On the 4th and 5th of January Max Motors Family Speedway hosted the NZ Saloon Grand Prix. With the championship to be decided by the one race final on the second day the rest of the races were aimed at preparing for this race. The new 1nz Ethan Cook earned himself the choice of which front grid he wanted by only dropping one point in the whole event. Winning three of his 4 previous races in spectacular style often making outside passes millimetres from the wall he thoroughly deserved the front outside grid that he chose. 75m Michelle Wymer joined him on the front row by being the model of consistency and taking every passing chance offered to her. 16s Thomas Korff was the only driver to better the 1nz in the lead-up and earned himself grid 3. The now two-time 3nz Matt Eckersley in the previous race had driven into the wall dropping to the back of the field however he recovered well to finish 9th earning him the 4th grid spot for the final. 27b Josh Smith, possibly the crowd’s pick to win judging on his previous performances at Te Marua, had an up and down sort of night and had to be content with grid 5. The driver who had towed the furthest distance 57d Aaron Andrews di d enough in the previous races to place himself in grid 6. Some drivers that had bad luck were 42m Trent Amrein and 242w Ashleigh Halcrow who both looked fast but DNF’s saw them both at the back of the grid but their luck was better than that of 16w Taylor Mahey who rolled himself while crossing the finish line and 4w Rodney Green who hit the wall in the same place, with the result of neither of them making it out for the final. From the green light of the final 1nz Ethan Cook took the lead and at times was ahead the length of the straight, only orange lights pulled him back to the pack but no-one was able to take the lead from him. 3nz Matt Eckersley made his way up to 2nd place on lap 10 and every caution had the Wellington faithful hopeful that he would get the jump on the 1nz but it was not to be and he had to be content with 2nd. 16s Thomas Korff inherited 3rd place when 75m Michelle Wymer pulled into the infield with car issues but he earnt his placing by keeping the fast finishing 57d Aaron Andrews at bay. If the 57d well earnt his 4th place 5th place-getter 42m Trent Amrein doubly did so, coming from grid 16 with some aggressive outside passing and the best battle of the race with the 57d as they traded places for several laps. 9w Craig Burton didn’t have the benefit of running the NZ’s with these drivers a couple of days earlier but matched them for pace all the way to take 6th place.
The other feature on the two day programme was the Black Sheep Construction Boys Invitational for Youth Ministocks, which was run over three heats on Friday night. In Heat one 15h Ryan Marshall made the most of his front grid by winning. 12p Seth Hodge made a few good passes to finish 2nd with 11b Liam Danielsen taking the 3rd spot. 47w Anthony Hocking, 9w Cyrus Crook and 88b Karlin Painter-Dudley rounded out the top 6. The next heat saw the 16w Levi Pou and 1os Jesse Whelan lead out side by side after a red light the 10s got the better start and went on to win the race with the 16w in 2nd place. 55p Max Lowe followed them home in 3rd place ahead of 64w Dominik Hargreaves. The Hodge twins were the next two home with 12p Seth given 5th and 21p Cody receiving 6th place. Going into the third heat the top six on points were: 12p Seth Hodge on 53, 15h Ryan Marshall on 52, 10s Jesse Whelan on 50, 11b Liam Danielsen on 49, 47w Anthony Hocking on 47 and 21p Cody Hodge on 44. In this heat the hopes of the 11b Liam Danielsen were dashed when he was involved in a tangle and couldn’t get his car re-fired and registered a DNF. 21p Cody Hodge came from grid 9 to take the win from 9w Cyrus Crook and 197p Marshall Zachan. 24w Keegan Cotter, 47w Anthony Hocking and 55s Caleb Coxhead rounded out the top 6 but the real interest was in 7th and 8th place where 15h Ryan Marshall wiped out his one point deficit by finishing one place ahead of 12p Seth Hodge to set up a run-off for first place. The two drivers put on a real display of top shelf driving as the raced side by side for most of the four lap run-off with the 12p Seth Hodge just squeaking ahead as the chequered flag fell. The top six of the Black Sheep Construction Youth Ministock Boys Invitational were 12p Seth Hodge, 15h Ryan Marshall, 21p Cody Hodge, 47w Anthony Hocking, 10s Jesse Whelan and 9w Cyrus Crook.
The Youth Ministocks also ran as a support class on night two with 16w Levi Pou, 47w Anthony Hocking and 11b Liam Danielsen taking wins with the 11b taking two of them. Other drivers to do well were 29p Rachel Bradbury taking two 3rds, 94w Ethan Donohue and 25w Josh Moffat both achieve a 2nd and a 3rd. The other top three finishers were 34b harry Prince and 55p Max Lowe. 75w Tui Smiler not long out of the mentor programme continued to show improvement claiming two 5th places.
The Panhead Streetstocks supported both nights and continued to please the crowd with their antics. 77w Daniel Bouzaid and 91w Mitchell Sveistrup both achieved their maiden wins on the first night with 9w Aaron Wilton taking the other. 8w Tristan O’Donnell took two wins on the second night with regular visitor 9p Rick Waihi taking the last. One driver that caught our eye as an improver after taking a 2nd and 3rd place was 37w Dayne O’Neill.
The Capital Pools and Spas Stockcars also raced on both nights with 5w Josh Prentice taking all three races on the first night and 9w Bryce Jensen taking two on the second night. However; they did make the crowd sit up and take notice in their final race when they came out to play and along with 66pw Brendon Tye, the stirrer of the second race, created mayhem while honing their teams racing skills. 992w Taylor Lampp went on to win the race. 94b Justin White, 735a Keegan Orr and 15v Callum Sturzaker kept the locals honest and all had top three finishes.