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What The Hell Just Happened – War Of The Wings Stunner In Cromwell

Central Motor 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.) 

Another warm, balmy summer’s day greeted race fans at Central Motor Speedway for round two of the Hydraulink War Of The Wings Sprintcar Series, holiday makers packing the stunning Central Otago venue to the brim, all amped and ready to take in a great days speedway action.

Nelsons Connor Rangi would lead the series after one round, and was certainly my pick heading into this event, but with the likes of Christchurch’s Jamie Duff and the two American lads Brenham Crouch and Joel Myers Jnr it was always going to be a bit of a lottery as to who would be standing on the top step of the podium at the nights end.

The time trials saw some of the early runner disadvantaged as the track dried and lap times came down considerably, Christchurch driver Jayden Dodge punching out the fastest time followed by Crouch and Riversides Jacob McIntyre.

Heat one for Sprintcars didnt end well for Steve “The Gasman” Duff of Christchurch who rear ended Cromwell’s Shanarrah Stronach down the back straight after Stronach slowed, this put Duff out of the heat with damage.

Myers Jnr certainly showed his class by taking a straightforward race win ahead of Dodge in second and McIntyre in third place.

Heat two saw Myers Jnr get his car running only to head infield and what looked to be taking himself out of the race. He would however ask for a restart and join the grid. This race saw Duff Jnr start from the front and make amends for his earlier DNF in heat one, taking a commanding lead that would see him bag the win comfortably over Josh Buchanan of Cromwell and Oscar Harcourt of Christchurch third.

The final heat saw a fair but of action, firstly when McIntyre would spin in turn two mid race causing Crouch to pull up and stop, at the restart it was the race leader Jamie Duff who would spin coming out of turn two, he bought the crowd to their feet with his car sitting up on two wheels looking skyward, but managed to bring the front down and remarkably power off again. This wasn’t so impressive for Buchanan who would spin and be deemed the cause of the caution, meaning Duff could go back to the front of the pack.

Duff would in fact go on to win the heat with Bailey Paterson of Christchurch second and his clubmate Caleb Baughan third.

This would now lead to The Dash, a race where the top six points scorers battle for six laps to decide the top six starting spots in the thirty lap feature. The Dash would feature Jamie Duff, Crouch, Myers Jnr, Dodge, Harcourt and Baughan. Crouch would go on to win the dash with Duff sharing the front row of the grid with him. One notable name missing from the dash was Rangi who was struggling in the heat races, this would see the series leader start thirteenth on the grid for the final.

The feature final got off to a rapid start with Duff getting the jump on Crouch and took a slender lead, with the young American not prepared to give this race away. The first caution came out just four laps in when Buchanan came to a stop in turn two, then next up Baughan made contact with Dodge, ultimately putting Dodge out of the race, and Baughan facing a relegation of two spots at the conclusion of the event.

The race was getting really untidy at this stage and we had only just got underway once more before Cromwell’s Mathew Anderson would come to a halt on the exit of turn two, yet again another stoppage. As the green flag dropped for the restart the cautions came on, this time it was Duff Jnr, Stronach and Christchurch driver Allan Chapman who would all spin in turn two, this would put Duff Jnr out of the feature, joining a big number of cars already parked up, and we still had seventeen laps to run.

Just when we thought we were gaining some sort of momentum Dyllan Forsey of Christchurch would stop in turn two but managed to get restarted, you could sense the crowd starting to get restless, and just no real shape to the race at all.

We were now at the halfway point, Jamie Duff was still leading, Crouch was in second with Myers Jnr third, the big benefactor of all of the carnage was Rangi who was starting to find pace, and clawed himself up to a position just outside the top runners.

From this point almost half the cars were parked up and the drivers had a little more track space to play in, Myers Jnr made a move on Crouch and both he and Duff pulled away from the pack, Duff and Myers Jnr battled hard but Duff was simply too fast, holding the American at bay, and looked likely when the white flag dropped to single one last lap, to claim yet another War Of The Wings feature race.

