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Race Report 31 March 2024 Harrisville Speedway Ohakea Winger Thunder 12

After a busy summer, Easter would spell the end of our regular season with the double header at Palmerston North and Harrisville. We were unable to take part in the Palmerston North meeting, but headed to Harrisville speedway in Ohakea for Easter Sunday to compete our only event of the season at the track. Tucked away off the side of Highway 3 right by the airbase, the tricky track isn’t a sanctioned Speedway NZ event, but is always well supported by racers across the categories with big and competitive fields. The track had not been kind to us in the past, with a string of DNFs and just plain bad luck stopping us from getting a good result, so we were keen to put a stop to that this weekend.

The race schedule would start at high noon and run through the afternoon on an increasingly slick and dusty track. However to the credit of the track crew they managed to keep some drive in the surface until late in the day. We drew mid grids through the day and would fire off the first heat P4. We got a great start jumping to the outside on the front stretch to lead with an outside pass into turn 1. We were untouched through the race to stay out front by half a straight or so and get the win and quick time.

Heat two had us a little deeper in the order and we were unable to get to the front off the start. We did pick off a couple and went chasing after the leaders. We probably hadn’t tuned far enough with the changing surface and had to figure out a lane through the wet, then the bumps and slick patches, but deeper in the race started to find out feet. We drove up to third where we would remain until the end which would put us on pole position for the feature.

15 Laps around the Harrisville track deep in the day was always a daunting prospect but a front row start filled us with confidence. We weren’t able to get the jump into 1 but stayed second and worked on finding a groove that was fast, and soon motored up to the leader. We found a new lane through 3-4 and got a big drive down the front stretch to jump to the lead, however it was short lived as we washed out and were passed coming down the back straight. Luckily we could pull a similar move laps later to get back out front before a string of cautions brought the field back together. We tuned the shocks under caution and got the car working well for the final stint. We led off the final restart and got a little gap heading into 1 before probably 3-4 good laps trying to keep the car as straight as possible on the slick with the grippy line quickly disappearing.

We managed to stay out front and collect the win, it was great to get the monkey off our back at Harrisville and finally get a good result and round the season out on a high. We will most likely sign off there for this season, depending on how upcoming dates go. Its been a successful year for us despite giving up our #1, we dominated at Palmerston North winning the North Island and Grand Prix SNZ trophies as well as placing second in the OST feature there. Our second at Stratford for the NZ title was our strongest performance at the track in the last few seasons and gives us good confidence moving forward. It will be a busy off season of maintenance and modifications but we look forward to another busy summer come October.

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Race Report Palmerston North Speedway 16 March 2024

Minisprint Grand Prix

Palmerston North would be the location for the final Speedway NZ title of the 2023-2024 season, the NZ Grand Prix. We headed down to take on a 20 car field, all desperate to make the most of their last chance to stamp some authority on the season. We were happy with our prep and headed down confident for a good result.

The format was back to our standard layout with two qualifying heats to decide the feature grid, then it would all be decided over a 25 lap final at the end of the night. We drew a mid grid which would put us in the thick of the action all night.

For the first heat we started outside row 5 and made the most of the track position as we headed into the first corner, moving up to get a big run on the opening lap and making ground up to the top five. We continued to move around through the race and picked them off inside and outside before finally getting to second place right on the finish line. It was a great start to the night with the car handling excellently.

Race two put us on the inside groove which always makes it more difficult to produce those opening lap heroics and that would prove to be the case this time also. We ended up getting shuffled in the wrong lane a couple of times and fell back a few spots before we could get a little more strung out and make some passes. The car was fast and we had a good run working up to about seventh spot before a caution closed things up again. We were able to make another couple after the restart to wind up fifth before a DQ ahead of us pushed us up to fourth place.

Those two results gave us the top qualifying position and lane choice for the feature start where we picked the outside groove. We were able to control the pace down to the start and after the first start was called back for a jump start on the other lane we were able to lead away for the opening laps. We had plenty of car pace on the slick track and stretched out to a commanding lead before catching lapped traffic. We got through the first few with ease but eventually caught a big group which proved difficult to despatch. Then in the middle of turns 1-2 the two cars leading the pack had a spin and parked across the track. We were very lucky to miss contact with either the spinners or the following pack as they slid around the wreck. This brought out a caution and gave us a little breather at about 2/3 race distance.

When the restart came around we were off to another quick start however this late in the race our tire condition was beginning to wane. We cleared out to the front but the chasing pack stayed close, it was just a case of minimising mistakes and making good lap time until the end while trying to slide as little as possible to manage the tires. Eventually the white flag came out and it was once more around to finish an emphatic victory in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd.

