Happy New Year folks!
Been a quiet time for us, race meeting wise, with only 2 meetings since our trip to Rotorua on the 19th December.
December 27th had us back at Rotorua to try and defend the North Island title we won last year at Waikaraka Park. A small field of only 14 cars fronted to contest the title which is pretty disappointing to be honest. This is a SNZ title with a history of some great racing and for North Island competitors to bypass this meeting is a sad indication of some driver's attitudes to our class. I have heard stories of guys not running because they thought they may get damage etc, if that is their concern maybe they should sell up as damage is part and parcel of the sport… time to harden up boys!
The night did not start well, and a problem with a fuel leak kept us out of the practice. The leak was down to a hole in the diaphragm in the fuel bypass setup and a mad panic was underway trying to find someone who carried a spare. Ours must be a weird setup as no one had one exactly the same, luckily the boys from the Eagle race team had something similar that Foxy was able to “modify” to work… just!
While Foxy was making frantic repairs I took his place at the drivers meeting. Never been to one before and it was an interesting exercise. The do's and don'ts are outlined pretty clearly at the start and the drivers have the opportunity to raise concerns or get clarifications on how things will be run for the night. There was a discussion on if points would be awarded to cars that didn't finish a race etc and the fact that no one raised their concerns about this practice meant that points were awarded to guys who didn't actually finish races, based on what order they pulled off. There seems to be some debate about this issue and its pros and cons, but the drivers themselves are the guys who have to decide on if they want to revert back to the rulebook which states that to get points you need to cross the start/finish line at the end of the race. I suggest instead of complaining about it after a meeting, bring it up at the start and get agreement from all drivers to change it, if that is what the majority want.
The track seemed a little dry compared to what we had seen the week before but given the amount of problems faced by the team at Rotorua prior to the event the track preparation was a pretty good effort. 14 fast, competitive cars on the tight circuit will always mean that passing opportunities will be limited unless someone makes a mistake. This proved to be the case with all 3 races won by a car effectively off the front grid. At the end of the night the top 5 cars were separated by only 5 points, surprisingly though there was no need for any runoffs for any of the top 3 places.
Cars in attendance were: 2nz, 3nz, 4s, 6a, 11a, 11s, 18r, 19a, 36a, 41a, 55s, 67s, 78h and 121s.
Race 1 and I drew marble 8 for Foxy. 6a and 55s were off grids 1 and 2, 121s, and 19a were off grids 3 and 4 followed by 78h and 2nz off grids 5 and 6. Grid 7 had 36a, 41a left from 9 and 67s from 10. 18r and 3nz were from 11 and 12 with 4s and 11s right off the rear in grids 13 and 14.
Race 2 had us leaving from pole. Of the guys who finished around us in heat 1, we had 6a leaving from grid 8, 2nz from grid 13, 19a from grid 11, 3nz from grid 5 and 4s from grid 6. All Foxy could do in this one was to win the race and let the others sort themselves out. Foxy won the start from the 41a car of Hayden Scheffer but Hayden kept Foxy honest for the whole race. A couple of yellows closed everyone up but Foxy and Hayden were able to jump clear each time. A notable retiree in this race was the 19a car of Scotty Lane. In the last lap of the race Mark Dixon in the 4s machine was able to capitalize when lapped traffic came into play and he slid past the 18r car of Dennis Hanson for 3rd while Dennis was trying to lap the 36a car of Phil Crumpe. This one point would prove to be critical. Biggest mover in this race was the 2nz machine up 5 places to 8th. There was very little progress made by the leading guys in this race with the 6a car going from 8 to 5. The 4s car going from 6 to 3 (as outlined above) and the 3nz machine having a bad run actually loosing a few spots at the start and going from 5 to 7th.
Heading into race 3 Foxy had a 1 point lead over the 6a car of Brian Jesen but Foxy was leaving from grid 13 and Brian from 14. 3 points adrift from Brian were the 4s machine of Mark Dixon leaving from another favorable grid 3 start and 41a Hayden Scheffer leaving from grid 11. The nights racing had shown us that track position was critical on the circuit and it was heavy going for anyone to make significant progress from the rear. Even Jacko who was 5 points off the lead still had a chance from a favorable grid 4 start.
The job got a whole lot more difficult for Foxy when the first attempt to start the race failed, with the result of both 36a and 2nz sitting in the infield. This meant that the outside row now had no cars on grids 2, 4 and 6 as the 78h car was a non starter. The first car on the outside row was Scotty in the 19a car on grid 8! This also gave the 4s car of Mark Dixon the gap he needed to get on the outside of the 11s car at the start and take the lead. He was quickly followed by the 19a car of Scotty lane who made short work of moving from 8 to 2nd given the lack of cars. Foxy had no choice but to move to the outside once Brian had gone and follow him through. This seemed to work for a while as Brian was clearing the way through the traffic and this allowed an easier ride for Foxy. While challenging for 7th Brian came together with a slower car and the resulting damage had him retire to the infield. After the restart Foxy was able to move his way up to 6th but try as he did he couldn't find a way around the 18r machine of Dennis Hanson. The finishing order was 4s, 19a, 3nz, 121s, 18r and 11a. This left the final points situation as 4s (53 points), 11a (52 points) and 6a (49 points). Not much in it but it was Dicko's night and congrats. Also congrats to Brian who drove well all night. As for us we we're happy with 2nd. It has been a disjointed start to the season for us and we are still learning the in's and out's of the new car. In the last 10 years Foxy has now won this event 3 times and been 2nd 4 times so 7 out of the last 10 years he has been on the podium. Pretty consistent effort.
The plan was to head too Stratty for their meeting on January 2nd. We were disappointed on arriving to hear that the meeting had been canned. Willy Noonan and the team from the 10s modified and Mark Dixon and his crew from the 4s modified arrived at the Motel to “look after us for the night” and even they were scratching their heads as to why the meet was canned. We spent the night outside “talking” without a drop of rain falling and we were only 5 minutes from the track! I think someone got a bit excited and pulled the pin a bit early which meant that the crowd missed out on seeing a field of 12 mods, with not only us in town, but also the 29e machine of Glen Leech and the 871c machine of Luke Keegan looking for a run. Unfortunately for us this now means we have to go into the NZ's without having a shakedown run at Stratty in the new car, not ideal.
Saturday 10th January had us visit Whangarei for the first time to contest the Whangarei Modified champs. Craig McLeish, the Auckland mod rep had done all he could to drum up support for the meeting so it was sad to see only 6 cars make the effort to show up. Those that did make the effort were rewarded with a great day on a great track (us included). The format was down as a championship format with a front, middle back start but to try and give the crowd that showed up some sort of show of what mod racing is like we decided to start from the rear all day to make the racing exciting. We were surprised by the drive in the track given it was a day meeting in the middle of summer but this allowed us the width we needed to make good clean passes and although Foxy won all 3 heats there was no need for crashing and bashing and every one enjoyed themselves. Grant Harris in the 64a machine is showing real improvement and made Foxy work in the last 2 races so watch him in the coming meetings.
This Saturday we are back at Waikaraka for the first time in over a month and the plan is to get thru this meeting and then decide if we will run at the park on the 24th which is only 4 days before we have to head to Stratford.
See you at the park.
Thanks to PallMall for the Images.