Thank you, Mother
Moody, unpredictable and obeying no laws but her own, Auckland’s version of Mother Nature showed her true colours for the second meeting of the 2017/18 season held at Western Springs Speedway.
The week leading up to the meeting had us all reminiscing about our previous summer and wishing we were back at the beach instead of breaking a sweat trying to earn some bread.
“Slip, slop, slap and wrap” suddenly became the buzz word again and had us digging around the house looking for that giant bottle of Cancer Society sunscreen in a bid to stay sun smart.
Of course, there isn’t anything better than a sunny Speedway meeting as rain and dirt only result in a muddy skid fest not suited for Speedway machines.
It came as no surprise that our lovely old Mother decided to finish off the sunny week with a dark and overcast sky once Saturday rolled around.
This undoubtedly had a few race fans and teams checking the forecasts in case rain would eventually show itself and cause a rain-out last the previous race.
Thankfully our concerns were for nought as the rain held off and allowed us to head off to the races.
Visitors from afar.
This meeting promised to be an extra special one for the TQ class in particular as it was the running of the Auckland TQ Championship.
This class is already brimming with top driving talent from around NZ but as a special treat, we also got three American drivers thrown into the mix.
We haven’t had American TQ drivers in NZ for many years so having them join the meeting made it extra special.
To my surprise, the three visiting Americans were actually part of one family and in fact all siblings.
The Howard family consisted of sister Lindsey and twin brothers Matthew and Nicholas.
If the fact they were visiting racers wasn’t enough to cause a stir, them being all siblings certainly raised a few astonished eye-brows.
Their area of the pits saw many curious fans and drivers gathered around to get a look at the family team of racers as this was definitely a rare occurrence.
After getting a photo of each racer and a quick hello we left the visitors to prepare for their warmup laps.
American Speedway doesn’t run the TQ class but a similar version called 600cc Mini Sprints.
Similar in size and engine power these cars have the additional benefit of a top wing just like a sprint car.
The meeting was a great opportunity for the Howards to muster the controls of a TQ in the shortest amount of time, in a full-on race with seasoned TQ drivers.
Nothing like being thrown into the deep end!
Fan favourite Michal Pickens was conspicuous by his absence in the pits as he was still in America doing battle in their events.
The absence of the countless feature winning driver left many speculating who will be standing on the top of the podium at the conclusion of the Midget and
The pits were brimming with a bigger array of Sprintcars than we had at the last meeting and it was great to see the winged beast getting prepped for battle.
Hamilton driver Daniel Thomas made the trip up for the first time this season and was also pulling double duty in the 31 Hog’s Breath Midget owned by
He definitely made a splash last season with his efforts in both classes and I was excited to see what he could do once again this season ahead.
Baypark resident Rodney Wood also made the trip up for the first time this season along with Wellington-based Stephen Taylor making the epic cross-country trip for the second time.
The sheer amount of kilometres Speedway Teams clock up in a single season is always staggering to me but I’m slowly learning that this is just another part of Speedway life.
It was great to see the Mitre 10 Job Mate car along with 3NZ Jamie McDonald back with fully rebuilt Sprintcars after their massive crashes at the previous meeting.
The 3NZ Hitachi Car was essentially all new with only the seat and a few other components being carried over to the second chassis.
Hopes were unsurprisingly high that both cars would remain unscathed at the conclusion of the meeting.
Racing Report and Highlights
With the added competitors and visitors, the racing action was definitely amplified for the meeting at Western Springs Speedway.
The track surface was prepped and glowing a brilliant shade of martian orange, ready to host another furious meeting.
There were reports of the dirt being a bit moister than wanted however it didn’t seem to be a major issue.
It did prove to be different than the last meeting as by the end of the night it was showing to have taken more rubber than before with the usual dark smear showing in the main lane.
Drivers later commented they wished the lane was just a bit wider as most had to stick to the narrow lane and were unable to pull slide jobs in the corners.
Spectators also noted this and some remarked the single lane racing was boring.
Conjecture aside the one thing that stood out was the sheer amount of accidents and restarts seen during the racing, it seemed like the bad luck from the previous meeting had stuck around for another round.
After the usual pack-down and warm-up, the foreign visitors had an opportunity to get a feel for the track they were going to be racing on.
The Howard’s in the TQ’s took to it like a duck to water while the American Brad Loyet in the 5USA Sprintcar took a more cautious approach in the vastly more powerful car.
With that, the Kiwi Kidz were underway and enjoyed a clean heat without incident.
The TQ’s saw the first incidents of the night with a large pile-up at the beginning of their heat involving one of the Howard’s.
Another pile-up occurred at the second restart which ultimately
The F2’s enjoyed a clean race with the only notable incident being the flag bearer dropping the chequered flag just before the race’s conclusion resulting in an extra lap for a few of the leading cars.
The Midgets brought back the restarts with car 9 spinning out and hitting the wall and following a restart, cars 10 and 15 clipped each other’s wheels causing them to pull out of the race.
Later on, car 49 overturned near the main pack of cars but the race managed to keep going without further incident.
Brad Mosen took advantage of all these restarts and showed off his talent as he managed to muscle his way up from a starting grid of 11th to ultimately coming in second place.
