Ainsley Victory Special for Johnston

Central Motor Speedway


Shuttleworth Motorsport Media

Images supplied by: Scott Freeman

(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 paid tribute to former President and competitor recently with the running of the Daryl Ainsley Memorial, a meeting held in very high stature amongst the speedway community.

The event started with an emotional tribute as all drivers and crews worked their way out onto the track and faced turn two, where club President Andy Erskine would address the crowd before passing over to Daryl Ainsley’s daughter Faith to also say a few words.

The pair then uncovered a stunning tribute, a wooden seat with Daryl’s famous number five etched into it, there for not just family, but anyone to sit and enjoy the racing and reflect on a top bloke who did so much for the club.

The weekend kicked off on the Friday with some exercise bike powered sheep shearing, as groups of drivers and Speedway New Zealand officials were placed into groups, Saturday would see the racing added to those points and a few other activities like an obstacle course, pie eating race and karaoke, it certainly made for a weekend full of fun.

This article though is about the on track action that unfolded, and seven grades running made for some spectacular racing across all of the grades.

Now if you were wanting to talk about a big improver in the Super Saloon class this season it would be very hard to look past the form of Cromwell’s Greig Johnston, and the team of speedway mad family members who chip away on his Hypermac week in week out. Johnston was showing signs of some break out form at the New Zealand Super Saloon Championship in January where he picked up constant placing across his heat races, even bagging a hard fought win in front of his home crowd.

The Daryl Ainsley Memorial is a meeting that the team had always had on their radar as a meeting they would love to not necessarily win but at least pick up some silverware from the event, the meeting holds something special to the team as Johnston was the owner of Ainsley’s car for a couple of seasons before selling it on and jumping into the latest Hypermac.

Heat one for Super Saloons saw Dunedin driver Terry Soper get away to a flying start, pulling away from the pack with ease. Soper had the luxury of doing some fast laps early then just managing the gap to the finish to claim the heat one win by almost five seconds.

The battle behind Soper was entertaining, Ray Stewart of Cromwell held second and was in a real dog fight with Johnston who just would not go away. 

Stewart looked to have second place sewn up but a late challenge on the very last lap saw Johnston slip through to bag second place, Stewart having to settle for a well driven third.

Heat two and an absolute heartbreaker for Soper, again the Dunedin driver looking the goods, racing off to a handy lead after a good battle with Johnston and Ricky Boulton also of Dunedin.

However Sopers luck ran out with a couple of laps to run, he fell back into the pack with a flat right rear tyre and just had nothing to fight with handing the race win the way of Johnston with Dunedin’s Alister Lister second and Stewart third.

The third and final heat saw Johnston get off to a flying start this time around but on lap three the race would come under caution after Stewart caught Boultons car sending both cars out into the wall in turn three, rookie Cromwell driver Findlay Dixon would also make contact but would manage to restart and continue on.

This incident would put both drivers out of the race, and when the race went green again it was Johnston who was having to fight off both Soper and Lister who were both very hungry for the race win. I must here give credit to young Dixon who sat with the fast cars all meeting, the kid has plenty of raw speed, once he gets the confidence to make the pass he will for sure be one to watch.

Johnston would have been pleased in this race to see the white flag come out as he was under all sorts of pressure late in this race, but he held his composure and drove like a champion to take the race win, Soper would sneak home in second with Lister having another impressive outing in third.

Overall results for the Daryl Ainsley Memorial would see Johnston the winner, Lister second with Stewart third.

Six Shooters kicked the night off and again had a big competitive field of cars from both Central Motor Speedway and visiting Riverside Speedway drivers.

Local driver Emma Gordon got away to a brilliant start in heat one but a nasty incident unfolded mid pack which would bring everyone back to attack the lead car.

Riverside drivers Daniel McIntosh and Luke Shearing had a coming together in turn two on lap five, this incident would also include local driver Adam Evans and cause damage to Danny Livingstone of Riverside who was pretty much an innocent bystander in the whole mess.

Shearing and McIntosh retired with damage while Evans got to restart from the rear of the field.

At the restart Gordon came under immense pressure from both Jake Shearing and Harrison Brown, both of Riverside, eventually the pairing would slip past Gordon with Shearing taking the win ahead of Brown with Gordon third.

Race two and a demolition job my Brown, racing off to a lead that was never at any point pressured at all, Brown would take his first win of the day, McIntosh would make a solid return after the heat one damage to place second with Evans third.

The final Six Shooter race was a great race to watch, Brown had secured a second and a first but would start from the very back of the pack and would have to work his way through a pretty classy field to win the Ainsley Memorial for the second year running.

