A few ruts on the track surface didn't worry experienced Taranaki racer Craig Korff on his way to winning the Taranaki Saloon Championship at Stratford Speedway on Saturday night.
Korff fought off stiff competition from New Zealand No 3 ranked driver Paul Cressy, of Tauranga, and New Zealand No 1 ranked driver Jeff Barron, also of Tauranga.
Two competitors were missing from the starting lineup, with Michelle Wymer, of Tauranga, pulling out because of car damage the previous weekend, while local driver John Young's car blew a head gasket in practice.
Korff was cruising in the middle of the pack in the first heat before storming through on the inside to top position in the 19-car field. Cressy followed him through, chasing hard, but had to settle for second.
Six competitors were missing from the start in heat two, including local flier Thomas Korff, leaving Nigel Perrett to clear out from the field to win from Craig Korff with Cressy close up third.
Heading into the third and final heat, Craig Korff was leading on points and started from the outside of the front row.
Cressy, the only driver with a real chance of beating Craig Korff, started from row seven. Craig Korff continued his good form to win the race and the championship, Cressy again chasing him home to finish three points behind, while Jeff Barron made the long haul from the East Coast worthwhile when finishing third.
"Even though [the track] was rough, I still enjoyed it," Craig Korff said.
"The main thing was that we still got a race meeting in."
The adult ministock competitors struggled in difficult conditions, with several cars knocked out of contention with roll-overs and suspension damage.
The first victim was novice driver Mikayla Clark, who found one of the bigger ruts and upended her car in the opening laps of the first race.
Gary Preston was the most consistent driver on the night. His two second placings and a sixth were enough for him to win the Taranaki Championship from Alex Patterson, with Karl Uhlenberg taking third.
Drivers were not fazed by the bumpy track and Justin Robinson produced three solid drives to win the Heritage Shield trophy, with two fourth places and a win.
Mitch Vickery had a lucky escape on the night. After his car experienced over-heating problems, Vickery turned it on to the infield area. Unfortunately, he crashed into a tractor parked in the centre field, but wasn't hurt.
New Zealand ranked No 1 stockcar driver Richard Pierce threw his car around the track to record two race wins, while the ever improving Farron Lowry won the last race.
The midget cars were boosted in numbers with the addition of two new competitors and the return of Greg Jones.
Lydia Dickinson rolled her car in the first race while others suffered tyre blowouts throughout the night as the drivers struggled to come to grips with the track.
Duane Hickman executed a spectacular passing manoeuvre on the outside in the last lap to win the first race, one of two wins on the night for the New Plymouth racer, while Daryl Hughes held off the flying Jones to win the other.
Carol Podjursky won the only youth ministock race in style by lapping half the field.
Saloons will take centre stage on Friday when they compete for the Best in the West Championship, while Saturday will feature the King of the Mountain Superstock champs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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