It has been a long time since we have had the opportunity for 2 nights of action at Rotorua's Easter meeting and we were really looking forward to it. We were not left feeling disappointed as it was everything we hoped it would be, great racing, great atmosphere and good times.
Night one was set down as the rescheduled running of the Bay of Plenty Modified Champs for 2009/10. The first attempt at this meeting was before Christmas and was rained out. Heading into this meeting we had been able to establish a clean sweep of the regional titles we had contested. The first of these was the Taranaki Champs back in December; we followed that up with both the Auckland and Waikato titles earlier this year. Doing 4 from 4 is something we hadn't done before so we were keen to give it our best shot.
Heat 1 got off clean and Foxy soon started making inroads through the field. Nothing short of a top 4 finish would be enough was our opinion heading out and we think we were pretty well right! Everything went to plan and by race end Foxy had made his way into what ended up being a championship defining 3rd place. Bunter in the 67s machine won from his grid 2 start with Jacko in the 71s machine coming 2nd from grid 3.
Heat 2 had us leaving from grid 5 and Foxy made good progress from the start, hitting the front before half distance. Jacko also made progress moving from his grid 9 start to finish 2nd behind Foxy. The drive of this race was from Mark Dixon in the 4s machine who moved from his grid 12 start to finish 3rd. Bunter came home 4th.
After 2 heats Jacko and Foxy were tied on points but we held the advantage leaving from grid 3 in the final heat. Jacko had to work his way through from his grid 8 start. One point further back was Bunter but he was down to leave from grid 10. By now the track was pretty demanding and passing was difficult. It is fair to say that all the leading guys had moments in this heat with Jacko ultimately picking up a flat right rear and Foxy struggling with the hook up of the 1nz machine. For the first time in a long time we had the old girl too hooked up and Foxy was struggling to keep the front wheels on the ground. After a scary ride early on, that allowed the 22r machine through into 3rd, Foxy just decided to back off a bit and hold his position knowing that both Jacko and Bunter needed to pass him to take the title. In the end Foxy bought the car home in 4th behind 4s, 64a and 22r. Bunter moved his way up to 6th and Jacko circulated on the flat right rear to limp home last.
Night 2 - Easter Champs / Best pairs / Ginge Heywood Memorial
Sunday night and we were back into it again. Missing due to issues on night 1 were 78a (engine) and 7a (diff). One addition was 29a Mark Wade who wasn't able to attend on night 1 due to assisting at Smashfest in Auckland. Format for the night was a 3 heat front, middle, back scenario for points towards the individual title and best pairs. Drivers were seeded and paired up to try and make it as even as possible. 11 cars can not be divided by 2 so 64a ended up having 2 bites of the cherry being teamed up with 67s in one pair and 22r in the other. Other pairings were 71s and 5s, 1nz and 226s, 4s and 29a, 56a and 12s.
Heat one had us leaving from grid 7 (another inside start!). Both of the other top guys from night 1 were in around us with Bunter down to leave from 8 and Jacko from 9. Mark Dixon in the 4s machine had the honor of leading us away from grid 1. As you would expect Dicko got away at the front and built up a handy lead. All was going well for him until he caught up to the slowing 226s mod of Blair Luscombe who, having had his diff explode, was trying to limp on to the infield. Dicko hesitated a bit and ended up taking the wrong option, this resulted in him smashing hard into the 226s machine sideways, ending his race. This gave the lead back to the 5s machine of Roger Furness who had started from grid 2, he was quickly followed by 56a Paul Blakeley who had started from grid 3. By race end Foxy had managed to climb his way into 3rd from grid 7. 22r was 4th followed by 71s and 67c. Biggest movers were 1nz and 71s with 4 each. It was obvious that passing wasn't going to be easy!
Heat 2 and we were leaving from grid 2 (our only outside start from 7 races in the weekend). Jacko was leaving from 4 and Bunter from 3. As you would expect, Foxy hit the lead right from the start and Jacko followed him thru. Foxy had more speed than Jacko and started slowly pulling away. Bunter made his way past the 12s machine of Jason Kalin into 3rd but was never in a position to put pressure on Jacko. Finishing order was 1nz, 71, 67s, 4s and 56a. A protest on returning to the pits resulted in 4s being relegated a spot moving 56a into 4th.
