Sidecar pair awed by Burt Munro Challenge

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012
Josh Wells
JOHN HAWKINS/FAIRFAX NZ
UP FOR CHALLENGE: Visiting Australian sidecar rider Josh Wells, left, who is originally from Southland, and swinger Lance Tulloch check out the Burt Munro Challenge statue at Queens Park yesterday.

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Former Southlander Josh Wells has learned his lessons from last year and is targeting an improved showing at his second Burt Munro Challenge this week.

Wells, 28, who now lives in the Western Australian mining town of Karratha, will line up alongside swinger Lance Tulloch in the sidecars for the longtrack at Ascot Park Raceway tonight.

They will then back up for the Speedway Spectacular at Oreti Park Speedway on Saturday - where a record 26 sidecar teams will compete.

Wells and Tulloch, who hails from Whanganui, had a mixed bag at their first Burt Munro Challenge last year - finishing third in the longtrack and making the semifinals of the Speedway Spectacular.

They will be looking to build on those experiences this year and will be hoping to make it difficult for the sidecar favourites, defending New Zealand champions Kevin McDonald and Karl Hosie and the experienced duo of Fraser Gillespie and Nigel Cuckow.

Wells, who attended Southland Boys' High School, left Invercargill 10 years ago, but was drawn back to the region to race in the Burt Munro Challenge last year.

He said they had been blown away by the professionalism of the challenge and the camaraderie between the riders, and admitted it was an easy decision to return again.

"It's pretty awesome to see a spectacular marquee event in Invercargill, being that I grew up here," Wells said.

"It's known throughout Australia. A lot of people are keen to come over and witness it."

When asked whether the Australians could ever replicate the Burt Munro Challenge, Wells said no.

"There's nowhere in Australia that could put on a meeting like Invercargill does. It's a real credit to Southland to be able to put something like this on."

Racing in the sidecars at Oreti Park Speedway on Saturday night will be extra special for Wells after his father, Gary, competed there before it became defunct - closing down in 1989. Ten years later, several speedway enthusiasts set about restoring the track and, after a monumental overhaul, it reopened in 2000.

"It's pretty humbling to race on a track that was once redundant. The first time I got on the back of a sidecar was at Oreti (before its closure)."

Wells will have plenty of support in the north grandstand tonight at Ascot Park Raceway, with a large contingent of family and friends in attendance.

To do well, he said they needed to ensure they had the right setup for their bike from the start, and also get off to a quick beginning out of the gate.

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Wells and Tulloch have competed together for the past three years and won the northwest sidecars title in Western Australia earlier this year. He was thankful to the support of their sponsors, Rogers Yamaha, Radley Haulage and HG Morsink Ltd painting contractors, who had provided assistance in shipping their Yamaha 03 R1 sidecar out from Australia.

- The Southland Times

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