Cinders set to fly at opening meet
Riders will crank into gear for the first time this season at the Oreti Park Speedway tomorrow night.
The summer season of racing will open up with the Brian Reed Memorial Trophy for solos, with the sidecars, juniors, and solo classics also competing.
The solo field will be headlined by Christchurch-based Grant Tregoning, who is contracted to Oreti Park Speedway. Tregoning is one of the premier solo riders in the country, and his lap record of 16.66 seconds could well be threatened. Tregoning has switched from a Jawa to a GM engine this season and it has reaped positive results for him early in the season in Christchurch.
He will be duelling it out with defending Brian Reed Memorial Trophy champion Dale Finch from Christchurch, Invercargill riders Paul Hayes, John Tuffley and young gun Hayden Sims for the title. Also noteworthy are Alex Cunningham, back after a year in the United Kingdom, and promising young rider Connor Spriggs.
In the sidecars, Aiden Thwaites and Daniel Gillett look the team to beat after registering sharp times in a meet at Moore Park in Christchurch over Labour weekend.
Thwaites' brother, Luke, and Neville Chalmers will be aiming to make it tough for them, while the experienced pairing of Fraser Gillespie and Nigel Cuckow always command respect.
Warren Shuttleworth, who has taken over from Gillespie as president of the Oreti Park club this year, anticipated some close fought races.
"We're all teed up and ready to go. Some of the boys are lacking a few practices, because we've had to cancel a few practices with the weather.
"The track is looking pretty good. We've done a bit of work around the pits and the sheds [over the winter]."
Oreti Park Speedway will host several important meets of the summer, with the glamour event being the Speedway Spectacular, during the Burt Munro Challenge on November 24. The best young solo riders in the country will be in the south on December 8, when the New Zealand under-21 championship is contested. Several promising North Island riders are set to feature, including Sean Mason, Bradley Wilson-Dean, and Brady Mudgway. Sims, Spriggs, Jack MacRae, Jeremy Godfrey and Daniel Shuttleworth are expected to fly the Southland flag.
Plenty of interest will also surround the Malcolm Officer Memorial Trophy event for sidecars on February 16. Shuttleworth said they would be holding an international solos competition on the same night, with many top-level riders from the United Kingdom venturing out to compete.
"Apart from the World Grand Prix in Auckland, they're as good as you'll see riding here," he said.
Tomorrow night's racing begins at 4pm, with the cost being $15 for adults and a gold coin for people under 16 years of age.
ORETI PARK SPEEDWAY KEY DATES
November 10: Brian Reed Memorial Trophy for solos November 24: Burt Munro Challenge Speedway Spectacular December 8: New Zealand under-21 solo championship January 19: New Year Pairs Meet February 2: Peter Blick Memorial Trophy for sidecars/ Southland solo championship February 16: Malcolm Officer Memorial for sidecars March 2: Southland sidecar championship March 16: Southland Times South Island sidecar championship
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