A massive crowed filled The Russell Cunningham Properties Oreti Park Speedway for their opening meeting on Saturday night, and they were entertained by almost as many spills as there was thrills.
Steady rain threatened to slow proceedings just before the start of racing but once the rain cleared it was business as usual on track and the crowd was eager to see the Southland Outlaws take on the Auckland Rhinos in the Interprovincial Solo Match.
Auckland were hurting after a narrow loss last weekend to the Canterbury Comets in Christchurch and they made their intentions well known from the start of heat one, when they scored maximum points and then repeated the dose in the next heat to take a commanding lead straight away.
Southland's luck was turning from bad to worse when No 1 rider Grant Tregoning blew a motor and had to use a replacement. He also blew a tyre in a later heat to give the near to unbeatable rider a night to forget.
The Southland team also lost Jeremy Godfrey who looked fast in early races before a nasty crash took him out for the night with a shoulder injury, this opened the door for reserve rider Paul Hayes, who started a Southland Outlaws comeback with a win in his race followed by Tregoning picking up a win in the following race. But the damage had been done and the Auckland Rhinos came out on top with a commanding score of 48-23.
For the Rhinos, Bradley Wilson-Dean was the rider to do most of the damage picking up multiple wins.
That elevates Auckland to the top of the table with five points from two outings, followed by Canterbury on three from one and Southland none from one.
Southland will now take on the Rhinos in Auckland on November 17.
The evergreen pairing of Kevin McDonald and Karl Hosie were too good for the competition in the Malcolm Officer Memorial sidecars trophy. The duo faced tough opposition all day but did enough to qualify for the final.
Favourites and current titleholders Lionel Green and Shayne Breach, of Christchurch, started the day with a win but were upstaged in the heats by McDonald and Hosie along with a stunning ride by Scott Ayto and Dylan Carnie, who both outrode the Christchurch pairing to claim heat victories but didn't quite do enough to make the final.
McDonald and Hosie did and dominated from start to finish to claim the trophy, much to the delight of the large crowd. They were followed home by Green and Breach, while Southlanders Luke Thwaites and Neville Chalmers were third.
The pairing of Thwaites and Chalmers claimed the most race wins of the day and look to be the in-form pairing to watch going into the Burt Munro Challenge later this month.
The third championship of the night was the Southland classic solo championship, which came down to a two- way battle between club stalwarts John Tuffley and Paul Hayes.
In heat one, every rider on track fell off, three of them early in the race, causing a restart with just Tuffley and Hayes. Hayes led early only to fall off, then Tuffley led with one lap to go only to fall off also, allowing Hayes to rejoin the race and take the win.
As the night went on, Tuffley started to build the points needed to claim the overall championship from Hayes and Les Payne in third, just another title for Tuffley to add to his already impressive collection he has amassed at Oreti Park during his many years competing.
The club now looks forward to the Burt Munro Challenge on November 30. There are already record entries have been received from riders throughout the country.
If the opening meeting is anything to go by, this will be an event not to miss.
- The Southland Times