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Waikaraka Park - CSL Containers Dirt Cup - 27th February 2010

Click to EnlargeWhat a night! Drama galore, happy drivers, angry drivers, gun-shy officials, large crowd but, most importantly, some great racing!!

Firstly thanks has to go to Roger from CSL Containers who answered our SOS and came on board as the major sponsor for this event. The fact that Roger came on board allowed us to attract our biggest contingent of South Island entrants for this event and boy did they front!

Auckland modified rep, Craig McLeish also deserves a lot of credit for helping put this show together and it is great that the Auckland modified class has such a hands on guy representing us on the committee to make sure that we get looked after. He fights for us tooth and nail and without his efforts the class would suffer at club level, thanks Craig.

28 cars were expected on the night but a couple of late withdrawals from Stratford eventually left us with 26 cars. Looking at the pits it was a pleasing sight to see such a strong modified field assembled and we were all looking forward to getting on with the job.

Click to EnlargeThe format was simple; two seeded groups would contest 2 x 15 lap heat races for points (marbledraw and reverse). The top 6 points scorers across either group would contest the pole shuffle for the final. Top 18 across either group would qualify for the final and the last 2 would be found from a repercharge.

Foxy was drawn in the Bertram Group along side some very fast machinery. We expected some fast and furious action, racing with the likes of 6a Brian Jesen, 71s Jacko, 871c Luke Keegan and 14s Mark Dixon to name but a few. Foxy drew grid 13 for the first heat which made us dead last on the grid. Foxy drove a blinder on a very good race surface and was able to bring the car home in 2nd place, just behind the 871c machine of Luke Keegan who had started off the front. The car was hooking up and flying with Foxy making some great outside passes on his way to 2nd. In hindsight now, the fact that we looked so dominant in this heat made us a little too complacent as we thought, with Foxy starting off the front row for his 2nd points heat, that pretty much assured us that we would dictate the remaining of the meeting, big mistake!

Heat 2 had us starting from grid 2 alongside Crumpy in the 36a machine. Foxy jumped out to an early lead but was quickly under pressure from a very fast looking 14s machine of Mark Dixon. It looked like Dicko had found a great set-up for this race where as we had not! Foxy did eventually take out the win but was pressured all the way by Dicko and to be honest we were lucky. We knew we had to make changes. Little did we know that this ended up being as good as our night would go!

Click to EnlargeAt this stage things started to get difficult, dramas from heat 2 in the Benbrook group resulted in protests being made. The frustrating thing was that these protests had no impact on either the pole shuffle cars or the top 18 qualifiers but because protests had been made the results from heat 2 could not be made official which meant that the event could not continue until they were sorted. This took to long. The officials on the night bent over backwards to try and be fair to everyone and they should be applauded for doing so but sometimes you just need to be hardnosed, make a call and simply move on so as not to hold up the entire program. No one wins in this situation and there are always going to be unhappy campers but really the first priority has to be to keep the show moving in the best interests of the majority of the competitors and the paying public. Eventually common sense prevailed and the pole shuffle was sent out without the protest being concluded. This was already about an hour later than what it should have been.

Being the top qualifier across both groups with a 1st and a 2nd we felt relaxed about things knowing we would be in the last shuffle for a grid 1 or 2 start for the final. There was no discussion between the team about strategy for the shuffle and to be honest all of us in the pits just expected Foxy to choose grid 2 for the shuffle and go off and win the thing! We were wrong, for some reason Foxy decided that grid 1 was the best option for the shuffle run-off. He made this decision based on the fact that Luke had managed to win the previous 2 shuffles from pole against some good cars and assumed that the inside line must be the place to start. He was wrong! To give up the pace setting advantage in a shuffle is not something you do lightly and I have only seen Foxy do this on a handful of occasions in the past, never at Waikaraka Park. It backfired with Foxy getting beaten easily by Luke meaning we had to start from grid 1 in the final. Foxy was kicking himself when he came in but bad decisions sometimes get made and you just have to move on.

