Rain, Rain, Stay Away. And it did for Saturday’s speedway!
It would seem speedway fans gave the middle finger to the dire forecast of a rainy Saturday night, turning up in their droves at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway where their positiveness must have worked. There was a short sprinkle but that rain stayed away and the racing was exciting with lots of drama on a track the more polite drivers at the after match function described as ‘rough, racy and mostly one lane.’ Considering the non-Central Otago days leading up to Saturday’s meeting, it’s a miracle track manager Peter McKenzie and his volunteers were able to make it race-ready and also carry out running repairs during the evening.
In the youth ministocks, the 12 – 16 year olds showed remarkable mastery on an at times heavily rutted surface. The same can be said of the productions where in their last race announcer Mike Sentch could hardly contain his excitement at a rear wheel drive car leading from start to finish. Well done to Chris Bailey in his BMW. One of the least expensive ways to race speedway, there’s no doubting the ever increasing popularity of this grade. More than 50 drivers from all over the country will be descending on Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway on February 7 & 8 for the Friend Forestry 2019 - 20 NZ Production Saloon Championship.
Six Shooter drivers also rose to the occasion, racing hard and fast with Daryl Ainsley’s daughter Faith in 5t showing increased confidence each time she goes out on the track. It now looks like Graham Williamson has finished running in his brand new Hypermac (21i) and is giving it plenty of juice for a well-deserved 3rd place behind George (47d) and Raymond (17d) Phillips in the saloon feature.
The big drawcard for most spectators was the Ray Stewart 70th Birthday Super Saloon 70 Lapper and also the Civil Construction Sprint Car 40 lapper. For what is believed to be the longest ever race in New Zealand speedway history, the limited fuel capacity of super saloons dictated a race of two halves. At lap 35 the cars completed a couple of cool down circuits before pulling up on the main straight where their crews were crowding the pit gates like shoppers impatient for the doors of a sale to open.
Once all cars were stopped and engines silenced, crews loaded up with fire extinguishers and cans full of methanol ran to their respective cars where most of the drivers had got out to stretch their legs and rehydrate. Then it was race on, but unfortunately Ray had to withdraw a few laps after the restart when clay build up in a wheel caused vibrations that made it impossible for him to see. The vibration also had potential of damaging the car. Another fun element was the $5000 prize money that would be divided among the first 10 cars to pass Ray. Only four made it. Eventual winner Ian Burson (3NZ), 2nd Terry Dixon (225t), 3rd Craig Cardwell (8c) and Terry Soper (8d).
At the prize giving Ray told the how he received a call from Jason Scott who wasn’t going to take no for an answer: - - “Ray, you (expletive), we’re going to do a 70 lapper to celebrate your 70th .” Complimenting the club for pulling off the big race, Ray said he was thrilled at the buzz it created, the number of drivers it attracted and said he hoped it would be the first of many more long distance races.
Supporting Ray, winner Ian Burson said hated to think the next 70 lapper might be 30 years away when he turned 70. He also quipped that the track did make him feel seasick before revealing he’s such a keen supporter of the Central Motor Speedway Club and track that if he didn’t live 12 hours away in Nelson he and 12-year-old son Jack, who in his first season of youth ministocks, would be ‘t’ drivers.
BABY FACED ASSASSIN
Talking with Ian, it was interesting to learn a bit more about the driver they call ‘the baby faced assassin. Although not coming from a speedway family, Ian, a logging contractor, liked the entertainment value of speedway so started racing super stocks. When in 2000 his wife Julie’s father, Terry Westly, bought a super saloon Ian’s immediate reaction was to look forward to being on the crew. ‘No way!’ said Terry. ‘You’re going to drive it.’ As they say, the rest is history. Ian has been super saloon 3NZ three times, NZ2 once, won the super saloon NZGP four times and the South Island Title four times. Ian, like most of the super saloon drivers on Saturday, will be back at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway on February 7 to compete in round 4 of the Mag & Turbo Super Saloon Series.
Unfortunately time dictated reducing the Civil Construction Sprint car 40 lapper to just 18. In the heats and again in the main race, Slammin’ Sam O’Callaghan (49t) showed that his heart-stopping, car-wrecking crash at Ruapuna on January 4 had in no way slowed him down. He took first place from Nigel ‘Chester’ Colvin (42t) with Martin Harcourt (32c) third. Promoter and King of Cromwell Jason Scott was a non-starter in the 18 lapper, let down by low oil pressure.