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  • RACE REPORTS

What A Way To Bring Up 50

Riverside Speedway

STORY BY

DARYL SHUTTLEWORTH
Shuttleworth Motorsport Media

Images supplied by: Clare McMurdo and Debra Race

(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.) 

Cast your mind back fifty years, if you were even born then of course, I was due to be hatched, the 1974 Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch were to be the first colour pictures anyone would see on their TV sets in New Zealand, ABBA won the Eurovision song contest with Waterloo and a young fresh faced Steve Dryden entered the sport of Speedway, and here he is fifty years later still a competitive as he ever has been.

Dryden would line up at Aotea Electric Riverside Speedway against a field of twenty cars to compete for the Southland Streetstock Championship, a title he has won multiple times, but to claim the silverware in his 50th year would be something very special.

A quality field of drivers from Beachlands Speedway including defending champion Regan Constable would make the trek south to ensure Dryden would have to work for the title, as they were keen to take it back up state highway one for another twelve months.

Heat one saw Dryden start mid pack, but soon found himself at the pointy end of the field after Dunedin driver Jacob Glossop would stop on the main straight on lap one bringing out the first stoppage. At the restart Dryden made a number of spots getting towards the leaders Dunedin duo Braden Adams and Ben Jenkins who were looking very quick.

Dryden would eventual slip past the pair of Dunedin drivers just as the second stoppage came out when Beachlands Robert Ryder absolutely drilled clubmate Jake Barr from behind putting Barr out for the rest of the event.

At the restart Dryden would hold on for the last lap to take the win with Adams second and Jenkins third.

Heat two and Dryden had a front row start, when the green flag dropped Dryden gapped it, he told me afterwards that with Dunedin’s Shya McHardy on his inside he knew he had to make a gap fast, and he certainly did that. Dryden made easy work of this race, managing his passes on lapped traffic and staying out of trouble to win his second race of the event, also putting a big target on his back for heat three. Jenkins came home in second with Mitch Lavender of Dunedin getting himself up to third.

Heading into the final race Dryden carried a three point margin over Jenkins, Dryden would also need to start from the back and with a heap of Dunedin cars between himself and Jenkins it was always going to be one hell of a race watching who would attack who.

Early in this one Jenkins put a spin on clubmate McHardy which would hand him the early race lead, this spin would become a major factor in the championship as the race went on.

As Dryden made his way through the pack he found himself on the outside of a waiting Adams on turn four, Adams would direct Dryden wide and feed him hard into the wall, putting what looked like an end to Drydens title hopes. The officials were quick to bring out the red flag and gave Dryden the chance to break free from the tangle up, which after a third attempt he did which bought the big crowd to their feets.

The green flag would drop and Dryden got his revenge, hitting Adams hard from behind, ultimately ending Adams race. As the race rolled on Dryden was again working his way through, up ahead you could see McHardy coasting around like a bird of prey, now if you were a betting man you would have thought he would be waiting on Dryden, but to my surprise, and many others McHardy put a killer blow on Jenkins who at this point had the title in the bag had he won.

The crowd went nuts, but also couldn’t believe what happened next as Jenkins bounced off McHardy and into the path of Dryden who was trying to sneak down the inside, the pair made solid contact but Dryden would continue on, Jenkins though was done.

This race would be one of the best Streetstock races I have ever commentated, it had it all, and a credit to all drivers on that track, they put on one hell of a final.

Lavender would win race three from Dunedin’s Scott Palmer in second and Phil Johnston of Riverside third.

This result would give Dryden the Southland Championship, and when this was announced the place went into a frenzy, a fitting response, and result to honor Drydens fiftieth year in speedway.

Lavender claimed second overall with consistent results throughout the day, with McHardy claiming a solid third place. 

The Southland Saloon Championship was also up for grabs and defending champion Graham Williamson of Riverside would go into this event as strong favorite after a disappointing amount of entries were received, just five cars competing for a title that has been so highly sort after for years.

The Saloons were challenged on what was a very bumpy track, all drivers really struggling to find a happy medium that they could get a solid lap in without going skyward.

This championship was raced over three races, the first two on points, the third winner takes all. Heat one saw Williamson and clubmate Mark Dobson challenge each other early before Williamson would claim the win, Dobson would settle for second with Dan Black of Riverside third. Black had shown his frustrations with the track conditions in this race leaving the infield unhappy about the race being run.

Heat two and again Dobson and Williamson battled hard, Dobson however made the mistake of being caught wide when trying a move on Williamson allowing both Black and Riverside’s Darren McLeod through dropping him to fourth.