Up front George Hedley of Cromwell would power away to a strong start after what could only be described as a fairly quiet day for Hedley, but he was certainly making up for things in this race, charging to a win of almost five seconds, behind Hedley was Evans in second and Brown who had done a remarkable job getting himself up to third place.

That result saw Brown retain the Daryl Ainsley Memorial for Six Shooters, Jake Shearing placed second with Hedley’s win elevating him to third.

Youth Ministocks had some vigorous battles across all three races for the Daryl Ainsley Memorial, in race one there was just the one caution which was for Cromwell’s Thomas Scott who pulled up infield.

At the restart Cromwell driver Lucee Scott got a great jump and drove away from the pack, Scott however would come under pressure from clubmate Hunter Elliott Cross who was all over the tail of Scott, a remarkable drive considering Elliot Cross is still on the mentor program and had to drive through the entire grade to challenge the leader.

Scott would take the race win, Elliott Cross claiming a close second with Byren Craig also of Cromwell third.

Heat two would see a major stoppage early when two Cromwell cars had a coming together coming out of turn two. Jess Evans who was competing at her very last meeting got a flick spin courtesy of contact with Brooke Marshall and when Evans car straightened she went head on into the wall in one of the biggest Ministock hits I have ever seen.

Evans would be taken away by medical staff while her car had suffered solid damage to the front end.

At the restart it was Scott again who led the way, but this time Elliott Cross would again come from the rear of the pack, and this time do one better than last time with a race win while on the mentor program, Scott would settle for second with Marshall third.

This would now leave Scott and Elliott Cross tied on points for first heading into the last race.

The highlight of this race was Evans who checked out fine with the medical staff and a repaired car rolling out to do battle in her last ever race in the grade, a grade that she has been an absolute competitor in for a number of years.

Scott would again get away to a good start, Thomas Scott would give chase and Elliott Cross was coming through the field at haste. With three laps to go Lucee Scott would tag Cromwell’s Patience Cooper who was a lapped car, sending her into a spin and bringing out a caution, now how the officials never saw this incident is beyond me but Scott had dodged a major bullet in the grand scheme of things.

At the restart it was Lachie Campbell Tate who would come unstuck in turn two, again condensing the pack, Lucee Scott held her nerve at this point and sat her car in a defensive spot that neither Thomas Scott or Elliot Cross could attack from, Scott would hold the lead and take her second race win of the night, Thomas Scott second with Elliott Cross third. Evans and Marshall would both find themselves excluded from the race.

Lucee Scott would take first overall from Elliott Cross and Craig third.

Production Saloons put on three brilliant races, all went without caution, and produced some of the best racing of the event.

Cromwell’s Gavin Hurring got off to a flying start in heat one and was cruising up front, clubmate Steven “Socks” Nicholas was coming at Hurring but would have some work to do to chase down the early leader.

On the very last lap Hurring was gone, the race was his, Nicholas had lapped traffic to contend with as well as Cromwell’s Daniel Rolton who was reeling Nicholas in. Coming out of turn two Rolton set up Nicholas with precision, drag racing down the back straight and parking Nicholas directly behind a lapped car, by this stage the race win had gone to Hurring, Rolton sailed on passed the lapped car to claim second while Nicholas took third.

This must have lit a fire under Nicholas as he came out in race two and put almost five seconds on the rest of the field to claim an easy race win, second went the way of Cromwell’s Brad McTaggart with clubmate Aven Erskine third.

The third race was a brilliant battle, Sam McKenzie of Cromwell is always dangerous when he hangs his car out wide against the fence line and he backed himself in this race to do just that. This led to a fascinating battle with both McTaggart and Nicholas up the front of the pack.

Nicholas who started fifth would work his way to second and snatch the lead and ultimately the race win on the very last lap, second would go the way of McKenzie with McTaggart third.

This win gave Nicholas the overall win for Production Saloons, second went to Hurring with McTaggart third.

George Phillips of Cromwell was always going to be the benchmark in a smaller than usual Saloon field, heat one and Phillips wasted no time whatsoever, racing out to a handy lead after having to fight of clubmate Jason Gold for most of the race.

Gold would run with Phillips for the majority of the race which would have been pleasing for himself and his team after a major rebuild on his car after a nasty accident at Beachlands Speedway a couple of weeks prior..

Gold however couldn’t upstage Phillips who would take the win, Gold second with Riverside’s Graham Williamson third.

Williamson would clear off from the pack in heat two but only a couple of laps in would spin in turn two while leading, causing Cromwell’s Ivan Murdoch to make contact and Phillips and Riverside’s Mark Dobson to have to take drastic action to not become part of what could have been a pretty big smash, luckily for everyone they all managed to drive away.

