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Season Opener A Great Way To Shake Off The Rust

Riverside Speedway

STORY BY

DARYL SHUTTLEWORTH
Shuttleworth Motorsport Media

Images supplied by: Vanessa Adcock

(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.) 

Season Openers can always be a bit messy, first of all half the cars aren’t ready despite having months to prepare, meaning depleted grades, then you get gear that hasn’t been used for a few months suddenly being kicked into life, as you live in hope it will perform just like it did last season, well Aotea Electric Riverside Speedways opening meeting had all of this, but all in all a good solid opener with a decent sized crowd of speedway fans rocking up, showing they had been missing the action and were ready for another big season trackside.

The meeting had it all, tow truck getting a puncture, track lights deciding they wanted to act more like disco lights, and the track commentary system not playing ball after I commentated the entire grand parade only to find out we had a glitch in the system. Certainly nothing major that couldn’t be sorted.

Opening meetings from a commentators perspective are a nightmare, we sound like we are loving it, but it would be one of the toughest assignments of the year, and this season I have to do three of them at different tracks. New drivers, new cars, new liveries, you really have to adapt pretty quickly to what is going on around you, not to mention being short of breath and the throat a bit tender by the end of the day, tough work this gig.

So I’m going to start with Youth Saloons, why?, because they deserve it! Riverside have had a bit of an influx of young drivers this season, twelve new Youth drivers entering the sport, so the club broke the grade into two groups, experienced in one, rookies in the other, once off the mentor program they will become one very big grade.

Heat one of the A Grade Youth Saloons saw Joshua McIntyre start from the rear of the pack and blitz the entire field by half a lap, the kid was like a can of Coke that had been shaken all off season and opened when the green flag dropped, he was simply that good in heat one. Second place would go the way of Cayden Race with Joshua Richardson home in third.

Richardson would come out in race two with a whole new mindset, race one was done and dusted, shaken off the cobwebs and he looked cool, calm and collected. Richardson managed this race up front, picking off lapped traffic knowing full well that McIntyre was in the pack working his way through, and with just a couple of laps to go McIntyre started to put the pressure on Richardson.

To Richardsons credit he showed maturity, last season he would have over drove the car and made a mistake allowing the pass, but not this season, Richardson was smart and claimed the race win, McIntyre a close second with Race home in third place.

The third heat saw these three drivers again battling it out, Race was really starting to become a factor as he got use to a new car, while McIntyre and Richardson both had the confidence of early race wins.

McIntyre started up front and that’s where he would remain, like Richardson in race two he was calm, picked his moments amongst lapped traffic and knew exactly where Richardson and Race were, he would take the win in this race followed by Richardson and Race, these three drivers really making a statement and proving this year will turn out some amazing racing across this grade.

The Youth Saloon B Grade started all a bit messy, a stranded car bringing out the yellow flag but of course these drivers all being fairly new all got a bit gun shy and really didn’t know what to do so the race was brought to a halt.

To all of the drivers credit this was the only delay for this grade for the day as all of these rookie drivers got into a rhythm and had a solid first day out. Heat one and the stand out was Meah Sommerville who came from the back of the pack to absolutely spank the opposition and claim her first race win on debut in the grade, second was Eli Bartley who found speed as the race went on, Bartley is no stranger to Speedway being a Junior Solo rider at Oreti Park Speedway, and a third generation driver here at Riverside. Third behind Bartley was Vandah Thompson who was solid in his first outing also.

Race two and pretty much a carbon copy of heat one, Sommerville dominante once more taking the race win from Bartley who was closing the gap on Sommerville, unfortunately Bartley wouldn’t make it out for heat three due to mechanical dramas. Thompson was again impressive in third place showing it also wouldn’t be long until he would be fighting with the leaders.

 
For heat three it was decided that Sommerville was ready to join the big guns in the A Grade, and she did not disappoint being made to start from the rear of the field and got herself up to fourth place, a great result on debut.

In the third heat of B Grade Youth Saloons there were some great battles with Hunter Kergozou keeping the family name in lights leading for the majority of the race, Kergozou was pushed all race by Zac Kitto who sat behind him for a number of laps before backing himself to make the pass that would reward hm with a well driven race win. Kergozou would settle for second with Thompson again third. Credit must go the way of Craig Menpes the grade rep of the Youth Saloons for the way he has managed this group.

Six Shooters came off the back of a stressful couple of weeks, not knowing if they could or couldn’t race due to rules surrounding roll cage loops and head clearances, the decision leaving a number of drivers ready to race but stuck on the sidelines until they meet the regulations.

Heat one saw Luke Shearing dominate, Shearing contracted to Central Motor Speedway last season had rejoined the Riverside club and put on a faultless showing in this race to celebrate his comeback, winning from Harrison Brown in second and Cromwell’s Tony Symons third.

