After a day of torrential rain and wind you could be forgiven for thinking that the Belt Up NZ Minisprint GP would be a non-starter for Saturday night however the weather cleared and, thanks to the continuing wind, the track dried and looked good. After the panic-driven flight of the resident rabbit across the track the meeting got under way with the Minisprint warm-ups. Unfortunately 57R Ben Vaughan had the worst possible start to the night when receiving a push start after a red light stall he sustained terminal damage ending his meeting before it even started. This appeared to be contagious with many other competitors having the same sort of night. In qualifying heats 37K Jade Barnett, 4W Shane Simpson, 78W Karl Robinson and 24P Byron Dennis did complete any races.
1NZ Dayne Maxwell showed he is one of the form drivers of the year when he started from near the back of the grid and by the end of lap 1 had made it up to 5th spot. He continued to make up places till the inevitable happened and he took over the lead from 46W James Robertson to take the chequered flag. Robertson drove a good race to come home 2nd with 61P Keven Roberts just pipping 38H Donald Kuriger and 14H Jason Bryant for 3rd place.
Former Dirt Track editor and owner Lynda Kuriger’s prediction pre-meeting was that 14H Jason Bryant was one to watch. Jason set about proving her to be correct with a good win in this heat. 11P Robert Orr came home 2nd with 3NZ Daniel Hartigan pulling off a few good passes to take 3rd. A racing incident sent 1NZ to the infield ending his chances of a front row grid in the final race.
Manawatu champion 77P Stephen Buys looked to have this heat sewn up for the first 10 laps until 2NZ Jamie Larsen found a way past which seemed to upset Buys’ rhythm as he opened the door for the flying Wellingtonian 21W Stephen Taylor to steal 2nd place leaving 3rd for Buys.
7P Dean Fitness led out from the off until a half spin dropped him 5 places and left the way clear for 48P Christian Hermansen to take the lead. 2NZ Jamie Larsen continued to show great form and soon got past Hermansen to take the chequered flag. Stephen Taylor 21W pulled off some good passes to come home 3rd.
The Belt Up NZ Minisprint GP:
The front two grids were filled by 2NZ Jamie Larsen and 14H Jason Bryant and the scene should have been set for a great race but what ensued was restart after restart which eventually lead to the demise of Bryant. With him out of the race Larsen had a free run in the lead and streaked home winning by a half lap. 21W Stephen Taylor showed his potential with a well-driven 2nd place. However it was 1NZ Dayne Maxwell who provided the spectators with the most excitement as he made his way up from down the grid to 3rd. On his way he battled fiercely first with 77P Stephen Buys and then for 8 laps with eventual 4th place holder 93P Declan Roe. Larsen’s victory is the first by a lower North Island in a Minisprint National Championship and Stephen Taylor is certainly the youngest driver to make a podium finish.
Support classes on the night were C & M Modifieds who saw a starting field of 11 with 3 Stratford drivers, 44S Matthew Hareb having his first run of the season, 8S Sean Rice and 226S Blair Luscombe boosting the Wellington field. We and every driver entered into the NZ Championship will hope that Heat 1 was not indicative of things to come next week. The race was plagued by orange lights, the first caused by 91W Jordan Arapere when he renewed his acquaintance with the Te Marua wall, 57W Ben Cawthra also had an unfortunate conversation with the wall, 226S Blair Luscombe was the next one to be towed off, 9W Blair McPhee suffered engine problems and the worst incident which led to the race being called was a crash involving 17W Jonas England, 44S Matthew Hareb and 8W Michael Burt. The race win was given to 8S Sean Rice.
With half the Wellington cars and two thirds of the Stratford cars out for the night the racing calmed down substantially with the last two race wins going to 5W Brian McPhee and 8S Sean Rice.
Interest was added to the Hirepool Stockcars with the appearance of two Superstocks the 21W tri-rail driven by Nathan Heyburn, Scott McIntosh and Paul Gaskin and the fabled Super-tanker 53P of Keven Roberts which was making its first run for the season. Both Superstocks were out on the track practising with the 4th and 5th February in mind. Dean Bullock was behind the wheel of the 6W which he will be piloting in the Under-23’s at Stratford this year. Perhaps this practising mode permeated the class as one could be forgiven for thinking they were a non-contact class as they flag raced round the track with the exception of the 5W Jaden Munn who had the 71W of Benji Sneddon in his sights in the last.. Race winners were 71W Benji Sneddon, 98W Blake Ellett and 22W Richard Gaskin.
The Moving Company Saloons saw another “Jester” of old Brian England take to the track for the first time for a long while in his recently acquired 8W. In race 1 fellow Jester 38W Vic Abbott took a well-controlled win on what appeared to be a slow track. Heat 2 saw more speed as the track bedded in and an exceptionally close finish between 24W Gary Marshall and in form 11W Ian Shingleton with Marshall just taking the honours. Race 3 saw Shingleton reverse the order and take the chequered from Marshall.
In the Century Distributors Youth Ministocks the first race saw 13W Todd Jenkins have a blistering first lap to take the lead which he did not relinquish. He was followed home by 34W Matthew Eckersley and 26P Nic Davey. In Race 2 15W Daniel Austin had a great drive in the lead all the way home he was chased by 97W Jordan McLeod and 13W Todd Jenkins who made the most passes to come home for 3rd. Their final race of the night belonged to 36W Jacob Free with 13W Todd Jenkins completing his good night with a second place and 26P Nic Davey collecting 3rd place.