The annual New Zealand speedway championship is taking place in Cromwell this weekend, the first time the event has been held outside the North Island.
Reigning South Island saloon champion Daryl Ainsley, of Cromwell, said the region's speedway drivers were very excited about racing on their home turf.
"It's quite a big coup to get it down here because the majority of the class reside in the North Island."
Racing began last night and continues today from 6pm at Cromwell's Central Motor Speedway.
Twenty-one South Island drivers and 19 from the North Island are competing in the event.
Other South Island drivers include Rob Flood, of Blenheim, and Walter Whittleston, of Christchurch, who will take on some of the North Island's best, including current NZ1 champion Geoff Baron, NZ2 Brett McClymont and NZ3 Paul Cressy, who are all contracted to Tauranga's Baypark Speedway.
The format of the event is a series of 15-lap heats to decide the starting place for a "winner takes all" feature race. There are support grade races as well.
Ainsley has been racing for only four years and was first named South Island champion during his second year in the sport.
He was hoping for a good crowd at the track. "It's a very high class field of drivers. Whoever wins it is going to deserve it."
Central Motor Speedway members have volunteered time and money to prepare for the event, including encircling the track with high specification safety fencing and reclaying the track.
- The Southland Times