The result was a great way to wind up the business end of the season, making us the grand prix and north island champions. It seems likely we will only have one more race date for the remainder of the summer, being Winged Thunder 12 at Harrisville speedway on Easter Sunday. We hope to have a good result there to cap off a great season.

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Race Report NZ Championship 17th February 2024

NZ Championship

Stratford Speedway would be the venue for this years NZ Championship for the Minisprint class, and we headed down following a good preparation, buoyed by a strong win the round earlier at Palmerston North. It would be our first run in Taranaki this season, but despite this we were confident in our speed and had some improvements to try out since last season. The format would be three heats over the night and the winner would be chosen from aggregate points meaning we had plenty of cars to pass. Car speed would be important with the heats only being 15 laps each.

We drew a mid grid for the first race, giving us outside pole for the second heat and rear grid for the finale, but luck would always decide if that draw would be the winning ticket. Heat one went well for us on a heavy track, we were a little tight to fire off but as the track burnt off a little we picked up plenty of speed. Our opening few laps gained us a couple of spots but our progress seemed to stall in the middle of the race, before right at the end when we closed the gap and started to pick them off. A stack up in front of us gave us a little damage, but fortunately we could hang on for the last couple of laps, even making another spot on the way to the flag.

Race two was a must win for us off the front of the grid and we made the right adjustments to suit the drying track. We led from the outside row into turn one and gapped the field a little before a yellow closed things up again. We held out for the win showing some good pace and learning some clean lines around the bumps that had developed through the night.

The final race would be the money race with all the work to do starting from the rear. Our main competition was down the back with us except for one starting on the front. This meant we would need to make it through to a top five to be in the hunt. As we went green we had a clean run through the first few laps and made some spots before the field got strung out a little and we could pick them off. Our car pace was good and we were on a tear towards the front. We made a spot on the final lap to put us into fifth and secure the points lead for the championship coming off the track.

However it was not to be and the referees would call us upstairs for a lap one pass on the pole line. Despite being pushed down there it was deemed we gained an advantage and we were handed a two spot relegation pushing us back to the 2NZ. It was a still a great result for the team at a track we had typically struggled with and had no real expectations for heading in. We will be proud to run the 2 for the next year, starting at Palmerston North again for the Grand Prix in March.

In addition if you’re keen to get your hands on some merch we have our now vintage 1NZ 2022-23 season shirts out in a variety of sizes available in the shop for $30. We can also send them out if you aren’t able to make it in.

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Race Report Palmerston North – Jan 22nd 2024

North Island Champs

It had been a lean couple of months as far as racing goes, we pulled out of the Taranaki Champs due to impending weather, despite the meeting getting through just in time. Then the Manawatu Champs at Christmas were a bust following more electrical gremlins. But with a bit more time over the summer break we were deep into the car making repairs and isolating all the possible issues with the sensors and the wiring loom. The North Island Champs would be the first Speedway NZ title for the summer series and the biggest race we would have at our home track in Palmerston North this season so we were keen to have a good showing. Hot laps went well, proving we had solved the electrical issues. We made one change to the car afterward which made sure the car was completely fixed and ready for a big night ahead.

The 20 strong field of minisprints was split into two groups for the heat races, before combining for an all-in 25 lap feature to decide the championship. We drew marble 6 which put us mid field for our two heats. For race 1 we missed the setup a little as the other classes’ practice had caused more wear on the track than we envisaged and we struggled to get a handle on the car. We made some changes inside the car to the shocks which made a big difference and at least allowed us to make some forward ground after a quiet start. We picked up a couple in one corner then were able to make a few more spots as others also struggled eventually winding up third. It felt like a win after the tough run we had endured on the last few weeks.

Heat two we started fourth and moved our way up to second after a couple of quick passes we then stalked the leader but couldn’t make a pass, but were happy with our qualifying points. Our finishes put us second and in the power position for the feature, controlling the start pace on the outside lane. We made our final few setup changes and were ready for the gruelling feature ahead despite being a little short on tires.

In the feature we made a great start and got away to a clear lead for the first part of the race, although from the driver’s seat with no mirrors you just have to push as hard as possible until the chequered flag. We caught and dispatched the first group of lappers, but due to the speed of the field this was no easy feat and it felt like we were losing time. As it turned out the chasing pack barely made it to the back of the field so we had plenty of space. We caught the next cars but they were trailing some oil making the track slippery and impossible to try and make a pass. Luckily the white flag soon came out and we just had to hold on once more around to round out an emphatic victory and put ourselves back on top leading into the business end of the season.

The NZ champs will be our next outing at Stratford Speedway in the middle of February, hopefully we can put on another good showing at the biggest meeting of the year!

