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Duffman Does The Business At Riverside

Riverside 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.) 

You could sympathize with Christchurch Sprintcar Ace Jamie “Duffman” Duff , last season to put it bluntly was a nightmare, and with the effort Duff and his crew put into their racing you could sense the total frustration from Duff in his Facebook posts, at times thinking “this guy is that frustrated he could walk away from the sport”, certainly something his huge fan base would not want to see.

I put it down to the old wives tail, that you don’t paint a race car green, I go back to my old days of racing a midget, the only car I destroyed was green, so when Duff rolled out his 2023/24 race livery I was stoked to see he had reverted back to the red, white and black colour scheme that has served him so well for a number of seasons.

Duff has started the season well, and seems to have a real spring in his step, so far this season winning the Central Motor Speedway round of the Civil Construction Southern Sprintcar Series, The Central Otago Sprintcar Championship and the Sprintcar feature at Ruapuna’s opening meeting, not a bad comeback from a horror season in green the year prior.

Duff was not entered in the Southern Sprintcar Series for the first two rounds but has since joined the series, meaning he had some points to make up on the field, and the popular driver was a welcome addition to the field for Aotea Electric Riverside Speedways event, round three of the series.

It was a scorching spring day with temperatures in the late teens, early twenties, possibly too hot and not ideal as the track baked, the track crew simply could not keep enough water up to it, making the entire meeting a real juggling act.

Heat one of the Southern Sprintcar Series turned Riverside into an absolute dust bowl, both Duff and local driver Ross McKinnel had made the call to play the Joker Card which gives them double points for what they earn at this meeting. So far only series leader Caleb Baughan of Christchurch and Dean “The Thriller”  Miller of Cromwell have played this card.

Series leader Baughan got of to a solid start in this race but had a spin in turn two, mid race that would bring the race to a caution, Baughan would restart from the rear of the field but by this stage Duff was up front and really the only car with clear visibility.

Duff would power off from his rivals once more despite Cromwell’s Mathew Anderson giving chase while Baughan would pick up a few spots after his early spin. Duff would take the race win with Anderson second and current series Champion Adam Evans of Cromwell placing third.

Heat two started with a tangle up between both Duff and McKinnel on the main straight, both cars intertwining but managing to break free from each other in what could have been a big accident at the tail of the field. While this was all taking place John Sievwright of Cromwell would spin in the first corner bringing out a restart.

The race restarted only for a handful of laps later Sievwright would spin up again, this time in turn four. 

While all this was unfolding it was the second of the Duff’s who was out front dominating the race. Steve “The Gasman” Duff was looking fast, controlling the race from up front, putting on a faultless display to bag the heat win ahead of Anderson who placed second and local driver Jacob McIntyre in third place.

The final heat was a good clean race, no cautions, still very dust and slick with not a lot of passing options on offer, not unless you backed your talent and trusted the car enough to make a pass out wide. This is exactly what Evans did, the young driver sat in fourth place for the majority of this heat, out front Baughan was in full control with Miller chasing hard in second. Evans backed himself to fire his car out wide in the final lap and got the job done to bag some vital points going into the feature, jumping up to third and almost getting Miller in the process. 

Baughan would take the win from Miller with Evans third.

The final was dropped from the scheduled twenty five laps down to twenty due to track conditions and to all the drivers credit this was an entertaining race to watch, no cautions just good fast green to checkered racing which delighted the the purists in attendance. 

Jamie Duff and Anderson started on the front row and while Duff powered off it was Evans who got a ripping start from the second row to follow Duff through and challenge the former National Champion for a number of early laps.

Duff however would find his groove and pull away from his young rival, he chose his passes wisely, never panicked, just cool as a cucumber going about his business to claim round three of the series, and securing double points in the process.

Evans would bank some valuable series points getting home in second place to keep his series chances well and truly in tact, while Anderson was comfortably third.

Duff spoke at the presentation about how much he enjoyed the Riverside track, and felt a set of lights so the club could race at night would certainly do the place some favors so they didn’t have to contend with the intense baking sun, a project the club may need to look into in the coming seasons.

The first Southland Championship was also contested at this meeting, The Creativity Plus Production Saloons would have a bumper field of twenty six cars entered from Riverside, Beachlands and Central Motor Speedway all wanting to claim the championship.

