Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Finals Night, NZ Superstocks Wellington
NZ Superstock Title, Finals Night
Te Marua Speedway, Wellington
More good weather to kick off finals night and there were a few good ideas put in place. The zone for all the finalists cars to be lined up in the pits and then interviews with them during the pre-meeting was great. Better for us than parking them on the infield for a hour or two which seems to be the norm these days. On night one they were on the infield and the atmosphere in the pits completely dies, the difference on night two was noticeably positive. The Ministocks in support, repecharge races and the grand parade were run earlier than the previous nights 7pm start which was also an excellent idea. There's a lot to squeeze in on finals night but the Wellington club had everything in hand and it was part of what made this such a successful weekend.
Two star studded repechages with only 1 car qualifying from each race, once again showed the calibre of cars entered. Rep 1 was a real nail biter and one of the races of the weekend, in fact it may have been the best race. Four cars didn't make the start, 27c Peter Field for a head clearance issue in the tank, 62p Adam Joblin who's car wouldn't fire while 15r Pribicevich and 73w Ross never made the track. 52p Scott Joblin and 16b Steve Jude had the front row. Joblin lead out early from Miers, 38m Ashby was spun. Joblin and Miers slowly caught by the pack and by lap four Jude managed to get to the lead. Repeated blocking attempts from 127p Rees slowed Jude and from a grid 10 start, 46w Allen Levien took the lead. 471p Benji Sneddon finally ended Judes hopes by spinning him and then it was basically which Wellington car would get through as Levien and 81w Grant Littlewood raced to the flag. 46w picked up the win and a huge ovation from the crowd. Rep 2 also had lots of drama with night 1 high flyer Jared Gray taking the lead before being pushed wide in turn 4, meanwhile a HUGE pile up back in the pack pretty much left a small group fighting for that precious win. 3nz Graeme Barr took the lead from Asher Rees and Murray Long and when the cars came around the track to 34p Rebecca Barr sideways on the track the driver went either side of her with 3nz gaining a bit of a lead on Rees. Red lights for 34p had cars slow to stop and 186n Gray really lost ground here which seemed unfair. 75s Carl Shearer was up to third and last of the Joblin hopes, 72p Simon retire to the infield. 3nz Barr took the white flag with Rees closing on every lap it was his last chance but Barr holding on for a great win and chance to defend his racing number.
Finals Heat 1 7.40pm
All 26 cars made the grid for heat one, although 135r Scott Hewson required the 3 minute bell for throttle problems. 2nz Jordan Dare's reign was about to end, slow off the line from grid 1, pushed on to the grass by the pack as the flag fell with the axle ripped in half. Night over. Kenley Brown took the lead as the freight train pushed its way into turns 1 and 2, 85n Dale McKenzie almost tipped on his side in turn 2 before 71p Shane Mellsop rode up over the wheel of Paul Vazey flying high and rolling spectacularly bringing on the reds. This left Vazey and 591p Hemi with flat tyres and a very damaged Mellsop car who wanted to continue although he lasted only a few metres more on the restart. Brown was leading Bengsten, Hart, Ogle, Rees and Miers. 85n was slow on the restart holding up 3nz Barr, while Brown was engulfed by the leading pack drifting backwards, Ogle hit the wall in turn 2 while 351r Vazey was crawling the pole line by this stage trying to grab valuable points. Bengsten, Hart, 4p Chad Ace, Rees and 45r Vallance were now the leading pack as 8p Miers retired with gearbox issues. 39s Michel Willemsen half spins holding up 29a Tennant who had made a huge amount of ground from his rear grid start. The race settled in to a straight flag race by this stage with no more major dramas, 3nz Barr managing to pick a few late passes for a 4th place finish up 14 spots. 18n Harwood up 13 spots and Tennant up 12 were the other biggest movers.
Top 10: 58p Bengsten, 4p Ace, 10p Rees, 3nz Barr, 67p Hart, 45r Vallance, 18n Harwood, 48n Nicholls, 282s Ogle, 19c Ngatai.
