Sons put it on the line for stocks
The Martins from Westport don't need family reunions, they just schedule a speedway meeting.
Between them, they make up three-fifths of the stockcar class at Sunset Speedway, along with a ministock driver, the clerk of the course, the track preparation guy and the food shop staff.
This weekend most of the Martins will travel through the Buller Gorge to be part of the Nelson Mail Stock Shock, the final meeting of the season at Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway. The meeting, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, has drawn a field of close on 50 stockcars, competing in four groups on the first night in an effort to qualify for Saturday's showdown.
Having been here twice already this season, the Martin clan have won fans with their no-fear, no-frills racing. They generally haul bent cars home but their approach never varies - stockcars have bumpers for a reason.
"I love putting a shot on a guy, but I don't mind getting hit, either," said 21-year-old Sean, the second of four sons.
"We are pretty good at looking out for each other. If someone hits one of us, one of the other brothers tries to get payback."
Martin said mum Tina and dad Brian were involved years ago, when Westport's Wishart Raceway was in good shape, especially in the saloon and solo bike classes. Brian raced stockcars but, in latter years, there was only one car competing regularly out at Sunset.
That's until the Martins got involved again, all of them. Sean and older brother Glen, who turns 23 on Friday, started in ministocks, then stepped up to stockcars. Younger brother Daniel, 17, came through the youth ministock ranks and there's a fourth boy, Nathan, 15, following the same path.
"I'd put a chainsaw through my knee and was a bit bored so I went along to speedway to fill in a day," Sean said.
"I thought ministocks looked the go but I was always in trouble for contact so I got a stocky, Glen got a stocky, Daniel was in the ministock by then and suddenly we had a shed full of gear."
Sean's first car was a nightmare, unreliable and frustrating. Both he and his big brother stepped up to cars that had been owned locally but were running among stronger fields in Greymouth. Daniel soon graduated to Sean's first car, running properly by then after Bryan Shaw worked on it and the Rover V8 engine had been biffed.
This season the three Martins, along with Jamie Boulton, Glenn Reardon and Christchurch recruits Dylan and Harley Robb have teams raced as the Sunset Slayers, losing a brutal race on debut to Greymouth before scoring their first win over the Tasman Thunder. All seven Slayers have entered Stock Shock.
"We have to race away from Westport to learn," Martin said. "I want to enter the New Zealands next year so I need to get in a field with a lot more cars and a lot better cars.
"When there's just the five of us racing at home, we play around and put on a bit of a show without the big wind-offs but the teams races were a different deal - we actually had to go hard."
So hard that Martin put Greymouth's Gill Simpson up the wall and through the fence on lap one of the race against the Grizzlies in February. That was payback for the Queen's Birthday meeting two seasons ago when Martin was concussed as he was the sole Westport car in a field full of Greymouth entries. Later in the February meeting, Daniel rolled another Greymouth car, putting the driver in hospital with a broken collarbone.
On one recent visit to Nelson, Sean saw Ben Taylor take a shot at a sibling.
He aimed for retribution but chose an outside line in a car that was running badly and paid the price, Taylor dealing the Westport car a meaty blow in turn three.
"That's how you learn, I won't do that again this weekend unless I know I'm going to come off a bit better," he said.
With the current 1NZ Jayden Ward in the field, along with an impressive entry list drawn from tracks around the country, it is unlikely any of the Westport cars will be around when the prize money is being shared.
Martin and his fellow Slayers are happy, for now, to be part of a rebirth of racing in Buller.
"We started off trying to just get some cars on the track. Then it was our first teams race, then our first win. We've been to Nelson twice and Greymouth twice and now we are going to be part of Stock Shock.
"Next year, Nelson will have the New Zealands and I will have a new car for that, Nathan will be in a stockcar and dad will do a few meetings in one, so it's gathering a bit of speed," he said.
Sean Martin and his brothers race with the support of BP2Go Westport proprietors Raymond and Tracey Gibson and pit crew Barry. Follow their progress on The Boys at the Shed page on Facebook.
Also featuring this weekend is a 30-car field in the Ewing Poultry Ministock Mania, the Barry Butterworth Trophy for midgets and visiting competitors in all classes. Racing starts at 7pm each night.