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Taranaki Champs - Stratford - Gold Cup - 5th Dec 2009

Time to step it up!
Saturday night marked the end of the “pre-season” period of this year's race calendar. Things step up a level from now on with 3 of our next 4 meetings the biggest of the season. Our results in these 3 meetings will determine if this season will be a successful one or an average one.

Stratford was the destination the weekend just gone and we had all available body parts crossed that the weather was going to play the game! The guys in Stratty told us it had rained for 5 solid days leading up to Saturday, as it had in Auckland, but luckily for all involved the ever present rain threat never eventuated on the day that counted… Saturday!
Rolling up at the track we expected the surface to be waterlogged, it was the opposite – dry as a bone! That is one advantage of a slick track I suppose, it could rain for a whole year non-stop in Stratford I reckon and, as long as the rain stopped an hour before race start, you could run the meeting!!
The inclement weather leading up to the event may have had an impact on the amount of guys willing to risk the long-haul down at the weekend but after being rained out the week before at Rotorua we were keen to take the risk as we really wanted to run at a track that had conditions similar to what we are expecting to find for the New Zealand title in Christchurch. It is lucky we did as at least this made one Auckland guy waving the flag in enemy territory!

12 cars fronted with 9 locals and 3 visitors. The locals were 1nz, 3nz, 4s, 6s, 8s, 55s, 77s, 121s and 226s. Visitors were 5w, 6w and 11a. This was a class field with numerous fast cars, over half these guys are real title contenders come NZ champs time.
Format for the night was 3 x 10 lap races for the Taranaki champs title (marble draw and championship format). Race 4 for the night was the annual Ginge Heywood Memorial raced over 15 laps. The grid for this race would be a reverse grid from the Taranaki Champs result (winner of champs would start last in the Ginge Heywood). Ginge was always a bit of an underdog when he raced and these memorial races have been set up with a format to give the slower guys a bit of a chance and make the faster guys have to really work for it if they want it. It is not often that the winner of the Taranaki Champs takes out the Ginge as well, just too hard from the rear.

Foxy drew grid 6 in heat 1 and this gave us grids of 6, 12 and 2. Heat 1 had Jacko in the 1nz machine off grid 2. Roydon Collingwood started from grid 1. 3nz mod of Bunter was off 3. 6w of Phil Patterson was off 4 and we had Sean Rice in the 8s mod on the inside of us. Behind us were the 4s machine of Mark Dixon, The Ward boys, 77s Craig and 55s Paul and the 5w machine of Brian McPhee. The 121s machine of Stuart Rose left from the rear.
As expected Jacko shot out to the lead and was never threatened setting the fastest lap of the race. Roydon in the 6s machine slotted nicely into 2nd with Bunter 3rd. This is how they finished. Fair to say we missed the setup in this race a bit and early on we found ourselves back as far as 8th! Foxy was able to pull a few back and came home in 5th, just behind the 6w car of Phil. Not a great start for the night only improving one spot from the start, we did however set the 2nd fastest time of the race just slightly slower than Jacko. The biggest mover in this race was the 121s mod of Stuart Rose. He improved from a grid 12 start to finish 6th. Pretty impressive on this track and a move that at the time we thought would make it hard to beat him on the night as he now had 2 favorable draws left.

Heat 2 and we made the changes that needed to be made. Leaving from grid 12 Foxy had a heap of work to do to keep him in the contest. The changes we made to the car were instantly noticeable. Foxy had a great drive and passed a lot of quick cars. Jacko spun up about mid distance that forced the yellow on and sent him to the back. By race end Foxy had made his way up to 4th and, most importantly given the results of race 1, he had passed the 121s machine of Stuart. This would give us a 2 point lead over him going into the last heat with both guys off the front row. Jacko could only improve to 9th after being sent to the back. Foxy also set the fastest laptime.
Points were tallied after heat 2 and the 6s machine of Roydon Collingwood held the lead by 1 solitary point. Roydon though now had his rear start and when I say rear I mean grid 12! Jacko and Foxy were tied for 2nd with Foxy leaving from grid 2 and Jacko leaving from 10. Bunter in the 3nz was in the hunt as well but he also had a rear start (grid 8). Really it was a 2 horse race between Foxy and Stuart (grid 1 start) for the title. Foxy could win it even if Stuart won the race as long as Foxy finished 2nd.

Foxy jumped away at the start of the race and Stuart slotted into 2nd. Not really much to report with the lead between Foxy and Stuart staying pretty much the same until the end of the race. Back in the pack Bunter in the 3nz machine put enough cars between he and Jacko to cement 3rd place in the championship. Foxy again set the fastest time.

Taranaki Modified Champs. 11a foxy 1st. 121s Stuart Rose 2nd. 3nz Bunter Pierce 3rd. 1nz Jacko 4th.
As stated above, the Ginge was a reverse grid handicap race. 55s Paul Ward was out with driveline issues so this left 11 cars for the starting gun. The front row was made up of 8s Sean Rice and 5w Brian McPhee. Row 2 had 226s Blair Luscombe and 77s Craig Ward. Row 3 had 6w Phil Patterson and 4s Mark Dixon. Row 4 had 6s Roydon Collingwood and 1nz Jacko. Row 5 had 3nz Bunter Pierce and 121s Stuart Rose. Row 6 had 11a Foxy.

Foxy got a blinder of a start and exiting turn 4 for the first time he had moved his way past everyone except 1st and 2nd! This is where it all went wrong, heading down the main straight the 226s car got squeezed up the wall and instead of getting out of the gas he kept his foot down. What ensued was probably the biggest modified crash I have seen for over 10 years! When Blair came off the wall he went into a serious of cartwheels, one of which took him up as high as the safety fence!! Along the trip he collected both the 1nz machine and the 121s machine. Jacko got off lightly (compared to the other two!) but Stuart also was sent into a series of rolls before coming to a stop arse down with the front wheel looking up to the skies. How it came to a stop in this position astounds me. Blair's car came to a stop in a heap of crumbled metal. It is testament to the way that these cars are built that all the guys walked away shaken and bruised but without serious injury. We were thankful we escaped damage as we were close to being involved. If you look at the great photos taken by Drew on the Macgors website you will see what I mean, Foxy has just cleared these guys when it hit the fan.
As expected the race was stopped and after everything was cleared a complete restart was ordered.

This backfired on us a tad as like I said we were up to 3rd. On the restart we were back to the rear of a slightly depleted field. The race itself was pretty uneventful after this and 5w Brian McPhee took full advantage of his front row start and went on to win from the 77s car of Craig Ward. Foxy did enough to come home 3rd with a car that was starting to struggle with its rubber! Considering the right rear we had on had done 60 odd laps in Auckland for the Gold Cup and the 3 races for the Taranaki Champs I suppose we shouldn't have been surprised that it went off! One race too many but at least we got our monies worth from it!

In our last two meetings we have raced, both at home and away, with the fastest guys the North Island has to offer and been lucky enough to come away on top both times. This gives us a lot of confidence heading into our next meeting, and main priority, which is the North Island Champs at Waikaraka on the 15th December. What is most pleasing is that we have also been the quickest car on the track at these meetings on two different race surfaces. It is fair to say that the car is going the best it ever has on a slick track, as most will know this is where we have struggled in the past so we are delighted. Whether we are going good enough to challenge the South Island guys on their home track will be known in 3 weeks time! We are looking forward to it.

See ya at the track!

Team Fox



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