The Stratford Stormers stockcar team was outclassed by the Manawatu Steelers on Saturday but team manager Paul Gibbs says the experience should help prepare them for even tougher challenges over the next two months.
In the 12-lap event at Stratford Speedway, only two of the Stormers' five cars made it to the finish, while the Steelers were the first four home.
"It was a good blooding-in of our two newest drivers, Willie Bolland and Tyler Walker and a reminder to the more seasoned members of how torrid the race can be," Gibbs said. "It's not the result we were aiming for, but some very valuable lessons have been learned."
The Steelers came armed with a depth of experience gained at Palmerston North, the acknowledged headquarters of team racing. They worked together to get Jay Knight in front and keep him there, while the home side failed to protect their runner and were relentlessly picked off.
Ahead of them the Stormers have the Teams Invasion at Auckland December 1, the Peter Rees Shield Challenge at Auckland December 15, then the national teams championships at Palmerston North, January 19-20.
Gibbs says Haydin Barker, whose failing brakes ruled him out this time, will definitely be in the team.
The Stormers' loss was redeemed by Stratford convincingly defending the annual midget challenge cup against Huntly, who brought along Dayne Maxwell, national minisprint champion.
Maxwell was left in the dust in third spot as Duane Hickman and Lydia Dickinson resumed their ongoing duel, the latter winning two of the three races. The track was super fast for the opener, Hickman lapping in a personal best of 14.29 sec, only a whisker behind Michael Pickens' 14.25s record.
In the cup race, however, Hickman lost it on turn one, Alvin Cobb (Huntly) went over him and flipped upside down and only three cars out of 10 were left running. Amazingly, Cobb and all the others restarted, but only two visitors crossed the line.
Michael Willemsen won the City of NP Classic superstock races, from Kihikihi's Tony Fabish, who said later: "I'm pretty stoked about this. I used to race a midget here years ago and this is only my second meeting in a superstock. We'd sure like to see some Stratford superstocks at Kihi for our Golden Helmet meeting on November 25."
Mark Duthie won the local stock car championship over three races, assisted by colleagues after word went out that the title must not be won by a visitor.
Richard Kettle won twice in street stocks and appears to have ended John Young's domination.
In the modifieds, contact with Paul Ward cost Blair Luscombe a second place. Ward then got the jump on Merv Julian at the restart and won. In the next race Ward tangled with Ian Crawford and Bunter Pierce made a brilliant pass on Craig Ward to win.
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