Duff at this stage had a lead of just on one second, that’s a bit of a gap in the Sprintcar world, now as a commentator I was getting ready to call Duff home as the winner and I was contemplating what to say when he took the flag, but what unfolded next blew my mind as both Duff and Myers Jnr powered off down the back straight, Myers Jnr threw his car into turn three early and at pace and slid right up the inside of Duff with one corner to run to snatch victory in one of the most insane dives I have ever seen here at Central Motor Speedway.

Part of me was stunned and elated for Myers Jnr while the other part of me felt devastated for Duff who led from start to finish, only to be beaten in the very last corner, now I didn’t get to talk to Duff afterwards, I don’t know if he had low fuel, mechanical issues or if he was just outsmarted, but this was one hell of a feature race, going the way of Myers Jnr, Duff second and Crouch third.

Two grades that were stood down at the Ron Spriggs Christmas Showdown would race for that trophy here tonight, the first Stockcars who had a massive field of cars entered which would provide some great entertainment.

The first race for Stockcars only lasted a fraction of a lap when Cromwell’s Ashdyn Gable made solid contact with Christchurch driver Amber Brooks in turn one. Brooks appeared to be hurt but would soon step from her car and walk down to the infield, and later return back to action.

From here it was good clean racing, as a fair chunk of Stockcar races are in heat one, just a chance to stalk your opponents and seek some targets for the races to come.

Local driver Brian Taniwha was again all class winning this race from clubmate Jacob Boulton and Dunedin’s Stephen Thompson third.

Heat two and Thompson wasted no time at all getting to the front and managing to keep out of harm’s way while all sorts of carnage was unfolding around him, Thompson would take the race win with ease ahead of Cromwell duo Casey McEwan and Brodie MacDonald giving him a points advantage in the third race.

Race three rolled around and again Thompson looked fast, he really needed to finish ahead of Taniwha or within a spot or two to win the Christmas Showdown, but McEwan was going to have none of that, he circulated down low waiting for Thompson, when Thompson came out of turn two onto the back straight McEwan delivered the killer blow with a massive hit which looked as if it left Thompson dazed and confused, and ultimately out of the race.

McEwan still hadn’t had enough, this time singling out Christchurch driver Tyler Houghton who was mixing it up with Taniwha and MacDonald who were up the front of the field.

McEwan would slam Houghton into the wall on the main straight pinning him while the leaders cleared off. As the race came to a conclusion it was three Central Motor Speedway cars out front, MacDonald took the win from Taniwha with Boulton third, as these drivers were passing the finish line McEwan set his sites on Shannon Simon of Dunedin on the back straight drilling him as his reign of rage came to an end.

This result gave Taniwha the Ron Spriggs Christmas Showdown followed by MacDonald in second and Boulton third, Taniwha would also claim the Stockcar Tri Series which had been raced at Beachlands, Riverside and Cromwell, second was McEwan with Simon third overall.

Super Saloons were the other grade racing for the Ron Spriggs Christmas Showdown, and this would be a great chance for drivers competing in the upcoming New Zealand Championship to get their cars dialed in before the big event in a couple of weeks.

Heat one however was a little more like a Streetstock race with plenty of tap and spin going on throughout the field, the biggest nudge when Dunedin’s Ricky Boulton took to the back of Christchurch driver Bodie Abrahamson right in front of the Speedway New Zealand Officials stand, giving Abrahamson the big flick and spinning him around.

Boulton would then wave his arms out the window disputing his part in the incident when sent to the rear of the field, I hope the young drivers in our sport weren’t paying too much attention to the actions of our sports President, could lead to some interesting racing going forward.

Cromwell’s Ewan Shearing was in full control of this race looking like he would bank an early race win, but with something breaking in the rear end of his car late in the race, the lead would shift the way of Josh Boulton of Christchurch who would take the race one win ahead of Malcom Ngatia also of Christchurch and “Racing” Ray Stewart of Cromwell third.

Heat two saw Ngatai show glimpses of why he was one of the best Superstock drivers in the country, cleaning out Blenheim’s Shane McIntyre in turn two, Josh Boulton would attempt to avoid the spinning McIntyre but would make contact, putting him out of the race. Ngatai would be relegated a couple of spots after the race for the incident.

Abrahamson was the stand out in this race, starting well down the pack he would weave his way through to snatch the race lead, then clear off to an impressive win, his car dialed in and looking very quick for the third heat. Ricky Boulton would claim second place with Stewart third.