To be fair, I expected total and utter carnage with this many cars entered, and the Production Saloons did not disappoint, dishing up the odd incident but to be full credit to all drivers on track, there was some pretty clean fast racing.

Heat one was going smoothly, Cromwell’s Gavin Hurring got off to a solid start and was holding a lead over clubmate Stephen “Socks” Nicholas with Alistair Green of Riverside holding third. The trio were racing into turn two when a lapped car in the form of Stephen Hills of Riverside spun up leaving all three cars with nowhere to go but nose to tail into each other, causing a stoppage and frontal damage to a number of cars.

Hurring and Nicholas managed to rejoin the race for the restart but Green was ordered to the infield and out of the race, Green would later find out that a miscommunication was the issue and that Speedway New Zealand officials actually didn’t order him to park up leaving Green even more frustrated.

From the restart Hurring would break away once more and manage to hold of Nicholas to claim the heat one win, Nicholas did enough for second while Kahu Moxham of Riverside would secure third place.

Heat two was fast, no stoppages just good battles right throughout the field. Riversides Blake Hamilton suffered an issue in heat one but definitely came back all guns blazing in heat two, controlling the race from the front, fighting hard to keep Dunedin’s Tyler Kelk and Riverside’s Aaron Reed behind him. Kelk looked to make a move on numerous occasions but couldn’t find a way past Hamilton who would take the race win, Kelk settled for second with Reed in third.

As Hamilton drove away on his victory lap he left a ball of burning material on the track, then by the time he made the lap the car was well alight with a fire in the rear of the car ending Hamilton’s Southland Championship hopes.

The Production Saloons would now head into the winner takes all feature final and this was an eventful race, going the distance without interruption right up until the very last lap.

Riverside Life Member Tony Jones got off to a flying start to lead early and pretty much gap the pack, he was chased hard by Hurring and Nicholas who were in a great battle themselves. As the white flag came out, the mayhem begun the first incident when Kelk’s car blew plumes of smoke right around turn three and his clubmate Cam Bower parked up on the main straight.

This would regroup the cars and give Nicholas and Hurring a chance to attack Jones. The green flag would drop and Nicholas missed the start allowing Jones to tear off to a commanding lead once more, again taking the white flag and almost a taste of the championship but Lucy Greer of Beachlands would park up on the back straight causing another restart.

Once Greer was clear the race restarted, this time Nicholas challenged Jones but Jones had pure speed down the straight, pulling a couple of car lengths from his rival, again the white flag came out, surely Jones would get home this time, but no, with the finish in site Blake Murdoch of Riverside would slap the wall at turn four very hard this time bringing out the red flag and the race being called off, Jones being crowned Southland Production Saloon Champion, Nicholas second with Hurring third.

The Harvey Tanks Youth Saloons were split into two random groups for the Best Pairs Championship, and with twenty four cars entered, a number of those drivers just competing in their first or second meeting, there was sure to be plenty of action across both grades.

Group A managed to get all three races in but Group B had their third race pulled due to track conditions.

In heat one for Group One there were no cautions, every driver drove clean, gave respect to the other drivers around them and came home with straight cars, Riverside’s Joshua Richardson raced off to a fast start and would have a great battle with clubmate Stellar Hamilton, Richardson would drive away with the win late in the race with Hamilton second new driver Eli Bartley claiming third.

Heat two and just the one restart mid race when Hunter Kergozou of Riverside spun up causing the pack to have to re-grid, again Richardson was too quick sneaking away from the pack to bag his second win in as many races, second was Bartley who was impressive and Maddie Pine of Riverside in third.

The final race for Group A was action packed, Richardson got off to a flyer only to come to a halt on the back straight, as the race slowed down Richardson pulled to the infield with a flat front tyre.

Kergozou would also come to grief in this heat also, spinning up in turn four and needing to be towed infield. Hamilton was also looking quick in this race, leading after Richardson had left the track but swiping the wall hard in turn two, she would hold on and be in second when she hit the wall in turn four bringing out a caution and Hamilton needing to receive medical assistance.

Pine would now be in control but was being challenged by Bartley, a very quick Meah Sommerville and new driver Dylan Rawcliffe all giving chase. Pine looked odds on to bank her first ever race win but Sommerville and Bartley were keen to upstage her, so much so that Bartley backed himself to fly down the inside of Sommerville late in the race, making contact that put Sommerville out of the race. The move certainly wasn’t reckless, it was great racing and could well have paid off, Bartley would get home in second but be relegated two spots for the contact.

