KING COUNTRY SPRINTCAR CHAMPS
1st 73K Brian Edwards
2nd 6m James Dahm
3td 18P Greg Pickerell
Sidecars Super Saloons and Sprintcar Sizzle By Rob Arnold.
Fireworks meetings have always attracted large crowds to Kihikihi, but has not been able to follow up with a quality event to follow on from that to encourage those first-timers to speedway to return. All too often the next meeting has either been a low key Sunday afternoon fixture with uninspiring feature attractions only of interest to the hardened fan or has been rained off giving a long gap to the next event, meaning that all the momentum gained from this meeting has been lost.
Kihikihi has managed to crack the code for success in this area this time round as the lure of three categories known tothe attract the public in numbers headlined the Sat 14 meeting. The Waipa Hire King Country Sprintcar Championship was the night’s feature attraction on paper, but having also the presence of Super Saloons and the return of sidecars after a four year absence bought quite a sizeable crowd for what was essentially a mid card affair which a decade ago would have been seen as a good crowd for the annual fireworks meeting.
The crowd witnessed was yet more proof that the impact of the Covid lockdown is certainly benefiting speedway and attracting people that in the past would not have given the sport a glancing look. The solid racing seen throughout the evening should help maintain that trend.
We’ll begin our review of the action with the sidecars which because of a combination of calendar pressures, the demise of the infield bike track and not being able to get the track to a suitable standard for them on the main one, have save for pre season practices not been sighted since January 2016. It was thus very welcome to see them make a long overdue return to Kihikihi with a healthy muster of 15 rigs from Auckland, PN,Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Wanganui plus Kihikihi’s own two rigs.
The crowd reaction to them was most positive, not only showing that they popular with the public, but also showing they are a crowd attraction on their own as I’m sure a number came specifically for the sidecars. Hopefully we don’t have to wait another four years to see them again as they were certainly great value. If one day Kihikihi gets to race more than ten meetings per season they would get the track timeneeded to be reintegrated as a regular part of the programme.
Clay tracks aren’t totally suited to bikes, but the addition of new clay from Te Kawa at around the time coronavirus alert levels were lowered from 4 to 3 helped to make it to quite an acceptable standard. While there was a bump or two it was definitely something that the riders could cope with.
The best racing was saved for their last round with the C Final going to 27B Craig Bowler/Ann Plumber, former NZ Champions [ Kihikihi’s first NZ Champions in the category] 4K Chuck Gannon/Dave Pierce victors in the B Final. The A final was a real ripper that went right to the chequered flag to finish the night on a high which was won by 1NZ Dylan Moohan and ex solo rider Sean Mason.
The Waipa Hire King Country Sprintcar Championship attracted a modest but quality field of nine, Western Springs’ delayed opening night robbing a few potential entries. At face value it may be slightly disappointing but the very fact that Kihikihi could run the class back to back with the Springs on the same night and still get an acceptable field is something they can be proud of and was unthinkable just five years ago.
18P Greg Pickerill may have won the battle in the heats with two wins to land him P1 for the 20 lap winner take all final, but it was Brian Edwards that won the war as he blasted off the line to lead in a crushing demonstration run to score his first success in four years racing the category, making his rivals look second rate, having a half lap margin over 6M James Dahm, with Pickerill completing the trifecta. In the form of his life with driving like this and front running pace at Baypark, Brian is looking like a real contender for a big result for the NZ Champs in the New Year. Dahm and 37K Jade Barnett were also placegetters in the heat races.
Eight super saloons is at the low end of what is considered an acceptable field, but is still enough for quite good racing, and had the likes of Peter Dickson, Steve Cowling and Sam Waddell not have car issues that saw them absent on the entry list, we well could have seen a few more on the grid.
As it was it was good clean action that satisfied this writer with Chris Cowling in the 27M the class of the field to start and finish the night with a win with 46M Matt Smith victorious in the second heat and give Cowling a run for his money in the finale. Corin in the 124M and Phil Gladding in the 38M also tasted podium placings, Gladding also getting some glory to lead the opening heat for a number of laps.
Of the balance of the programme, the 15 strong saloons were the highlight with more fine racing, which was given a little extra spice as super saloon ace Sam Waddell made a cameo appearance in the 42M Corvette usually driving by Colin Amerien, who is warming the seat until son Trent recovers from his nasty crash at the NZ Champs at Huntly in February. This was a championship winning car in the hands of original owner Brent Mclymont and Sam showed the potency of this car and why he is 1NZ in super saloons by taking two fine but far from easy wins giving a good yardstick along the way of the ability of the regular contenders in the class.
18K Chris Taylor also chipped in with a win in the opening heat while 8M Jarrod Fletcher was also on the pace. 25K Reece Clements started the night well with a third place to be the night’s other podium finisher while it was great to 5K Noel Hawthorne start to get to grips with saloon car racing by leading the final for a few laps before settling down to a solid fourth.
The 22 stockcars were fairly tame, but a couple of good lead battles and a few hits here and there in and a rollover in the finale kept things watchable. That said it was probably just as well it was as the meeting finished with just 11 minutes to spare before curfew and had the action been more aggressive, it would have been cutting it fine timewise. With the class stood down at Waikaraka that night a bunch of Aucklandersheaded down and took home the lion’s share of the prizemoney with two wins going to 8A Logan Peat and the finale to 208A Blake Brooks, who around 15 years ago played in my hockey team in the Thames Valley competition. 49A Kyle Hickford was very consistent with two wins while 11K Ben Ellis gave Brooks a very good run for his money to push him all the way in the finale.
The 20 strong youth ministocks were again a two horse contest between 212R Terrance Dorrell and 95R Mitch Fabish, Dorrell winning the first race, with Fabish winning the next with Terrance right behind him with the finale going to Fabish, Dorrell unable to take the fight to him after getting caught up in a incident that checked his progress. 88R Kohan Wright, 4H Coeghan Van Lieshout and 97H Dylan Dreadon-Manning also featured in the podium placings.
The four locally registered quarter midgets completed the podium, opting to stay at home rather than go to Western Springs’ opening night, giving the other classes a wee extra turnaround time between races and a chance to grab a coffee. Some battling for the lead kept it passably watchable with wins going to 37K Riley Barnett and 27K Kody Curtain.
Overall quite a good night for a mid card affair, the temp set to rise a few notches for the Placemakers Stockcar teams and Pit Stop V8 Saloon Series and King Country Streestocks on Nov 28