The Tasman Thunder stockcar team impressed in all but two of their races on the West Coast over the weekend. Unfortunately, those two races were the reason they travelled.
Teams races against the Greymouth Grizzlies on Saturday and Westport's Sunset Slayers yesterday each went the way of the home team, in almost identical fashion. The fact the Thunder drivers came out later and stamped their mark on the open races, winning all but one, will be small consolation.
But, while the AccessHire Thunder were disappointed their travelling squad of 10 could not get the job done, both the Grizzlies and Slayers worked hard for their wins. Tasman chose to split their team, racing five cars in Greymouth on Saturday and a different five against the Slayers 90 minutes up the coast road.
Ignoring the blots on their race record, the exercise was worthwhile. The likes of Andre Evans and Brad Neiman could have cracked the regular rotation at any stage of the current speedway season, yet they had got to mid March without having a single teams race. The squad concept that had meant the Thunder had become a close unit off track also meant the chance to race in Tasman yellow was worth grabbing.
The Grizzlies and Slayers simply did not read the script.
In trying to regain the Suspension Developments Trophy, Greymouth had one car upside down and another locked into the front of Cody Teece's Thunder car, yet they stuck rigidly to their race plan and shepherded Tony Stanton across the line almost untouched.
The Thunder, who chose to rest Keightley Teece, first lost Adam Hall, whose car threw a main belt just after he had taken the race lead, then Cody Teece was gone, pinned against the wall by Dwayne Honey.
Greymouth's Hadleigh Smith was rolled, following the pair of Stanton and Phil Krammer into the turn three wall and turning turtle, then Krammer (Tasman) and Chris Baxter (Greymouth) had their cars expire.
What began as five on five was down to two aside with Justin Hearne trying to run down a fleeing Stanton while Brad Neiman and Brian Hahn blocked and battled. But the laps ticked away without the Thunder cars being able to lay a bumper on Stanton, the Grizzlies celebrating a race that went largely to plan.
In subsequent open races, Keightley Teece scored a win and Hearne was right among the placings but Neiman suffered a back injury that took a worrying amount of time to treat. He was taken to hospital and X-rayed but discharged late Saturday with bruising.
Wounded, the Thunder towed through to Westport that night to prepare for an historic first race against the young and willing Slayers, who had only done one race together previously, losing to Greymouth.
Keightley Teece came into the team alongside Evans, Dylan Hall, Peter Roach and Shane Brooks as Westport countered with two Martins, two Robbs and Jamie Boulton.
Roach continued his rapid running from Saturday by leading out for half the race but once he was blocked, then withdrew with a damaged lift arm, Slayers leader Sean Martin slipped through for a lead he never surrendered.
Evans was a busy blocker and put a clean shot on Glen Martin's car that almost collapsed the left-hand side, Martin sent infield with two flats, no rear wheelgate and a side rail like a staple. The aggressive Dylan Hall and Dylan Robb tangled and Brooks managed to tie up Harley Robb but, through the clouds of sand, Sean Martin reeled off the laps.
The Slayers' only slight flutter came when a mass pile-up 10m short of the finish briefly delayed Martin, but he pushed through the pack for the win, Westport's first in a new era for the club.
All three open races were won by Thunder cars, Keightley Teece getting two before sitting out the third, taken out by Phil Krammer. Daniel Martin managed a one-man roll and Evans was hurt when he was drilled while parked.
The other Nelson drivers in action on the Coast were TQ midget competitors Alicia McLauchlan and Hayden Mortimer, who went to Greymouth to join a strong field for the Jim Bradford Memorial.
With Canterbury cars setting the pace, the best the Nelson pair could manage was top six heat finishes but McLauchlan did end up tied for fourth overall, a promising result with Greenstone Park hosting the national title next season.