A huge crowd at Oreti Park Speedway was treated to a commanding display of riding from Grant Tregoning in the Southland Solo Championship, claiming his seventh Southland title in succession.
The Christchurch-based rider, who is contracted to the Southland club, won all four heats and the final. It was the perfect lead-up to the New Zealand championship being held at Oreti Park in a fortnight.
The real battle was for the minor places.
Paul Hayes managed three wins in the heats and John Tuffley one, but Tuffley had a fall in his first heat, which meant he just missed out on a spot in the final.
It was an all-Southland affair with the two visiting Christchurch riders Michael Hardman and Ryan Moss missing the cut, it meant the final consisted of Tregoning, Hayes, Jack McCrae and Jeremy Godfrey.
Tregoning led from start to finish to claim the title, while Godfrey who finished third, rode a fantastic race sitting in second for three of the four laps before McRae snuck underneath him with a lap to go to claim second.
Hayes looked solid early in the race but had a heavy fall, which meant he lost any chance of taking a championship spot.
The sidecars once again proved to be the entertainers of the night. There were 14 teams entered and by the end of the night there were nine different winners, and more drama than Coronation Street.
Scott Ayto and Dylan Carnie made their intentions known early, winning two heats in a row, and looked to be the pairing to beat but a second and a DNF in later heats dropped them down the points to third-equal, with two other teams tied on the same points.
Jason Harper and Mark George, along with Aiden Thwaites and Daniel Gillett, had already booked a place in the five-team final. Ayto and Carnie battled it out with Craig McMaster and James Dawson along with Bradley Sharp and Dallas Kelman to take two more spots on the grid.
Ayto and Carnie won the run-off from McMaster and Dawson, meaning Sharp and Kelman had one more chance by competing for the last spot in the repecharge but it turned into a disaster for the pairing who never made it to the grid on time and were eliminated.
The repecharge then consisted of Josh Heenan and Harley Biddle, Daniel Harper and Brad Waddick, Jason Kennedy and Neville Chalmers and James Douglas and Ricky Pubben. Heenan and Biddle retired with mechanical issues and it was Douglas and Pubben who raced away with it, or so they thought. A protest was lodged and the officials decided to re-run the repecharge and the result was turned on its head.
The hearty Southland crowd had to feel for Douglas and Pubben as they were out-raced by Harper and Waddick, who rode well to take the win and steal the last spot in the final.
The final was a spectacle from start to finish. McMaster and Dawson led early but Harper and George, who were having their best night of the season, took the lead and never relinquished it, to win from McMaster and Dawson and the team of Thwaites and Gillett in third.
However, the officials had seen some pole-line infringments and again the results were turned on their head. The McMaster and Douglas pairing and Thwaites and Gillett were disqualified, which presented Harper and George with the overall victory from Harper and Waddick and Ayto and Carnie.
Erwin Tree and Nigel Cuckow had a spectacular roll-over early in the night. The pairing looked in all sorts of trouble as they both hit the air fence hard, but they came back out in the next race to claim a well-deserved win.
In other support classes, Hayden Brookland was unbeatable in Pee Wees, claiming maximum points for the night, but Savannah Caulfield also picked up a hard fought but deserved win in the heats.
Sam Taylor was back after a major spill last weekend to win in the Juniors, Jake Gillespie won Solo Support, Zane Pay the 250cc Solos and Les Payne the Classic Solos.
The club now has a weekend off before returning on February 8 with the Southern Bolts and Fasteners New Zealand Solo Championships.
- The Southland Times