Fast and loose for title field

PETE MCNAE
Last updated 12:00 25/01/2014

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Take 80 drivers with an appetite for destruction, season with clay and concrete, fuel with caffeine and stand the hell clear.

Qualifying night for the Zumo New Zealand streetstock championship was all it was promised to be, fast and totally loose. Tonight, at Nelson's Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway, 26 of the best (and 28 from the rest) get to go a few more rounds of motorised mayhem.

The 26 for the final three heats that will decide the national champion were found last night, four groups getting three heats each to put points on the board. Six drivers came from each group, the last two finalists being the next highest-scoring non-qualifiers.

There will be no repechage; the 26 names posted on the results board last night stand unless there are defections arising from the heats, which were as tough as goats' knees.

Missing from the list is the current 2NZ, Gisborne's Aaron Brown, excluded from the second heat and cast into the Stampede field, for the non-qualifiers. Also on the outer are two of the three female competitors, Invercargill's Megan Molloy and Samantha Gowans from Christchurch. And a sizeable share of the hometown competitors, with six drivers making the second tier, while seven miss out altogether on any racing tonight.

That was not entirely surprising. Streetstock racing in Nelson has had its peaks and valleys and, while current numbers are steady and slowly growing, Canterbury, Dunedin, Gisborne and Rotorua seem to be able to mine an inexhaustible vein of fast Fords and hot Holdens.

Bel-Aire group led off last night's qualifying and appeared to lack the heavy hitters of the other three brackets, named in honour of championship sponsor, Nelson's Zumo Coffee. All four groups followed predictable patterns, a sizing-up in heat one, a squaring-off in heat two and a score-settling in heat three.

Dunedin's Paul Simon posted three good finishes in his Toyota V8 to comfortably move through on 53 points, ahead of clubmate and heat two winner Darrell Richards and Stratford's aggressive Chris Shingleton. Completing the top six to make the finals were Tom Earnslaw (Christchurch), Gisborne's Sean Gooch, a recent 2NZ, and Kihikihi entrant Daniel Curran.

Nelson had three runners in the Bel-Aire group, Cody McCarrison looking likely after heat one but being battered into submission while both Neville Soper and Ken Nolan took a lot of lumps.

Sumatra group featured New Zealand champion Steve de Malmanche, who went about his business tidily after a hesitant heat one. Two late wins meant he shared top qualifying spot in the group with Gisborne's Ben McArthur. They were hunted home by past national champion Simon Bland, Canterbury's David McSherry, Mitch Lavender from Dunedin and Nelson's Gordon Ingham. The 4N Falcon has been a frontrunner in Nelson for a number of seasons and Ingham, with two fifths and an eighth, advanced as the only qualifier from the host club.

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Kieran Skurr, seen earlier in Nelson as part of the Canterbury stockcar team, clambered through as a "lucky loser" with 43 points while among those sent to the Stampede were Trevor Nelson (engine fire), Molloy, and Nelson's Kyle Mooney. Patrick Anngow, another refugee from the stockcar ranks, was a constant thorn, pricking the hopes of many in Sumatra group before his Valiant expired.

Colombia group hosted the second de Malmanche, Trevor, who enhanced the family reputation with remarkable three-win sweep and a maximum 60 qualifying points. The current 3NZ led Invercargill's Arnie Tuhura, Russell Stewart of Dunedin, another deep southerner in Shanan Knight, Hawke's Bay's Darren Melling and Steve Jackson from Canterbury. Melling worked hard to make it through heat three when it appeared all of the South Island was hunting him.

Nelson's Josh Atkinson and Dan Kitto flirted with the top six but ultimately secured spots in the Stampede.

The last group, Perfect Bean, featured the unfortunate Brown, blackflagged out of heat two after a prolonged niggle with Canterbury one-man gang Shane Andrew. Brown should have walked through to tonight's finals but the dreaded blob on the scoreboard ended his chances.

Canterbury sent three more drivers to the finals with Robert McSherry leading home James Robinson and Steve Peterson. Perfect Bean had seven drivers advance, a tie for sixth between Steve Dryden (Invercargill) and Palmerston North's Dean Dingwall (the ultimate in streetstock driver surnames) sorted with both going through on points. Gisborne's Trevor McArthur also made the cut as did Dunedin hard charger Matt Stewart.

Aside from Ingham's qualification, the home club's highlight came in the last race of the night when "Flying Scotsman" Aaran Findlay won the third heat in his group at just his fifth race meeting in a streetstock. Findlay has looked better with each meeting and fended off Stewart for 20 points in race 18, enough to place him in the Stampede field alongside Nelson club champion Shannon Marr.

Tania Kitto, driving her Zumo-backed Falcon, was an early casualty, the car wrecked in heat one when she was driven into the wall by Dingwall, Andrew and McArthur administering the last rites.

Tonight's national championship will see the 26 finalists line up for 15-lappers as races 2, 9 and 16 on the programme. The Stampede, for the next 28 cars, will also be held over three 15-lap heats.

Support races last night included a rugged stockcar triples promotion and different winners for each of the three youth ministock races. Trey Kelling snatched the first when he dived down the inside to head off Luke Ewing, Brad Frost did something very similar in race two, then Shawn Pomeroy stretched away from Kelling and the consistent George Watson in the third.

Tasman Thunder stockcar team captain Justin Hearne still had his angry hat on in last night's three open races, rightly earning the stirrer's award. While wins went to rookie Brad Neiman (his first in the class), Ben Smith and Michael Paynter, the night became a free-for-all with Shane Brooks, Phil Krammer, Nick Brunning, Neiman and Liam Smith doling out the punishment.

Tonight's streetstock championship final meeting starts at 7pm at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway on Lansdowne Rd in Richmond.

- The Nelson Mail

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