The final race saw Abrahamson spin coming out of turn four, and how the four cars behind him didn’t hit him is still a miracle, Dunedin’s Matt Greene obviously the legal width considering he barely had a gap to slip past Abrahamson and the concrete wall.

The cars would reform and set off to a restart, where Christchurch driver Richie Taylor would show his class and drive off into the distance, clearing off from the pack in what was a faultless drive from Taylor.

Taylor would win the heat with ease, Ngatai second with Alister Lister third. This result gave Ngatai the Ron Spriggs Christmas Trophy ahead of Taylor in second and Stewart third.

Production Saloons were running for the New Years Grand Prix Trophy, two heats and a winner takes all final. Christchurch driver Vaughan Fairbairn continued on from where he left off on night one at Cromwell with a race win ahead of Cromwell’s Steven Nicholas and Dunedin’s Aaron Brookland.

Fairbairn looked to repeat the dose in heat two but was upstaged by local driver Sam McKenzie, this race had a long caution period with two laps to go for what I can only imagine was for sun strike as there was no issues on track.

This did however set this race up for an epic finish which saw Fairbairn, McKenzie and Brookland come across the line three wide, to the naked eye it looked like Fairbairn had grabbed the win but the timing monitor told another story, McKenzie just getting the nose of his car ahead of Fairbairn in second with Brookland third.

The feature in my mind was the race of the night, Brookland and Fairbairn were like magnets, the two drivers side by side lap after lap, Brookland holding the slightest lead, it was fantastic to watch and the big crowd were loving the battle.

With seven laps to go Lucy Greer of Dunedin would slam hard into the wall just in front of where I was commentating, I knew it was hard as the commentary box doesn’t usually shake when a Production Saloon hits it, Greer was all good but the car suffered major front end damage.

The restart gave Brookland a car length advantage that soon disappeared, again the cars were side by side and fighting to the flag. Fairbairn took a lucky dive down the inside of Brookland that could have ended badly for the pair but when its winner takes all you need to take a chance and Fairbairn did, this move handing him the New Years Grand Prix win ahead of Brookland and Nicholas third.

Saloons were also racing for the New Years Grand Prix, heat one saw Riverside’s Mark Dobson race off to an early lead, he would then battle hard with Christchurch driver Willie Woodhouse, the pair putting on a great display of driving. Woodhouse would eventually measure Dobson up and slip down the inside of him late in the race to grab the race win, Dobson second with Cromwell’s Barry Taylor third.

The second race saw Cromwell’s George Phillips destroy the field, Phillips raced off from the front early and wouldn’t be challenged winning with ease from Aaron Andrews of Dunedin second leading home Cromwell’s Jason Gold in third place.

This result gave Phillips a front row start for the winner takes all final, and while you would think Phillips would race away with this you would be wrong, Phillips battled hard at the start of the race with Andrews and Taylor before Woodhouse would join the party and put pressure on the leaders.

Gold would also work his way through the pack, to join the four leading cars.

Phillips couldn’t hold Woodhouse back any longer and would pass Phillips with relative ease to grab the lead, Gold followed Woodhouse through and momentarily grabbed second but made contact with another car forcing him to slip back down to third, and open the door for Phillips to grab second.

Woodhouse would race off to win the Grand Prix, Phillips second and Gold third.

Youth Ministocks were running in support and would only get two races due to a large sun strike delay and a looming curfew.

Again the Youth Ministocks put on a fantastic display in heat one with a near capacity field going toe to toe all race. Christchurch driver Jaxyn Houtos showed why he had won every event he had entered over the Christmas period, taking out race one after a tight battle with clubmate Marcel Vlaanderen and Connor Turner also of Christchurch.

Turner did well to snatch the position after Nelson’s Leilah Jeffcoate and Christchurch’s Leaha Rowlands had a coming together on the last corner, opening up a gap for Turner.

Emily Brooks of Christchurch looked as if she would grab a hard fought win in race two, leading the entire race and doing well to keep some of the faster drivers in the pack at bay, however in the very last corner of the race Vlaanderen would sneak past to steal victory, Houtos would also steal a place for second while Brooks can still be proud of a solid third placing.

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