The Sprintcars also saw a restart with car 17 doing what announcer Aaron Drever described as “cooking the Kumara” and got collected by 88 car of Keaton Dahm.
With the first round of Heats concluded it was looking like everyone was getting a feel for the track and its condition as heat 2 for every class was a clean one.
The only exception was 5USA in the Sprintcar class spinning out in his heat.
Good tidings followed the racing after with no notable incidents just clean and talented driving being seen all over the board in all classes.
The single narrow lane was becoming apparent on the track’s surface with most drivers lining themselves up side by side on every corner without trying slide jobs on the higher lane.
Heat 3 for the F2’s was racked with restarts and seemed to set the tone for the rest of the evenings racing seen at Western Springs Speedway.
On the very first lap, car 83 parked it causing a restart with car 87 ended up rolling shortly after.
Following that 7 and 89 collided with each other in a serious crash coming out of pine tree bend.
89 ended up flying high in the air after clipping 7 and going for a painful ride through the dust-filled air.
Luckily neither of the drivers were injured and managed to walk away from the crash.
The following restart saw another car spinning out resulting in a heat seeing a total of 4 restarts.
The following Midget heat saw the 91 car of Hayden Guptill overturning on city bend and resulting in tapping the wall.
This set the tone for the rest of the race with another total of 4 restarts.
One restart was caused by a large pile up near the beginning of the race with 5NZ Brock Maskovich going for a turbulent ride after being clipped by the 97 car of Thomas Mclean.
Racing went on without incident until Heat 4 of the Midget class with the 15 car of Steve Walsh colliding with the wall. Shane Allach followed soon after by flipping his car on the second restart.
The Kiwi Kidz ran their feature and enjoyed an overall clean night with no incidents or restarts.
Young star Emerson Vincent pulled off another feature win adding to his previous win, all eyes are on him for the next feature to see if he can pull off a hattrick win.
The F2 Feature saw two restarts with the eventual winner being the 58 car of Joe Malone after qualifying on pole from his two heat races.
The TQ’s ran next and it turned out to be a very exciting race with the playing field being tightened after every restart.
Scott Baker (88) was holding on firmly to his lead with Ryan Barry (16) and Scott’s father Lawrence Baker (8) biting closely on his heels.
After aggressively hounding Scott, Ryan managed to get out front for a short period. A restart proved to be a blessing for Scott as he managed to reclaim his lead once again and hold it for the rest of the race.
While that was happening his brother Ryan Baker (15) worked his way up the field from the back and overtaking his dad, got himself in third place.
For a few laps, Ryan Barry was in a Baker sandwich with both Baker brothers placed on either side of him.
The chequered flag dropped with the three holding their positions with Scott Baker ultimately taking out the Auckland TQ Championship.
The Howard family had Matthew managing to get fourth in his first ever TQ feature and Lawrence Baker rounded up the Top 5 in fifth place.
The Midget feature turned into a close run race with the top three cars of 96a Chris McCutcheon, 2NZ Brad Mosen and 31a Daniel Thomas setting off ahead of the pack to battle it out.
Chris managed to hold his lead for the majority of the race despite two restarts that levelled the field.
Time and time again he managed to hold off Brad Mosen’s attempts at gaining the lead and for a
Unfortunately for Brad, an accident
After a great race, Chris managed to hold his lead and stood top of the podium, effectively making himself one to look out for as the season rolls on.
The running of the Sprintcar feature was far from clean with 4 race restarts seen.
3NZ Jamie McDonald got off to a flying start in his rebuilt Sprintcar and close to overtaking Daniel Eggleton for first place.
A three-car pile-up brought the race to halt after the second restart and soon it became apparent Jamie’s rear tyre was rapidly deflating.
Jamie was eventually called off and had to give up his position as he pulled into the in-field to wait out the race.
Following the restart Rodney Wood also suffered a puncture in one of the rear tyres which raised a few eyebrows and got the rumour mill running that there was a rogue 10mm bolt somewhere on the track attacking anyone who got near it.
With the eventual restart, Daniel Eggleton (78A) continued his lead all the while Dean Brindle (22) got ever closer.
After a massive crash from 5USA which saw the car crumpling like a can, the following restart gave Dean the ideal opportunity to take the lead.
Daniel Thomas (55), hot off the second place win in his Midget feature also took the opportunity and knocked Eggleton back to third place after holding first for the majority of the race.
While not back to back first place wins, Thomas managed to get second place in both his features which is still a massive feat for the young driver.
If you’re not already closely following his success, I recommend you start doing so as he is clearly got a bright future ahead of him in Speedway.
The three held their places for the rest of the race and Dean Brindle took the feature win.
With the race’s conclusion came the announcement of the New Zealand Sprintcar Team.
The team is:
• 22 Dean Brindle
• 3NZ Jamie McDonald
• 1NZ Jamie Larsen
• 54 Michael Pickens
With that another exciting meeting at Western Springs Speedway came to a close.
Our dear old Mother Nature took pity on us and held off the winds and left the thermostat on the warm setting making for a comfortable evening for all.
Let’s just hope she remains in a good mood for the rest of the season!
Words and Photos by Les B.
While every care is taken for all names and information to be correct in this article, please check official venue results in case of any human error.