In-form Steve Williams top pick

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012

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Kiwi golfing caddy Steve Williams will be the big drawcard at Invercargill's Riverside Speedway tonight when the top saloon car drivers in the country roll into town.

The South Island speedweek cranked into gear in Dunedin last night and will visit five different tracks this week, culminating in the final round at Blenheim on Sunday. The drivers will be at Cromwell's Central Motor Speedway tomorrow.

Williams, who is caddying for Australian golfer Adam Scott after previously carrying the bag of Tiger Woods from 1999 to 2011, is a keen speedway enthusiast and will be one of the drivers to beat.

He will arrive at Riverside with some impressive form behind him in his Ford Mustang after winning the Canterbury Championships at Christchurch's Woodford Glen Speedway last Saturday, then winning a 29-lap race at Greymouth, 24 hours later.

A classy field of 25 drivers has been assembled for this week's DHL-sponsored speedweek, and series manager Wes Hughes said Riverside was a popular track for many of the competitors.

"They love it. We've been told it's a better track this year," he said. "This is the third year we've brought the [saloons] down here. Riverside has always been great and I believe this year will be better."

Leading contenders for the round win tonight include Williams, defending champion Chris Cowling from Mt Maunganui, Scott Lansdowne, who won the South Island series in 2010, Cromwell's Daryl Ainsley and Auckland's Nigel Ross. Hughes said one of the dark horses in the lineup could be Rob Flood, who has been one of the big improvers over the last few years.

Riverside Speedway is looking in superb condition for the meet after undergoing a huge makeover to meet standards set by the sport's governing body, Speedway New Zealand, and Occupational Safety and Health.

The upgrade has involved reconstruction of the track walls, surface, safety fences and an overhaul of the drainage system.

Riverside Speedway president Graeme McKernan said it was one of the premier events on the calendar for the club this season and was optimistic of a big crowd.

Tonight's racing will begin with a 12-lap North Island v South Island challenge, with four cars in each team. The 25 saloons will then be split into two groups and race two heats. The top eight cars will go into a shootout, which will determine the grid for the feature race.

The feature race will involve 20 of the 25 starters and is fought out over 20 laps.

"You've got to get in there and get the points. There's also passing points too, for every car you pass," Hughes said.

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"Our motto, we carry our whole series is ‘To finish first, you must first finish' ".

The streetstocks, youth saloons, modified sprints and sprint cars will also be racing in the support classes tonight.

Racing kicks off at 6pm, with the gates opening at 4pm. The cost for adults is $15, with children $2, and a family pass $32.

- The Southland Times

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