Again Williamson was too quick and would bag his second win to take pole for the final, Black claimed second with McLeod third.

In the winner takes all final Black got off to a flying start, beating Williamson into turn one, but Williamson would get a good run out of two and blast past Black to take control of the race.

Dobson would soon dispatch of Black also but by this stage the championship looked done, Williamson had almost a straight length on Dobson and the final few laps looked like a formality with Williamson destined to claim the win.

Williamson however would fall victim to a right front tyre failure and despite trying to do everything he could to hold on he soon become a sitting duck with the entire field blasting through before the yellow flag came out with Williamson being instructed to go infield where he would also be joined by McLeod.

At the restart Black would have one last lunge at Dobson while behind Black Glen Edwards of Riverside was suddenly in the mix, Dobson however would hold on to take a popular race win and ultimately be crowned Southland Champion ahead of Black in second and Edwards third.

Stockcars were racing for best pairs and a good field of cars from Riverside, Cromwell, Dunedin and Christchurch were all entered.

Heat one saw Beachlands Steven Thompson return to Riverside and claim his first ever race win at the southern track, Thompson would head home a fast finishing Casey McEwan of Cromwell with Luke Fallows of Riverside third.

Heat two and again just a good fast race with plenty of hitting to keep the crowd entertained. McEwan would go one better in this heat taking the race win, Dunedin’s Bailey Mitchell in second with Jenna Tree of Riverside third.

McEwan and Mitchell were actual a pairing in the best pairs and this result would see them head into the final race with a seven point buffer over their nearest rivals Luke Molloy of Christchurch and Peter Knight of Riverside.

Heat three would see that points buffer disappear pretty rapidly as both McEwan and Mitchell would be sent infield after both suffering damage, leaving the best pairs championship wide open.

Tree did all she could to stake her claim winning by a margin in what was an impressive drive, Fallows a solid second with Molloy home in third.

This gave Knight and Molloy the best pairs championship, Tree and Riverside’s Dwayne Te Maro second with McEwan and Mitchell securing third.

Despite Youth Saloons and Production Saloons both just running as support classes, they did seem to draw the most attention from officials, with multiple drivers being pinged for contact, consistent calls that would see the culprits held accountable.

In Youth Saloons over twenty cars were on track so it was busier than The Warehouse carpark on Christmas Eve, Riverside’s Cayden Race was super fast dominating out front, but would fall under the eagle eyes of the Speedway New Zealand Officials hitting clubmate Lukis MacHattie multiple times down the back straight while putting a lap on him. Race would win this race only to be relegated two spots to third for the contact, giving the win to Riverside’s Meah Sommerville with clubmate Lachie Robertson in third.

Race was also lucky not to be pinged race two, still making contact that this time was let to slide by officials, Josh Richardson of Riverside drove a measured race to take the win by a comfortable margin, Race claimed second with Sommerville third.

Robertson was in the hunt for his first ever win in race three, Robertson had a huge lead over his fellow competitors but a massive pile up on the main straight took any advantage he did have away from him with only a few laps to run. 

Myah Lapsley of Riverside was struggling all of this race with her car but when it came to a sudden stop on the main straight while the leaders were about to lap her, it bought about five cars to a grinding halt, all nose to tail causing considerable damage to both her car and Hunter Kergozou who were both put to the infield.

Robertson’s lead would be gone as soon as the green flag dropped with Riverside’s Josh McIntyre pouncing and grabbing the lead as did Race.

McIntyre would take the win in heat three, Race second with Robertson third.

Race one for Productions was a brilliant race with Riverside clubmates Kahu Moxham and Blake Hamilton going toe toe to, lap after lap for the lead of the race. Both drivers gave each other the respect they deserve with the pair side by side on the very last straight, Hamilton looked to come across the line just behind Moxham but the timing showed he was a fraction of a second in front earning him a well driven win, Moxham second with Hayden Skilling of Dunedin third.

Both Moxham and Skilling would feature in heat two, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Skilling drove a faultless race out front to claim an easy win only to be found with no transponder dropping him from the results, that then gave the race to Moxham but he was then relegated two spots for making contact, now handing the race win to Riverside driver Jared Dawson who was a distant third, second would be clubmate Dave McKenzie with Moxham third.

The third race for Production Saloons saw Central Motor Speedway driver Laura Heads get away to a strong start, leading early but she would soon come under attack from Skilling and Hamilton.

Hamilton got a nice run on the pair and would take off to win his second race of the event, while Skilling crossed the line second, no transponder again seen him dropped from the results giving Heads second place ahead of Moxham in third. 

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