Click to EnlargeOn returning to the pits it was evident that there was still drama unfolding as to what was going to happen with the repercharge. Time was really against us and ultimately a call was made to scrap the repercharge and go straight to the final. The promoter got approval from SNZ to run all the mobile cars (25 of them) in the final as was a private promotion event and I was advised that this was what was going to happen. Although not being ideal I could understand the reasoning for the decision and agreed it was the only fair way to continue for all the drivers.
Speaking from the Team Fox perspective we were happy to allow this to happen. Unfortunately others were not, once the announcement was made about what they intended to do all hell broke lose and some teams advised that they would protest if this was allowed to happen as their stance was only 20 cars should be in the final (which by the way would not stand up anyway as there is no such rule in the rulebook, more than 20 cars can be run at any time with approval of the meetings SNZ steward. If you don't believe me then check the rulebook yourself!)).
This put the club in an awkward spot as time was all ready against us and we simply could not afford to have another protest hold things up again. The decision had to be made to take the next 2 highest points scorers from the heats and run with 20. This meant that guys like Jacko and Willy who had bad luck in the heats, and worked their butts off to get their cars going again, missed out. Understandably both guys were not happy but I do feel that some of the blame for this situation was miss-directed at the club and the officials and that some of the other drivers need to take some of the responsibility. It is unfortunate that our sport seems to have got to the stage where the comradary has nearly all but gone and guys seem too eager to throw the rulebook up when it suits their argument or when decisions are made that they don't like.

Click to EnlargeThere is no doubt that some things could have been run better on the night by the officials, and that will always be the case, but we as race teams need to also assist where we can and refrain from frivolous, pedantic protests that adversely affect the flow of a meeting. We will never always be happy with some decisions made but that is life. We have been on the wrong end of many a bad call but we have never once protested anything when we could quite easily have done so. There are still a few guys racing who share this same approach but they seem to be getting outnumbered. We need to be careful as a class that this doesn't get out of hand as we risk alienating the crowd, the officials, the promoters the sponsors and other drivers. This will ultimately back fire on us as a class.

Anyway, back to the racing. The track by now was completely gone. Luke made full use of his grid 2 start and although Foxy did his best running side by side with Luke for the first lap, eventually Luke got his nose in front and we had no answer. It is fair to say that for the first time this season we missed the setup completely and Foxy had a hell of a job with the car. It was not quick at all and to be honest Foxy was lucky to bring it home in 3rd place as Luke, Dicko and a few others looked a hell of a lot faster than what we did!

Click to EnlargeThis was the one event on the Auckland calendar we target every year and we should have done better. Don't get me wrong we are wrapped with our 3rd placing given how badly we missed the set up for the last race, not to mention the caliber of the competition! We need to be at 100% to beat these guys and anything less will see us struggle, for the first time this year we were at less than 100%!
Any time you finish on the podium you need to be reasonably pleased but we feel like we let this one get away from us and didn't put forward our best effort. Given the start to the night we should have dominated this event and weather it was shear complacency or allowing ourselves to get sidetracked by the hype and dramas of the night, I am not sure. At the end of the day we were disappointed with our efforts. Congrats have to go to both Luke and Dicko for their placings as both looked the quickest on a challenging race surface where times were never going to be quick. Dicko especially has to be happy as he is really the first person all year to make a pass stick on us! We need to make sure it is the last!!

Let's hope that both these guys make the trip up next season for the NZ title where both will have to rate as real contenders.

The next meeting for the team is uncertain at this stage. It may be back at Waikaraka on the 13th March if mods are on the program and we are prepared to run for love again this season as we have been informed that the remaining runs this year at home will have no prizemoney. I have not spoken to Foxy yet on this but it is fair to say I am not sure I am happy to risk the car under this basis. A decision will be made nearer the time.

See you at the track.
Team Fox

--- Thanks to PallMall for the images ---

 

 

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