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Race Report Palmerston North – Dec 2nd 2023

We headed to Palmerston North for our second week running for the first round of our travelling series the Oval Superstars Tour. Last week we used the first round as a bit of a shakedown for our newly refreshed engine in the #1 car and it performed well, we top qualified and won the shortened feature on a rough and bumpy Palmy track.

This week the surface was much different however, a dryer and dustier surface which made passing in the heats much more challenging. We drew grid 6 for the opener and had a good run through the opening corner, going to the top and clearing the row in front of us. We then got one more spot before the groove moved to the bottom and we held station for third.

The second heat was a similar dry surface but we tuned the car to be much better and made good progress forwards. In the initial race start we got tangled in a snarl up in the first corner that resulted in us spinning across the infield but no harm was done and we re-joined the race for the restart in our original grid. On the second start we worked our way up the middle and with a bunch more drive forward on the slick track just picked them off one by one. We jumped up from grid 13 to fifth which would put us on top of the qualification order.

We drew marble one to not invert any grids and rolled off inside pole for the feature. We didn’t get quite the run we needed off the start and fell to second on the first corner. However our car was running well and as the laps wound down we started to make some ground on the leader and got to the stage to try and make a move. However the next lap we began developing a misfire at the end of the straight which killed our momentum around the top groove. With this happening and pressure from behind we had no choice but to hold station on the bottom and defend second.

It was a good start to our series with a good points haul from the heats combined with a strong feature finish putting us up the pointy end of the ladder. The next round of the OST will be at Huntly in January, however we will be competing for the Taranaki Champs at Stratford next weekend the 16th of December. Hopefully we can fix the misfire and be back on the pace in two weeks for our first run there this season.

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Season Finale Palmerston North – 29th April 2023

Race Report

We headed back home to Palmerston North speedway for our final round of the season at the big grand finale meeting. We had a small lead in the track championship points we were keen to retain and a couple of new things to try on our 1NZ car. Format for the night was standard, two heats for qualifying with marble draw grids then a 15 lap feature.

Race 1 we drew grid 10 which put us quite near the back of the field. Our setup was good and we managed to make a couple of spots early and continue to pick them off through the race to move up the field. The leaders got off to a big gap early while we were stuck in traffic but we were able to drive right up to them in the final laps, just couldn’t make the pass before the checkers came out. We wound up third which was a great start to the night.

Race 2 was a better grid on third, however this pinned us to the bottom lane for the opening corner. We ended up losing a spot in the first lap as the top lane quickly got rolling. We moved upstairs and got a pass away but couldn’t reel them in to make any further ground. Our setup was close to the mark but we didn’t really have what we needed and had to settle for third. Our two grids would put us third for the feature, however the top qualifier drew the invert marble to reverse the grids for the feature which made a job for us all.

With a few cars retiring through the night we moved up to grid 7 for the feature and with 15 laps on the books were confident we could make some ground. The opening laps were hectic, we shot through the middle of turn 1-2 on the opening laps to gain some spots then just picked them off as we caught them, going where they didn’t to make the pass. We eventually got to third and wound the leaders in quickly before making the pass for second.

The race went to caution a lap later for another competitor going upside down, and the restart order pushed us back to third. This pinned us on the low lane again for the restart and killed our chances of moving up in the last couple of laps as our competitors who followed us through the field were able to get the passes made on the preferred top lane. We eventually got settled in and started to make some ground but ran out of laps and ended up fourth. Luckily this was just enough to defend our season points lead and gave us the track championship for our first time.

Despite the tough second half of the season we were lucky enough to tick off all of our main goals this season, winning the Oval Superstars Tour, Manawatu Champs and the Palmerston North track championship as well as the big one, the NZ Minisprint title also held at Palmerston North. We were also lucky enough to have podium finishes at the North Island champs, Waikato Champs and King of the Mountain champs.

It was a full on season, and thanks to our awesome sponsors Wallace Heron Ltd, Enzed and Fragola we were able to make it our most successful one yet!

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NZ Grand Prix – 15th April 2023

Race report

We headed back to Stratford for the grand prix with some new ideas on the car hopeful we would make up a bit of ground on speed. The heats would be spread over three races with each competitor in two races on the night. We drew heat one and three and two middle grids which would add to our points for qualifying.

Heat one we started 7th on the inside row. The track was very heavy and quite difficult all running around the bottom.  We had a pretty even start but snuck a couple of spots in the opening laps to settle into fourth spot. We moved up on the guys in front but ran out of laps to make a pass and settled with fourth spot.

Heat two we started sixth and after a false start got a blinder down the outside of 1-2 top of three wide to jump up a row. We grabbed one more spot early before the field strung out. Again we made ground on the cars in front of us but couldn’t pick our way through even with the help of lappers in the short heat. Third would be our takeaway from the heat which put us up the pointy end for the feature grid where we would roll off third.

