So after a change of plans due to drivers pulling out at the last minute and leaving the 240 promoting team with only 2 overseas entrants, some frantic phone calls were made and I managed to rearrange work commitments to travel over a week earlier than planned to take part in the 240.
Having no car planned in advance is always hard but a massive thankyou to Scott Miers for offering me a top car for the event.
Friday night as always is all about the qualifying for the 110 New Zealand entrants, meaning 5 groups and only the top 4 point scorers from each group. Probably the toughest qualifying ever in New Zealand, so to make the top 4 in your group you needed 3 really good finishes, any small hiccup and you wouldn’t make it.
The 3 overseas drivers, Bobby G, Joe Booth, and me all had 3 practice runs with last years winner Benji Seddon, and Lance Ashton, the winner of last year’s second tier. These practices were crucial for the lads to dial the cars in and for me especially to gauge my pace againt some top cars.
We made alterations to the brakes, gear ratio, tyres and set up as the night went on, and by the last run I felt we had good pace in the Miers motorsport car. As always after the meeting in the first night it was into the club rooms to do the grid draw for the Saturday night and get to meet fellow competitors and fans alike making for a good atmosphere about the place.
I always hope for either a back start in the first race or a very front start. Anywhere in between and you have to hold on for the ride and hope you survive. I was sat with my brother-in law Shane Dorrell so promptly asked his son Terence (ministox 212), who had already won their championship that night, which ribbon he thought was a good one and he didn’t disappoint!
My grid was 1-14-26 so to be on pole my destiny was in my own hands. A good start and I could get clear, a bad start however and I could be on my roof!
After only being in the country for a day I managed to get a good night’s sleep on the Friday night, and headed to Stan and Sonja Hickey’s yard early Saturday morning to wash the cars and go through everything, get wheels and tyres sorted, and do a few seat adjustments to make sure I was comfy for when it gets rough, coz one thing about me racing in NZ is it ALWAYS gets rough…!
So with race time approaching we were all set for the first race. It’s always a big thing to lead out on the grand parade, even if it is only because of a grid draw, but with a massive crowd all waiting for the 240 to start the atmosphere was electric. It’s what I do it all for, and it’s what keeps me turning up whether I win lose or get battered to death, it’s the buzz that keeps me doing it.
So lights are out and even though there are 26 engines revving and awaiting the green, I have a couple of seconds in my own thoughts where it’s just me, and it’s so quiet, all I have is concentration for the green light and then bang, there it is and the mayhem begins.
It was always going to be important for me to get the start right and give myself every chance of getting round the first corner and they say the older you get the slower you react. Well, I’m sorry, but I totally disagree with that theory, well for now anyway, as there was no other cars anywhere near my back bumper mid-corner, leaving me a good 6 to 8 car lengths clear of second place down the first straight.
A couple of stoppages and a few near misses, but a comfortable drive until the chequered flag meant race 1 done and maximum points so an amazing start to the night.
Heat 2 was always going to be a totally different affair with drivers trying to take me out and spin me round, but I did manage to get from 14th up to 6th place, until I was spun again. I ended up finishing the race back in about 12th place which left me in 6th place overall with 41 points, but I was still in with a good shout going into the last race.
As usual in the last race I received a lot of attention, but it was explained to me afterwards that the attention I was getting wasn’t all because I was foreign, as that’s what normally happens, but a lot of things have been kicking off with different chassis builders and different engine builders, so not only was I being slowed down to stop me winning, I was being targeted for egos to be boosted.
In every third race in NZ I get at least 2 drivers trying to take me out, that’s the norm, and I can usually deal with that, but I had at least 6 different drivers relentlessly trying to destroy me and the car, so it was no surprise when a lot of the hits were done illegally off the grass, and also while I was facing a non attacking direction.
Even though I was attacked on numerous occasions I somehow managed to get me and the car over the line, and with a lot of pride drove the car back to the transporter, only to be called up to the referee’s box to be told I had been disqualified and received an 8 day stand down for allegedly pushing a car the wrong direction on the track. This was in an incident when I had been spun round and was being held on the racing line with 2 front flat tyres, and all I was trying to do was get off the racing line and get turned back round.
So a slightly disappointing last heat dropped me down the order, but a very proud FWJ as they couldn’t stop me finishing even though they tried everything… 🙂
Keegan Levien 5W came out on top, which was a bit of a surprise as he went into the last heat top on points, which years ago meant you didn’t usually finish, but times and racing seems to be altering in NZ, and the clubs you sign for don’t seem to mean shit anymore. So a big well done to Keegan. Second and third were tied on points so it was down to a run-off, which was well won by Jason Long 41B for runner-up, and third was Nick Valance 45G.