Shearing would also be too good in heat two, handling the pressure well even after a restart caused Samantha Sandford of Cromwells car filling the arena with smoke after blowing an engine. Shearing would claim his second win of the day followed home once more by Brown with Mason Whelan looking racey in third place.

Drama struck in race three, this was one hell of a race with Duane Cracknell leading for the majority of it. Behind Cracknell both Brown and Shearing were going for it like a couple of heavyweight boxers, toe to toe lap after lap, Brown would get the advantage one lap, Shearing the next.

Eventually the pair would slot past Cracknell one either side of him to snatch the lead, however with Shearing looking as if he would claim his third win of the day coming out of the final corner Brown would slip underneath. This move saw Shearing clip the wall and Brown race off to the flag to take the win with Cracknell second and Shearing limping home third. This incident did cause much debate, and I’m on the fence with this one after seeing the replay multiple times but one thing it will do is spark a very exciting rivalry for the upcoming season amongst two talented your drivers. 

Steve Dryden would roll out on track to celebrate his 50th year of Speedway racing, now love him or loathe him you can not question his talent and commitment to the sport over a huge period of time, hence why it was fitting to see Dryden come out and win the first heat for Streetstock amongst a smaller field of cars but entertaining across all three races. Beachland’s Ben Bisset drove a solid second with his clubmate Shya McHardy home in third.

Dryden would serve up a repeat dose in race two, this time around Phil Johnston would take second ahead of Beachland’s Jake Barr.

McHardy would come out in heat three and take an early lead, Dryden of course would want to take the race win to cap off a perfect day but one thing he didn’t count out was contact in the form of Barr late in the race. Barr would smack Dryden in turn four sending Dryden over onto his roof before settling back on his wheels and out of the race, Im sure Barr will be looking in his rear vision mirror next time he’s on track with Dryden as Dryden always has his day when it comes to payback.

McHardy would go on to win with ease, ahead of Johnston and Barr.

Production Saloons produced some of the days best racing with plenty of wheel to wheel action over all three heat races. Kahu Moxham has stepped out of his Stockcar and into Productions for the season was impressive on debut battling with some of the faster drivers early before breaking clear to snatch a win on debut, second was Jared Dawson with Blake Hamilton the early race leader third.

Hamilton would give the second race away when he came out of turn two only for his bonnet to ping up over his roof taking him out of the race. Again Dawson and Moxham were all class pulling away from the field, this time around they had company in the form of Blake Murdoch who was coming to grips with a new car.
Murdoch sat in behind the leaders before backing himself to grab the lead late in the race, a move that paid dividends for him allowing him to bank his first win of the season, Dawson again was the bridesmaid in second with Moxham a respectable third.

Hamiltons bonnet dramas were taken care of and he would return to action in race three, and make amends for his earlier DNF. Hamilton would get to the lead early and remain unchallenged to make it three races, with three different drivers, offering up what should be some fantastic battles throughout the season ahead.
Murdoch again was impressive taking second ahead of Moxham who had a solid day out on debut.

The final grade to run was Stockcars, a crowd favorite and didn’t miss the mark at the opening meeting.

Heat one saw a brilliant battle unfold up front between Dunedin’s Steven Thompson and Cromwell’s Casey McEwan, Thompson led early only to be passed by McEwan who then looked to have the race in the bag, however Thompson never gives up, as McEwan found out on the very last straight.

McEwan could see the race win in his sites, the chequered flag was about to come down when Thompson attacked from spinning McEwan to the infield and taking the race win, second would be McEwan who got back on track with Luke Fallow third.

While as the commentator I was celebrating the great move Thompson just did on McEwan he was actually being trailered from the event for an illegal move, the crowd loved it, it was entertaining, but they are the rules.

Race two saw an incident that got me a little excited, I had caught up with father and son duo from Central Motor Speedway Carl and Ashdyn Gable in the pits prior to racing, Ashdyn was talking a big game about how he was going to smoke the old man, feeling pretty confident about himself and what do you know, Carl was powering out of turn four when Ashdyn shot sideways and put Carl hard into the wall, sustaining a fair bit of damage to Carl’s car, something if that was my kid and he dished out that punishment he would be grounded for life.

It was of course taken well and I’m sure Carl will seek redemption at some stage of the season, and the story sold to me was Ashdyn had steering damage which caused him to spear to the right, anyway regardless it certainly bought the crowd to its feet.

It actually was only a couple of laps later that Ashdyn would join Carl on the infield after Riley Henderson would dispatch him into the wall at turn three, an awkward journey to park up beside Dad.

This race would continue on and again McEwan was just too good, taking his second win of the day with Peter Knight second ahead of Fallows in third.

Race three was a fairly tame affair, plenty of spinning and action but no one could upstage the man from Central Otago, claiming the third race of the day, a perfect start to the season for McEwan winning ahead of Knight in second with Jenna Tree third.

All in all a good solid first outing setting the foundation of what should be a great season of action at Aotea Electric Riverside Speedway.
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