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2024 Kicked Off In Style At Central Motor Speedway

Central Motor Speedway

STORY BY

DARYL SHUTTLEWORTH
Shuttleworth Motorsport Media

(Disclaimer – results as seen by myself while commentating, results may have changed slightly due to relegations etc. – This article or extracts from it are not to be used by any other form of media without prior permission.) 

Central Motor Speedway in Cromwell would play host to being the first club in the country to go Speedway racing for 2024, and if the last two days of action was any indication as to what was on offer, then the big crowd trackside were in for a brilliant New Years day, kicking back on the back straight, washing the New Years hangover away.

This meeting was round four of the Civil Construction Southern Sprintcar Series and the New Years Winner Takes All Trophy, so every grade running was Grand Prix format, two heats and a winner takes all final.

Southern Sprintcar Series leader Caleb Baughan of Christchurch was a noticeable absentee, meaning the series points table would look a little different at the end of the event, add to that the two young American’s Joel Myers Jnr and Brenham Crouch entering the series late in the piece would add a little spice to the series.

The time trials saw Christchurch driver Jamie Duff set a time in the thirteen second bracket that no one came close to, in fact Duff would punch out thirteen second lap time continuously throughout the day, even when the track had little to offer late in the day.

Myers Jnr was second in the time trials with Adam Evans of Cromwell third.

Heat one and Duff was again in a league of his own, you could almost sense Duff wanted to put the ghosts of the recent War Of The Wings meeting behind him when Myers Jnr past him in the very last lap to claim victory.

The big standout in this race was Jayden Dodge of Christchurch who would start this race at the very rear of the pack and race his way through to an impressive second place ahead of Riverside’s Ross McKinnel in third place.

Heat two saw Myers Jnr show the class that seen him take the feature at the War Of The Wings two nights earlier, the young American leaving the crowd in awe of the speed he could possess, and aggressive but smooth driving style that leaves you shaking your head wonder “how did he just do that?”.

Dodge was again impressive and really took the fight to Myers Jnr early in the race, a solid second again ensuring he would start from the front row of the grid for the feature race. Current series champion Evans was third.

The third and final heat saw an early restart after Duff was deemed to have jumped the start, he would be put to the rear of the field for the restart.

Four laps in Evans would come unstuck in turn two, by this stage Duff had move up the pack to third and this stoppage gave him all the encouragement he needed to battle the leaders which included Myers Jnr, Crouch and local driver Jason Scott.

Scott drove a brilliant race, winding back the clock to his years of domination here at Cromwell, but he couldn’t keep Duff at bay, Duff securing the race win and pole for the feature, Scott placed second ahead of Crouch in third place.

The twenty five lap feature final was next, Duff decided to run from the outside, and a false start where Dodge got off to a flying start would be undone with Duff gaining the advantage second time around.

Duff would clear off early, Dodge went with him but couldn’t pressure the race leader, Dodge would get a second crack at Duff after seven laps after debris in turn two bought out a brief caution.

Duff would again fire off to a solid start, Dodge in tow with Scott, Myers Jnr, Crouch and Cromwell’s Josh Buchanan all in the mix behind the leaders.

What happened next was an incident that took all sorts of pressure off the leaders, Crouch came out of turn two, and as he went to power off his car just did not react and Myers Jnr and Cromwell’s Dean Miller would run straight up the back of him, ultimately putting both the American drivers out of the feature, Miller managing to continue on, something he really needed to do as he was sitting in second place overall in the series.

From here it was Duff again who broke away, and with a handful of laps left Dodge would make inroads on Duff but Duff had built enough of a buffer to get him first, Dodge with a solid outing claimed second with Evans racing up to third place.

Streetstocks were a welcome addition to the race program, the visiting grade had drivers from Beachlands, Riverside and Woodford Glen all entered and provided some entertaining battles.

Heat one saw just the one stoppage with Christchurch driver Dwayne Kennett stopping on track, once his car was cleared it was a sprint to the finish line, Dunedin’s Jareb Verdoner took the win ahead of Jono Garthley of Christchurch and Mitch Lavender of Dunedin third.

Heat two saw two cautions for Lance Yeo of Riverside and Robert Ryder of Beachlands who would both head infield while the pace up front was again very fast, Garthley was again pushing a number of the Beachlands drivers but couldn’t make it into the top three, claiming fourth behind Ben Jenkins the race winner, Braden Adams second and Jacob Campbell third, all of Beachlands.

Jenkins and Garthley would also go toe to toe in the winner takes all final, this was a fantastic race that took so many twists and turns, Scott Palmer of Dunedin and Chris Illingworth of Riverside would be the cause of cautions, and Verdoner would cause one of his own just as he was fighting for the lead of the race, a flat tyre ending his feature hopes.

Garthley and Jenkins were both very lucky to avoid contact through lapped cars, the pair putting on a great display but Jenkins would simply be too fast and claim the New Years Grand Prix ahead of Garthley and Allan Finch of Beachlands third.

Super Saloons had their final hit out at Central Motor Speedway before the New Zealand Championship here in two weeks, and to be fair and the end of this event its still hard to pick a firm favorite with a number of drivers looking quick today over the three heats.

Heat one saw Christchurch driver Richie Taylor destroy his rivals with a perfect run up front, taking the win with ease, Malcom Ngatai of Christchurch claimed a solid second placing ahead of clubmate Bodie Abrahamson in third.

