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  • RACE REPORTS

Classy Field Contests South Island Saloons

Central Motor Speedway

STORY BY

DARYL SHUTTLEWORTH
Shuttleworth Motorsport Media

Images supplied by: Kieran Blair Photography

(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.) 

An exceptionally strong field of Saloons took part in the Phillips Bulk Logistics South Island Saloon Championship at Central Motor Speedway, with twenty one cars entered including two top quality North Island competitors Rodney McIndoe of Gisborne and Trent Amrein of Kihikihi keen to take the South Island Championship trophy across Cook Strait.

Rain threatened to disrupt the meeting with neighboring tracks Oreti Park and Beachlands both being washed out, heavy rain early in the day looked likely to push the championship out a day but the track crew did well to turn the track around, even after a steady shower just prior to the meeting kicking off.

The event would see the drivers run in three groups, two fifteen lap heat races each and a thirty lap feature final.

Heat one put the “A” and “B” groups together and this race certainly took a few laps to gain any sort of shape with multiple cautions early on.

The first caution came in turn three of lap one when Riverside’s Darren McLeod spared into the wall ending his nights racing early, while this was happening Christchurch’s Willie Woodhouse had filled the arena with smoke which was bellowing out of his car just as he took over the lead. Woodhouse would head infield but return to the track for the restart.

The dramas from this lap one caution were not over with one of the early championship favorites Amrein parking up on the infield also. When the green flag dropped it only took just one more lap for dramas to start to unfold again, this time it was Stu Miller of Dunedin spinning in turn two which led to Christchurch driver Campbell McManaway also stopping to avoid Miller, both McManaway and Miller would soon retire from the race, McManaway with a puncture, Miller with excessive smoke, Woodhouse would also retire when his car started to smoke again as well.

Once the race got back to some form of order it was Dunedin’s Aaron Andrews who raced off to a handy lead, behind Andrews was Cromwell’s George Phillips who was looking fast towards the tail end of the race, Andrews would have built up a handy enough lead to take the race win, Phillips second with Ryan Bennett of Dunedin third.

Heat two saw the “B” and “C” groups battle it out, this race also saw the first of Christchurch’s Ashton Osborne who was a late entry in the championship after Woodford Glen cancelled their event early.

Osborne was clinical in this race having a solid battle with McManaway and McIndoe with Amrein in the mix also, both Amrein and McManaway chasing valuable points after both not finishing their first heat.

Osborne was simply too good in this race banking the race win ahead of McManaway in second with Amrein taking third place. Some form of relegation must have taken place after the race as Amrein was demoted to fifth on the official results, elevating McIndoe up to third place, this result would bury Amrein well outside the top ten for the feature.

The final heat was group “C” and “A” and it was another good fast clean race, this time Graham Williamson of Invercargill was in full control out in front of the pack racing off to an early lead. All eyes were further back in the field with heat two winner Osborne having to start form the very back of the pack, he would have to stare clear of trouble and work his way up the group to ensure he could add enough points to his heat win to grab a solid starting spot.

Williamson had a great battle with McIndoe who looked fast all day, the two Mustangs looking the part battling it out at the front of the field, but the pair soon had company in the form of Phillips who was starting to flaunt with the wall, a classic Phillips trait that speedway fans have come to love over the last few seasons at Central Motor Speedway. Phillips managed to slip past McIndoe before setting his sights on Williamson, setting him up in turn three making a calculated dive down low to snatch the lead of the race and ultimately the race win.

Williamson would bag second place with McIndoe third, meaning McIndoe and Phillips would share the front row of the grid for the feature race.

There was plenty of anticipation heading into the thirty lap feature final, Phillips would choose the outside starting position and beat McIndoe into turn one, from there Phillips sailed off into the sunset and built a handy race lead.

Behind Phillips McIndoe, Williamson, Osborne and McManaway all battled hard while Amrein also worked his way through the pack. Riverside’s Mark Dobson was another big mover, starting to reel in the lead bunch.

The race was half the distance when Dan Black of Riverside would spin directly in front of Phillips, Phillips did well to avoid any contact but the big lead Phillips had built up was now well gone with Black’s spin bringing out a caution.

This caution bought out a bit of a domino effect of sorts with Dunedin driver Paul Carr hitting the wall in turn two but managing to keep going, then local driver Pierre Leyser doing the same with thirteen laps to run.

At the restart Williamson suffered mechanical dramas down the back straight and pulled to the outside of the track, this left Dobson stuck behind Williamson after making his way up the pack, sending a fuming Dobson six spots further back down the pack, but the big winner from this was Ivan Murdoch of Cromwell who followed Amrein through, now within reach of the main pack.

With the laps counting down it was Phillips, from Osborne and then McIndoe, Phillips looked like he was in total control before a mistake coming through turn two almost spun him, dropping the race leader down to fifth spot and handing the lead to Osborne.