After 2 heats we thought Foxy had a good enough lead to take it out as he had a 2 point advantage over 56a and 3 point advantage over 71s. We were down to leave from grid 9 with Paul in the 56a leaving from 6 and Jacko from 5. We knew we only had to finish within 2 places of Jacko to take the title as long as we finished behind the 56a machine. With the 226s machine missing from grid 3 it would give Jacko the inside run and the advantage over the guys on grids 4 and 6. After the normal ducking and diving at the start the running order looked settled and we thought we were safe. Mark Wade was doing a great job out in front in the 29a machine and Grant Harris looked comfortable running 2nd in the 64a mod. Jacko had moved up to 3rd but Foxy had been able to move into 5th behind Bunter. This gave us the title by 1 point. With laps running out, and no one looking likely to make any more passes, we thought we were done and then with 2 to go Grant Harris in the 64a make a muck up in turns 3 and 4 while under no pressure and this gave Jacko the chance he needed to make his way past into 2nd. This now left us tied with Jacko and with no opportunities forthcoming to pass Bunter we knew we had a run-off situation for the title.
Tied on 54 points a piece, a coin toss decided the starting positions for the runoff. Jacko won the toss and choose grid 2 and pace setter. We knew this would make things hard but the only thing we could do was race him hard into the 1st corner and see what happened. These two guys know each other well and respect each others ability so it was no surprise that both felt comfortable to go flat out side by side into the 1st turn. Jacko had the better line thru the turn and when slight contact was made exiting turn 2 this skewed Foxy into the infield sideways. Foxy did the right thing in coming to a stop to bring on the yellows with the hope that a restart would be ordered as it was the first lap. This was, after all, a championship and we didn't race 3 hard heats prior to the runoff to just roll over and give the thing away! We got 1 of the 2 things we wanted when the yellows were thrown but instead of a restart being awarded they sent Foxy to the back of Jacko and we went green. Foxy threw everything but the kitchen sink at Jacko for the next 3 laps and although he got close a few times, track position was the critical advantage and Jacko drove well to keep Foxy out and take the title. On returning to the pits both drivers were buzzing about a great contest and would quite happily have gone back out and done it again!!
Rounding out the podium was Bunter in the 67s machine taking 3rd, 4 points off the lead.
As is normal at Easter the mods have a 4th race, the Ginge Heywood memorial. Starting grid for this race is a reversed grid from the Easter Champs result. This put Foxy and Jacko off the rear and left the 4s machine of Mark Dixon as the man to beat from grid 2. There is no handicap format in existence for mods that would normally have a guy the caliber of Mark leaving from the front row but that is the way the event has always been run and should continue to be run. As expected Dicko cleaned out at the front and was never threatened. Foxy got boxed in at the start and had to let Jacko get away before he could pull out to get passed the 29a mod of Mark Wade. Jacko was into passing cars quickly and Foxy was doing all he could to keep in touch until a touch from a slightly out of control 64a sent Foxy into the wall. Although able to continue the time lost by this was enough to see any chance of catching the guys at the front vanish. Dicko was followed home by 56a, 71s, 67s, 12s and 1nz.
So there we have it, a great weekend and thanks to Sonja and the team at Rotorua for putting on another great Easter weekend. Hopefully the mods can get another 2 day run next year and we can do it all again!
Team Fox have relented to the pressure put on to us by our friends at Stratford and we have agreed to head down for this weekends meeting to try and retain our King of the Mountain title we won last season. This will be our last meeting for the season as we have decided to call it quits and start on the season ending rebuild. We have been having discussions with regard engine changes amongst other things and we want to get on to these early so if you want to see the 1nz modified again this season then you better be at Stratford speedway this Saturday night, we are sure to have another ding dong battle with both Bunter and Jacko so it should be great. We are coming to get you Jacko!! LOL!