although they're still learning the ropes of teams racing, if luck goes their way they could surprise many of the vaunted North Island teams like the Palmerston North Pumas and their semifinal opponent, the Rotorua Rascals.

"We gave ourselves a bollocking after the race with Stratford when we thought we were leading and all raced for the flag, not realising we were half-a-lap behind three of their cars.

"But we've been given a second chance and we've learnt from our mistake and that at least two of our cars must stop and block even if we think we're in front."

Hearne said reading a teams race is the one area where they're still learning.

"It's not like individual racing where you just worry about yourself; in teams racing you've got to try to be aware of what's going on around you with your team-mates and the five opposition cars as well."

The Accessman Thunder stand out from all the opponents with their cars all painted bright yellow and team members dressed in the same coloured gear.

It's something Hearne said might need to change.

"It's been the same colour since we started teams' racing but we might need to put some more purple into the cars next season."

Hearne said it seems obvious that painting the cars black or a dark colour makes it more difficult for opponents to sight their targets in teams racing.

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All four semifinalists will field the same teams as last week, with the top qualifying Rotorua Rascals meeting fourth-placed Tasman, while the four-time champions Palmerston North Pumas face the impressive Stratford Stormers in the other semifinal. Racing begins at 6pm.

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.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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