Tuffley out to beat idol in longtrack racing
Only the tiniest margin separated Invercargill's John Tuffley and former New Zealand speedway legend Larry Ross in the longtrack solo racing at last year's Burt Munro Challenge.
It should be a similar situation tonight when the seventh version of the challenge cranks into gear at the Ascot Park Raceway.
Ross ended up getting the better of Tuffley in the three-race New Zealand longtrack championship, but it was the Southlander who had the last laugh in the one-off solo Grand Prix race.
The talented riders will again shape as the men to beat in the longtrack solo class tonight.
Tuffley said the addition of a second heat in the New Zealand Grand Prix event should make for some interesting racing.
"Last year we were 2-all after four races. There is five [races] this year, so one of us will have to come out on top."
Tuffley said Ross, who won a record nine New Zealand championships between 1976 and 1990 and competed professionally for four teams in the British national speedway league, was one of his idols growing up and a key reason why he got into the sport.
He admitted it was a thrill to race against the sprightly 58-year-old during last year's challenge and expected some close competition tonight.
"He's someone I looked up to. I've got a lot of respect for Larry," Tuffley said.
"When I went to Christchurch as an 18-year-old, Larry was the man. He was still racing professionally in England. Nobody was beating him."
Tuffley holds the longtrack solos lap record at Ascot Park Raceway, registering a sharp time of 28.08secs in last year's challenge.
One of his major motivations tonight will be to not only claim the New Zealand championship and Grand Prix titles, but also shatter his top time.
The 1000m longtrack is more than double the size of a typical speedway track, which is usually about 400m. Riders will complete three laps around the circuit tonight during a race.
Tuffley said they were capable of clocking over 200kmh on the home straight and there was little margin for error.
"It comes down to the bike set-up.
"You can gear it to go a bit quicker.
"It's about being able to go into those corners and hold that speed is the trick."
As a proud Southlander, Tuffley said it was an honour to race in the Burt Munro Challenge. He believed the "God of Speed" would be humbled by the event's growth since it was first established in 2006.
"I'd say he would be rapt with it. As a kid I remember Burt. I used to walk past his house going to school," he said, laughing.
- © Fairfax NZ News