Heat two saw Cromwell’s Ray Stewart find some good form, Stewart has struggled at times with this car since doing a suspension conversion throughout the off season, Stewart had his car on rails and took the win, but behind him there was positive signs from Dunedin duo Ricky Boulton and Alister Lister claiming second and third, showing that the torsion bar suspension set up was certainly still competitive against the four bar cars, and depending on track conditions at the title could be shot at the title.

The feature race capped off a good days racing in Super Saloons with another clean fast display of high horsepower racing. It also showed why Abrahamson should be seen as a chance of taking higher honors in a couple of weeks time here in Cromwell, Abrahamson has really come to grips with his Stealth machine and given a chance seems to capitalize on the smallest gap or chance he has to make a position. 

Abrahamson would lead home a Taylor who at times looked to threaten but just couldn’t front it with the race winner Abrahamson, second Taylor with Ngatai capping off a solid weekend in third place. 

Stockcars provided some good entertainment for the big crowd and a number of drivers were out there seeking revenge for shots that had been fired a couple of nights earlier.

Heat one saw no stoppages but plenty of action, when the dust settled it would be Cromwell’s Jacob Boulton who would claim the race win ahead of clubmate Brodie MacDonald in second with Christchurch’s Murray Greig in third.

Heat two saw just the one stoppage when Amber Brooks of Christchurch stopped on the main straight, Brooks actually struggled to find any pace for about a lap but didn’t pull infield in hope of the car clearing itself and getting back to speed. From the restart Daniel Cox of Christchurch would take a solid victory with Greig second and Steven Thompson of Beachlands third.

The feature was a good old fashioned Stockcar battle, Tyler Houghton of Christchurch was seeking redemption on Cromwell’s Casey McEwan who fed him to the wall two nights earlier, Houghton would go after McEwan and the pair would make solid contact in turn two putting both cars out of the race.

The big talking point in this race was Harley Robb of Christchurch who stepped up to drive Cromwell’s Shinnae McNally’s car in the feature. With Robb not entered in the earlier heats he would need to start from the rear of the field but would take no time at all working his way to the front, Robb was sitting third after only a couple of laps.

Robb eventually got to the leaders but made contact with a lapped car putting him back down the order. Up front Greig, Boulton and MacDonald were all looking fast, this was until Thompson would feed Greig into the wall while leading, taking Greig well out of play. With a lap to go MacDonald would get caught up, this would allow Robb to race back through the pack and capture the lead, from here Robb would take the Grand Prix win in what could only be described as a freakish display of driving, second went the way of Boulton with Greig doing well to race back up to third place.

Youth Ministocks were in the final day of competition after a number of drivers had competed in five meetings over the six days, a big effort for the teams involved.

Cromwell driver Lachie Campbell Tate fell victim to a caution in heat one, the young driver being squeezed down the back straight, making contact with the wall.

Christchurch driver Jaxyn Houtos would work his way to the lead of this race and power off to claim an early race victory, Marcel Vlaanderen placed second ahead of Woodford Glen clubmate Jack Anderton.

Heat two and a race a number of drivers would rather forget with a fair bit of contact across the field. Cromwell’s Paige McNally was an early casualty after being fed into the wall in turn two, Christchurch driver Jaxon Dacombe was deemed the cause and ordered off the track.

This incident led to a second incident where Ysabelle Harris and Nikolas Weir both of Christchurch, Leila Jeffcoate of Nelson and Hunter Elliot Cross of Cromwell would all pile up into the wall in turn two also, Jeffcoate retiring with damage and Braedyn Williamson of Christchurch being deemed the cause in this one, he too would be told to park up infield for the remainder of the race.

As the race took shape again Joshua McIntyre of Central Motor Speedway was clipped coming into turn four, he would rest against the fence in and be sent infield, some wondering if he was blinded by the smoke or oil that bellowed from Oliver McCartneys car lap upon lap in turns three and four.

Houtos would add to his race one win by claiming race two, the smoking McCartney of Christchurch was second with Anderton third.

The winner takes all feature was next, and Houtos was determined to add to a very impressive haul he had collected over the Christmas break, winning every event he had competed in.

Houtos would start from pole and battled hard with Vlaanderen for the early laps, Anderton who had raced very well all day was spun by Cromwell’s Jess Evans on the main straight ending his chances of a podium finish.

The big mover in the feature was Christchurch driver Leaha Rowlands who raced from mid pack to put pressure on the leaders, Houtos however managed this race to perfection, winning the New Years Grand Prix, Vlaanderen second ahead of Rowlands in third place.

The final grade entered was Six Shooters and again they put on some of the best racing of the event. Heat one saw an untidy incident between Riverside’s Josh Livingstone and Christchurch driver Baylee Clive, Livingstone would spin in turn four after making contact with clubmate Alex Crosbie, this would lead to him taking out Clive while Crosbie the initial cause of the crash managed to race on. Clive would be out of this race.

Cromwell driver Blair Smith got to the front early in this race and would bank the first Six Shooter win of the event ahead of Riverside’s Harrison Brown and Cromwell’s George Hedley.

Hedley would turn the tides in race two, putting on a fantastic display of speed, punching out consistent laps, lap upon lap to take a comfortable race win, Brown would place second once more with Riverside driver Hayden Graves third.

The final would see Hedley and Brown share the front row in what would be an epic battle, the pair raced hard early and challenged each other for the lead of the race. Midrace two Riverside cars would have a coming together when Livingstone and Duane Cracknell would both make contact, then with four laps to run Graves would spin up in turn two condensing the field.

It was here that Smith who was in third place would make his move, dispatching both Brown and Hedley who neither had an answer for Smiths share pace.

Smith would take out a well raced win to claim the New Years Grand Prix, Hedley second and Brown taking the last spot on the podium in third.  

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