Pine would grab her first ever race win, much to the delight of the big crowd, Bartley was second but relegated giving Riverside driver Zac Kitto second ahead of Rawcliffe.

In Group B much like Group A race one was fast clean and exciting to watch. Riverside’s Cayden Race got off to a flying start and managed to hold off a hard charging Joshua McIntyre who was throwing everything he had at Race.

Race would claim the win with McIntyre second and Kadin Cracknell of Riverside third.

Cracknell looked as if he was going to bank his first ever race win in heat two, the young driver looking fast up front despite the likes of Race and McIntyre chasing him hard. McIntyre would unfortunately drop out of the race with mechanical issues but Cracknell would continue to lead, taking the last lap flag and within four hundred meters of a race win. Further back in the pack new drivers Ryder Harris and Vandah Thompson would make contact and both cars would suffer severe damage meaning a one lap dash would decide race two. With both cars cleared the green flag dropped and it was Race who made the move on Cracknell, slipping past and hanging on to take the win, Cracknell came home in second ahead of Holly Murdoch of Riverside banking her best ever finish in third place.

Despite Richardson and Race dominating the heat races they never featured on the podium for the best pairs with the win going the way of Bartley and Hamilton first, Pine and Sommerville second with Cracknell and Harris third.

Streetstocks were racing for the “Spin Belt” and with a couple of casualties in race one it left the field fairly wide spread and lacked some much needed action in the first couple of races at least.

Heat one Steve Dryden of Riverside won with ease after a mid race battle with Beachlands Scott Palmer who was fast early. Dryden would eventually pass Palmer to claim victory, Palmer took second with Lance Yeo of Riverside third.

Race two and Dryden looked as if he was again going to dominate but clubmate Phil Johnston had different ideas, Johnston led early but Dryden got to him and made the pass for the lead, Johnston however wouldn’t let go and put a great move on Dryden spinning him up and racing home to take the race two victory.

This move would also allow Brent Bradley of Riverside through for second ahead of Palmer in third place.

Dryden came out keen to play in race three and he even commented after the race that no one else wanted to play, they sat up against the wall so Dryden couldn’t get them. With the Spin Belt its not about winning the race, its about getting points for every car you can spin.

Palmer was the first casualty in this race bringing out the red light and being helped infield, by this stage Dryden had spun a couple of cars and was on the hunt for more. Out front Bradley was in control and would take the race win, managing to contend with multiple attempts from his rivals, second would go the way of Yeo with Johnston coming home third. Dryden would bank the most points to win the Spin Belt, a fitting result in his fiftieth year of racing.

Support grades also produced some good battles across the afternoon, Six Shooters struggled with the track surface and the first two races of the day for the grade were both long winded affairs with multiple incidents and stoppages.

Race wins went the way of Riverside’s Mason Whelan in heat one, his first race win in the grade, heat two was Riverside driver Harrison Brown while Whelan repeated his race one feat of claiming the win in the third race.

Stockcars are always a crowd favorite, and cars from Riverside and Central Motor Speedway ensured the grade would put on some good racing to keep them well entertained. 

The winner of race one was Cromwell’s Casey McEwan while in race two Trazarn Ryland Annabell secure his first ever race win under the Central Motor Speedway banner, switching from Beachlands to Central early in the season. Speedway New Zealand President Ricky Boulton was a surprise addition to race two, actually putting on a very good showing claiming second place, I would have thought he had a bigger target on his back and the boys and girls would have gone after him.

Ryland Annabell would dominate in the final Stockcar heat to cap off a solid day in the class for Central Motor Speedway drivers.

The final grade on the program was Saloons, and it was great to see cars from Dunedin and Cromwell come South to bolster the numbers. Riverside’s Graham Williamson added to his ten year celebrations by claiming race one, while his clubmate Mark Dobson took the win in heat two, looking fast in his second season of running a new car.

Williamson would then finish the night on a high taking the third race of the night, this time in a real dog fight with Dunedin’s Aaron Andrews who came home in second place. Credit must be given to Travis Smith of Dunedin in the Saloon class also grabbing a couple of top three finishes across the day. 

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