Osborne would fight hard with a re-energized McIndoe who was now in with a shot, as was Amrein who had now worked his way past McManaway to be in third, a remarkable drive from well down the pack.

Osborne was under attack and it was Amrein making the moves, slipping into second past McIndoe who was now also battling with Phillips who was coming back through the field at a rate of knots.

Osborne would collect the white flag, one more to go for the newly crowned 2NZ, Amrein was applying the pressure but had run out of laps to get the job done, Osborne would hang on to be crowned South Island Saloon Champion, Amrein settling for second with Phillips making a late pass on McIndoe for third place in what was a remarkable final race.

The story wasn’t all told on the track though, with Osborne rolling back into the pits only to be told he had been relegated two spots for a pass on a back marker deemed to be over the pole line, this was ironic that this happened as it was only a month prior that Osborne’s father Mark suffered the same fate at the New Zealand Super Saloon Championship, slightly different incident, but the same penalty at the same race track.

On that night Mark Osborne protested the decision and was granted the 3NZ, and tonight Ashton Osborne would do exactly the same, having the relegation overturned to be crowned South Island Saloon Champion for 2023/24.

Youth Ministocks were running for the Goldrush Challenge and they put on some great racing across all three heats, testament to these drivers, they did not cause a single caution across any of their races all night, good clean racing with plenty of action.

Heat one saw Joshua McIntyre of Cromwell have to battle it out with clubmates Brooke Marshall and Lucee Scott. Marshall got off to a flying start and looked like she may take an early race win, but she left the smallest of gaps open in turn three which saw McIntyre slip past, he waited for the gap to open for a number of laps, mature driving from the lad who went on to take the win. Second went the way of Scott with Marshall third.

Heat two and McIntyre started up front with Scott and the pair soon become the runaway leaders, Scott taking an early advantage but McIntyre soon made a pass for the lead and would remain unchallenged for his second win of the event, Scott was solid in second with Cromwell’s Byren Craig third.

The final race saw both McIntyre and Scott have to start front the very last row of the grid, and looked like this would be the race they would have to work hardest in, but by the time the cars were powering out of turn two both Scott and McIntyre had gone from the rear to the very front.

McIntyre again was clinical and drove away with this one, despite having to race hard with Scott who was eager to snatch a win. McIntyre would take his third win of the event, Scott second with Cromwell’s Thomas Scott third. Thomas Scott was disqualified at the end of this race giving third place to Craig.

Six Shooters produced some of the best racing of the night with a strong field of cars entered. Heat one started off a bit messy with Riverside’s Daniel McIntosh having an early spin bringing out a caution, straight after the restart it was another Riverside driver Danny Livingstone who spun collecting Cromwell’s Blair Smith putting him out, as well as Riverside clubmates Hayden Graves and Josh Livingstone all suffering damage.

At the restart Luke Shearing of Riverside would get to the front of the field and would remain untouched taking out his first win of the day, second went the way of Cromwell’s Adam Evans while George Hedley also of Cromwell placed third.

Race two and a fairly clean race until the second last lap when both McIntosh and Hedley came unstuck in turn three, setting up an intense battle between Evans, Shearing, Cromwell’s Tony Symons and Josh Livingstone who were all well in contention. The two lap sprint saw Shearing get to the line to grab his second race win, Evans again second with Symons third.

Both Evans and Shearing would have to work hard in race three as the pair were buried deep in the field. Smith would get off to a flying start and dominate out front to claim an easy race win by almost four seconds, both Evans and Shearing worked their way up the order and Evans looked as if he would secure second only to be pipped on the line by Shearing, giving Shearing the overall win for the event.

Production Saloons were on track as support, heat one saw local driver Gavin Hurring race off in his brand new car and secure an early victory, Hurring would head home clubmates Daniel Rolton in second and Steven Nicholas also in a new car in third.

Hurring however would be relegated at the end of the race handing Rolton his first race win in a number of seasons, Hurring dropping back to third place.

Race two and the rain came down at Central Motor Speedway, the Production Saloons were slipping and sliding all over the place, and credit to the drivers, the car control they all showed was remarkable.

Shane Carson of Riverside was having a ball out front, the big rear wheel drive Holden Commodore thrown sideways around the corners, showing his front wheel drive rivals how its all done.

Cromwell’s James Woods however wouldn’t allow Carson to race off to the win, he sat his car right up on the high line and snuck past a sliding Carson with a couple of laps to run, Hurring would follow through also but couldn’t chase down Woods who would take the win, Hurring second with Carson claiming a well deserved third place.

The final race of Production Saloons went the way of Nicholas who managed to work his way to the front of the field early and charge off to win by just over three seconds, Woods came home second ahead of Hurring.

The final grade on hand was Stockcars and it was Cromwell’s Ashdyn Gable who took out all three races, second Ryan Ridder of Riverside.

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