At the restart Phillips was in the box seat,  and would be chased by Dobson, but Phillips would be too quick, banking his second win of the night, Dobson would have been happy to get across the line in second while Murdoch drove the wheels off his machine, defending a very hungry Williamson off for third.

The final heat saw Murdoch and Gold battle hard from the front of the pack, mid race Gold would finally gain an advantage on Murdoch and get a break on him.

Gold drove the last few laps with precision as Phillips also snuck through on Murdoch and had Gold in his sights, but it was too little too late for Phillips who could only sit and watch as Gold would take the heat three win, Phillips crossing second with Murdoch third.

Phillips had banked enough points to claim the Saloon class win overall, Gold second with Dobson third.

Stockcars put on a brilliant show across the night, in race one Christchurch’s Luke Molloy would race away early before a red light would come on for Dunedin’s Bailey Mitchell and Riverside’s Luke Fallow who came together in turn two on lap six, Mitchell would sit the rest of this race out.

From there it was near on a sprint race at the front, one that Molloy would take out, leading home Cromwell’s Brian Taniwha with Steven Thompson of Dunedin third.

Thompson would come out in race two with all guns blazing and turn the tides on Molloy, the pair battling hard up front but Thompson would just be too fast in this race claiming the race win, Molloy second with Taniwha third.

Both Molloy and Thompson would have targets on their back from the local drivers in race three. Fallow was the first to put a shot on Molloy but Molloy would get away from this battle, but he wouldn’t escape the big hit that was coming next from Cromwell’s Casey McEwan who measured Molloy with precision in turn four and sent him up the wall and over onto his side to end Molloys chances.

At the restart it was Taniwha and Thompson who would battle it out, McEwan would wait for Thompson but couldn’t get the job done on the man from Beachlands, local driver Ashdyn Gable had also got up to the pointy end of the pack and was threatening late in the race, but Taniwha would hold on to the lead and capture the win from Thompson in second and Gable driving up to third.

This result would see Thompson and Taniwha tied for first and a coin toss was decided upon with Thompson winning that to be the overall winner of the Daryl Ainsley Memorial for Stockcars, Taniwha second with Gable third.

The final grade to compete was Sprintcars, they would run three heat races and a twenty lap feature final that would decide the overall winner. Sprintcars were another grade that would run the entire night without a caution in any of the heats or the feature.

Heat one saw local driver Josh Buchanan bolt away from the front row of the grid, clubmate Jason Scott who also started on the front row would go with Buchanan but couldn’t steal the race lead, Buchanan would take the heat one win, Scott second with the big mover in the pack being Jacob McIntyre of Riverside sneaking up to third place.

Heat two and it was McIntyre who would replicate Buchanan in heat one, racing off to a big lead after shaking of an early challenge from Cromwell’s Finn Cleveland on the opening laps. McIntyre would grab himself a heat win by almost four seconds from Jamie Duff of Ruapuna in second and Cleveland third.

Duff would then show his class from the front row in race three, this time fighting off Oscar Harcourt also of Ruapuna, while McIntyre would need to build on his current points haul from the back of the field.

McIntyre was patient climbing as high as fifth mid race before Mathew Anderson of Cromwell snuck past him late in the race leaving him with sixth in the heat. Duff would secure the win and join McIntyre on the front row of the grid for the feature, second went the way of Harcourt with Caleb Baughan making it a Ruapuna trifecta in third place.

The feature was nothing but good fast, clean Sprintcar racing, as mentioned before, not a single caution which would have made the feature a little more interesting but take nothing away from any of these drivers on this night, they were driving the wheels off these cars.

Duff and McIntyre would battle hard for the first few laps before the experience of Duff shone. 

Duff got off to a decent lead up front but McIntyre pulled him back mid race and was clocking faster lap times, lap in, lap out, but Duff put the killer blow in when he passed Cromwell’s Whetu Taewa to lap him, Duff did this with ease, while McIntyre got caught up behind Taewa dropping him a second slower on one lap late in the race which took any chance of McIntyre catching well away from him.

From there the race was Duffs, he would claim the race win, McIntyre home in second with Buchanan securing third place overall.

So after the sheep shearing, the speedway racing, the obstacle course, the karaoke and the pie eating it was Team Symons led by Tony Symons and featuring Shanarrah Stronach, Caleb Baughan, Danny Livingstone, Ricky Boulton, Brad McTaggart, Lucee Scott, Jason Jenner, Oscar Harcourt, Darren McLeod and Mason Whelan, that would be crowned Daryl Ainsley Memorial winners for 2024.

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