The feature was over 25 laps, and we bolted on some good tires and our tuned up setup to see if we could work our way up. The start was not good for us however and we got muscled into the wrong lane then lost a couple of spots, briefly falling to sixth spot with a tight tending car. We got back rolling, found our groove and dialled in the shocks to make a tear for the front. We moved up to fourth quite quickly then set off after the leaders.

They had built quite a margin but we continually cut that back and eventually were in position to make a move when a caution came out. We ran about looking after our tires and packing the top groove but after the restart for whatever reason our car went to junk. We lost our forward drive and had no exit speed onto the straights and no amount of dialling on the shocks made any real improvement.

The laps wound down quickly with us stagnant in fourth and that would be where we would finish. It was a shame we couldn’t get back on the podium in an event that had previously treated us well, but the positives from the weekend are we have found the speed to race for the win again and we can head to Palmy in a couple of weeks with a fast car again.

The last round of the track championship at Palmy will be on the 29th of April and with all going well and no rain that will wind up our season. Hopefully we can grab ahold of the checkered flag there!

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OST Finale: Palmerston North – 8th April 2023

Race report

The final round of our tour was moved to Palmerston North following a string of rain offs and interruptions through the season. We were happy to be back at the track that had treated us so well this season.
We would run three heats for qualifying then a feature to finish the night.
We had a solid lead in the OST points but needed another clean night to round out the season.
We drew grid 7 for the first race and got off to a reasonable start however on the slippery track I made a little error and caught the fence damaging our rear suspension. We carried on but not at great pace and lost some spots to finish about 10th.
It was an easy enough fix for the next race and we were back out with our car tuned up but a lot of work to do starting back in 15th. We got a killer start and sliced through cars left and right through the opening laps before the field spaced out a little and it got more difficult to pass. By the end we made our way up to fifth which helped to make up for our bad first heat.
Second heat we started off 2 and got off to the lead. We quickly caught the back of the big field and worked our way through lapped traffic albeit a little too cautiously as it turned out as we lost the lead in the last lap after dodging a spinning car in front of us. We hung on for second but it was a little bit what could have been. The results qualified us sixth for the feature and gave us a lot of work to do on the very slick track.
We fired off in the feature okay, getting the setup where we needed it early and made some ground up the field. However our progress stalled about mid race once our rear tires began to give up and we were stalled at fifth spot. While it wasn’t an amazing nights racing for the team it was hard to balance being cautious for points versus attacking for the race win. On final count we had done enough to win the series, with none of our close competitors taking any points off us in the final round. It would be our second OST tour win in three seasons and a great reward for our resilience through the season.
Our next round is to be at Stratford speedway for the third attempt at getting the Grand Prix meeting in. Hopefully we can score another weekend of dry weather and challenge for another win in the naki

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OST Round 3: Palmerston North – 18th March 2023

The next round of the tour took us back to our ‘home’ track of Palmerston North and while it’s still a long trip down the country it was nice to be back in familiar territory. After a bruising few weeks the field was a little depleted but all the contenders were there to put on a good show. As always we drew a tough grid, putting us off 11 for race one.

The track was still quite heavy as we drove out the gate, but we were much better on setup than we had been for the last few weeks and managed to make some good ground. Picking cars off through the race to finish up in fifth spot. The reverse grid put us off two alongside our good mate in the 2nz car, promising to make an exciting start.

We got the jump heading down to one but stayed high in 1-2 and the top lane just didn’t have the grip we needed causing us to fall back to second. We followed through the other end before getting the run and reversing the move at turn 1 the next lap. Making the dive and getting it done for the lead. Our car was pretty perfect for setup and we cleared out for a strong win.

The heat results put us in a three way tie for top qualifier. However we scored quickest lap time through the night which settled the tie breaker. The format was to invert the top six and this put us outside row three for the feature.

On the race start we had a blinder running down the outside then cutting to the bottom to take the lead into turn one but when we get to the back stretch the yellow comes out for a jump start, reason being the front row not entering the box even. We had to try again from row three but lightening wouldn’t strike twice and this time we couldn’t gain any ground. It took us a sec to get rolling but once we did we were fast, moving up a little and scoring fastest lap in the process but we couldn’t make the passes on the primarily one lane track and had to settle for fourth.

It certainly wasn’t the result we hoped for after having such good speed but it was another good points night and helps cement our place at the top of the ladder. With all the rain offs we now only have one round left of the tour at harrisville speedway on Easter Sunday. The daytime show at the outlaw track is always a challenge and we will have to apply ourselves well to get a good result.

Our next race is back at Stratford for the speedway nz Grand Prix title and will be another important weekend. That will be after a well deserved week off where we can get into the car and make sure we finish the season well.