Finals Heat 2 9.20pm
Surprise package from heat 1 Nick Vallance had a front row start for heat two and a good chance to consolidate his points. He got the jump on 79p Kerry Humphrey while 18n Harwood had some scary moments in turns 1 and 2 up on the side of another car. 282s Ogle sustained a flat left front tyre and 85n McKenzie spun in turn 4 dropping well back before our next big moment, Humphrey rolled in turn 1 after contact with Barr and Steiner before 39s Willemsen had nowhere to go hitting the roll cage of the Palmy car, red lights. Vallance, Hewson, Barr, Harwood, Steiner and Hemi were the leaders at this point with heat one winner 58p Bengsten back in 11th. Steiner had problems as the car slowed, and Hewson passed Vallance to take the lead before our next red light. 67p Richard Hart spun 29a Tennant in turn four, the Aucklander unable to refire for a number of laps before being removed to the infield. Rees had moved up to 7th at the midway point of the race while Harwood, Barr, Hemi and 87b Stanaway followed the Rotorua pair. The only change to this order was when Barr clipped the wall late in the race losing places while Hemi managed a last lap pass on Harwood. Ngatai picking up another 10th place finish.
Top 10: 135r Hewson, 45r Vallance, 591p Hemi, 18n Harwood, 87b Stanaway, 10p Rees, 95r Fabish, 58p Bengsten, 3nz Barr, 19c Ngatai.
Finals Heat 3 10.15pm
Going into heat 3 and 45r Nick Vallance was the leader on points (46pts) one point ahead of Bengsten and Peter Rees (who had been very quiet all night picking up good points with little fanfare) a further two points back to Nelson's Shane Harwood (43) Barr (41) and Chad Ace (40). Our winner was most likely from this bunch so the odds for Vallance and Harwood were grim to say the least with four of the top six cars from Palmerston North. Steiner, Dare and 79p Humphrey were unable to start despite a valiant effort from the 79p team to get the car onto the track. Chad Ace had the best grid of the top 6 cars with a grid 4 start. From the green flag Vallance was held up by Hemi for at least a lap before getting free before the other outside chance Shane Harwood was tipped over in turn 4, much to the disappointment of many a Nelson fan who I was surrounded by in the crowd! 67p Richard Hart was the protagonist and what an impression he made on his first Superstock championship. During the reds we lost 89w Robertson and 87b Stanaway. 48n Nicholls was leading the field from Ngatai, Fabish, Ace, Miers and Barr. Upon the restart Hemi took on Hewson while Hart attacked Fabish, Rotorua and Nelson fans hopes were pretty much done. 85n McKenzie was one of few who decided to give a little love back to the dominating Palmy cars slamming Ace into the wall in turn 4 although Ace was able to continue and hold on to his current 3rd placing. 71p Mellsop blocked Fabish again before Nicholls took the white flag and then the win. Bengsten had trailed Rees for the whole race never quite getting the opportunity to spin him for the vital win (whether that was an option or not) while 8p Miers had run a perfect race blocking or clearing the way for his club mates in another clinical despatch of any threat to the Palmerston North cars by a number of 'P' drivers.
Top 10: 48n Nicholls, 19c Ngatai, 4p Ace, 3nz Barr, 10p Rees, 58p Bengsten, 29a Tennant, 17p Brown, 351r Vazey, 282s Ogle
Final points: 10p Rees 67pts, 58p Bengsten 66pts, 3nz Graeme Barr and 4p Chad Ace 64pts, 45r Nick Vallance 61pts, 19c Malcolm Ngatai 59pts.
So a runoff was required for the 3nz podium and Graeme Barr triumphed after a do or die hit in the apex of turns 1 and 2 by Ace didn't quite go to plan - ironically it was very similar to the runoff at Gisborne between Neil McCoard and Rex Neild also for 3nz with a similar outcome for the car making the big lunge - a massive dnf! Barr was able to finish but unfortunately Ace required medical attention, an unfortunate finish to what was a superb championship and an incredible achievement by Barr as the only driver able to retain his ranking from last season.
Well there you have it, another clean sweep by Palmerston North cars for the second year in a row. Alarm bells were ringing after heat one when the top 5 cars to finish were all from that club. They have dominated this title like no other and I can't see much changing for the next few seasons. Going by a few post meeting comments by drivers, they do approach this meeting with a team mentality even though it is an individual title, and at the moment they are almost picking at will, who they want from their club to win, as absurd as that sounds! And good on them if they can do it, either someone will rebel at some point for their own glory or there will be a resurgence in numbers at another club who might just use the same tactics? It does feel as though the days of the lone wolf scoring a surprise win are over. I will say its unfair and unfeasible to expect drivers from other clubs to suddenly 'band together' and work as a team to take down 11 Palmy cars as was suggested by a number of people online. Perhaps the best course of action is to remove threats or dominating numbers of cars on qualifying night, not heat 3 of the finals? Peter Rees, well what can you say, the one title that has eluded him and he finally picks it up with probably one of his most low key runs at a championship in years, perhaps thats what made the difference.