A massive crowd were treated to some of the best solo racing ever witnessed at the Oreti Park Speedway last night at the New Zealand solo speedway championship as Jason Bunyan claimed a record-equalling ninth title.
The championships started with 20 of the county's top solo riders all aiming for a spot in the top eight to contest the semifinals.
After all the heat races the top eight consisted of Bunyan and fellow Auckland riders Ryan Terry-Daley, Brady Mudgway, Sean Mason, Canterbury riders Dale Finch, Cody Tocher and Andy Aldridge and Southland hopefuls Jack McRae, Paul Hayes and Grant Tregoning.
The first semifinal was dominated by Bunyan.
He was pushed hard by Finch who made an unfortunate mistake which led to him slipping back to fourth and put him out of the running for the final.
Mason capitalised on the mistake to book his spot in the final alongside Bunyan, and McRae finished third but missed the cut also.
In the second semifinal it was Tregoning who got the jump at the start but Aldridge made him work hard for the lead and challenged him for the entire race.
Tocher, who rode well all night, settled for third and Hayes fourth.
This was the the match up people wanted to see - Bunyan, the eight-time New Zealand champion, head to head with local hero Tregoning.
The pair hadn't crossed paths in the heats or semis and this battle was going to be worth the price of admission alone, add to that Mason and Aldridge and the crowd was treated to a great New Zealand finals line up.
Tregoning got a brilliant start and managed to get into the first corner ahead of Mason and Aldridge, while Bunyan was sitting out wide in fourth.
Tregoning increased his lead and held it for the next three laps with the huge Southland crowd racing to the fence hoping the home town hero was going to pull off the ride of his life to claim the top spot in New Zealand speedway.
Bunyan weaved his way through Mason and Aldridge to move to second and within striking distance of the lead.
He pushed Tregoning hard but couldn't find a way past.
As they rounded the final corner Bunyan shot wide and it looked like Tregoning's race, but Bunyan got amazing drive off the corner and as they passed the chequred flag it was Bunyan who got a wheel over the line ahead of Tregoning to claim his ninth title, equalling speedway legend Larry Ross.
Tregoning and Bunyan stopped on the back straight and congratulated each other with a pat on the back before Bunyan celebrated his win by getting his bike on his rear wheel, saluting the crowd.
In support races, Kevin McDonald and Karl Hosie dominated the sidecars, Zane Pay won Solo Support, Les Payne won Classics, Vincent Tocher of Chrishchurch Junior Solo and in PeeWees it was a three-way run off for first, won by Hayden Brookland followed by a quickly improving Cormac Buchanan and Brodie Molloy.
The club has a well deserved break now but will be back on track again March 1st with the Brian Reed Memorial Solos.
- The Southland Times