South Island Roadtrip - Mission Accomplished!
There is nothing more satisfying than having a plan come together to achieve the desired result. This is what happened for us on our 2 week sabbatical to the South Island. The team was determined to pull out all stops in our attempt to win back the coveted #1nz title and the planning for this trip stretches back to when Woodford Glen was first announced as the venue for the 2010 title chase. It is fair to say that all involved in the team felt we had unfinished business at the Glen from when the title was last held there in 2006. We made the trip down back then as raging hot favorites and expected just to be able to rock on up and race as we do week in and week out in the North Island. We thought that would be good enough but boy were we wrong! In hindsight we went in to that event massively under-prepared and we paid the cost, sent packing with our tails between our legs. We were determined this would not happen again.
Once the season calendars came out we decided the best option to give us the best shot of winning this thing was to come down a week early and attend the shakedown meeting prior to the champs. As most of our guys are wage earners we knew that this meant we had to forgo the NZGP meet at Greymouth the week after the champs as our guys simply could not spend 3 weeks away from home. Unlike 2006 we went down prepared for any and all conditions we may have found, we were not going to be left kicking ourselves for not having the gear required to get the job done. All reports filtering back from the South all season were that the track was not in the best condition, very little surface was left and this resulted in a very slick race track as the night wore on. We kept a close eye on the times being achieved by the mods on the Woodford Glen website and this backed up the slick track perception as the times have not been quick at all.
Saturday 2nd January had us bowl on up at the track for the shakedown meeting. 16 mods were in attendance with 7 from the North and 9 from the South Island. Cars in attendance were 2nz, 3nz, 6a, 7c, 8s, 11a, 13c, 14s (4s), 46c, 49c, 53c, 56a, 67c, 84c, 94c and 121s.
We drew the “Edge” group and the cars in our group were 2nz, 3nz, 7c, 11a, 14s, 46c, 53c and 56a. We were expecting a hard run with both 2nz and 3nz in the mix but felt this was ideal as we could use these guys to benchmark where we were at.
The great part of having 2 groups is that it allowed Foxy to watch the other group and this helped immensely. Watching Tash in the 84c machine and Maurice in the 49c mod in particular proved beneficial. It showed us that the North Island style of racing was not going to work down at the Glen. The track is not a momentum track and if you drove in on the gas into turn 3 then in all likelihood your would wash out mid turn and get passed down the inside exiting 4. Brakes were going to be all important to get around the track smooth and fast. This is not a style of racing that the North Island cars would be use to and we felt if Foxy could alter his driving style to match that of the leading South Island guys he would do ok. It seemed to work.
The feature on the night turned out to be a bit of a fizzer. Light drizzle started falling as the guys were going out the gate and the on track officials did the right thing by letting the guys circulate and make the decision if the track was good enough to race on or not. Tash was down to leave from grid 1 as Foxy, as highest points scorer, chose grid 2 for the start. Although the drizzle let up it did make the pole line rather slippery and although the majority of the drivers gave the thumbs up to continue, Tash wasn't prepared to take the risk and pulled infield. This left Foxy with the front row to himself. What eventuated in the race surprised us all. For some unexplainable reason Foxy was the only one on the track that drove to the conditions. With the slippery poleline the plan for all drivers should have been simple, run the highline where there was surface! No one else did! For lap after lap Foxy drove out by the wall and quickly established a ½ lap lead while others seemed content to slide around on the poleline. By race end Foxy had lapped the field up to 4th position. A great result for the night but really irrelevant to what we expected to face in the way of track conditions for the big one a week later.
All will know by now that the meeting planned for 2 days became a 1 nighter due to the weather. Sitting at the pub on the Sunday night it was obvious that this was the right decision as there is no way racing would have got under way on the Sunday it that had been the finals night.
After Friday night's rainout we went to work on Saturday changing tyres and suspension etc ready to run on a track that was going to take a hammering due to the format change. The eventual format chosen was that the field was split into 2 groups of 14 cars, these two groups would run 3 x 12 lap races each (marbledraw -front, middle, back). Top 9 from each group would qualify for the 25 lap “winner take all” title race. Remaining cars would contest a 12 lap repercharge with the first two progressing to the final. Grid positions for the final would be based on qualifying points with the highest points choosing grid 1 or 2 and the rest forming up behind. All the drivers agreed that to win the title you would need a starting position close to the front.
We were in the “Koken” group along with 2nz, 5gm, 8s, 14s, 15w, 46c, 56a, 67c, 72e, 77s, 94c, 114w and 871c. We expected our main opposition would come from the locals, being the 2nz machine of Glen Leech, 5gm of Brandon Parkinson (running our old Raceworks car from a few years back) and 871c Luke Keegan.
Heat 2 had us leave from grid 3 with Glen off pole and Brandon off 11. Luke's night came to an end with a driveline failure in this one which was hugely disappointing for the BRT team as a massive effort had been put in to simply get him to the starting grid after an engine let go on the Boxing night meeting. Glen shot out to an early lead with Foxy in hot pursuit. Foxy was able to pressure Glen and eventually found a way past exiting turn 4. It is no mean feat to pass Glen at any time let alone when he is in front! Foxy went on to win the race from Glen, Mark Dixon in the 14s machine and Brandon who worked his way up to 4th from grid 11.
After 2 heats Glen led the group on 26 points, Brandon was 2nd on 25 points with Foxy 3rd on 23 points. Glen was down to leave from grid 13, Brandon from grid 8 and Foxy from 9. At the start of the race Brandon quickly moved his way into 3rd and Foxy slowly started making his way through the field. Glen was not having as much luck and sustained front end damage working through the traffic. This damage halted his charge to the front and although he finished the race it was well back. Foxy on the other hand moved into 4th and started to chase down Brandon who was running 3rd. With a few laps to run Foxy made a successful pass on Brandon to move into 3rd but ran out of time to make a challenge on the 8s and 14s cars that were running 1st and 2nd.
25 Lap title race.
By the time the dramas with the repercharge had been sorted it was closing in on midnight before we were ready to run the final title race. We made the necessary changes to the car that had to be done and bolted on new rubber. As we were not leaving from the front row we had to compromise a tad with our original plans for the set-up as Foxy needed a car good enough at the start to get passed the 2 guys in front. We knew that if we did this we would be sacrificing car speed at the end of 25 laps.
There a numerous people Foxy would like to thank:
To Brian from BDC Engineering, he to has stick by us over the years waiting patiently for the main prize. We got it mate and we are still waiting for that $1000.00 on the bar that has been promised!! Dirt Cup night could be a doozy!!
A big thanks has to go to Robbie and Shane from STL Linehaul. These guys are legends! They took the stress and cost out of getting the racecar down south by putting the whole trailer on the back of one of their trucks. Not only that but they gave us the loan of their work Transit van for the entire 2 weeks we were down there to tow the trailer around with. Man did this make things simple and we owe you guys big time. Cheers.
Phil Game at PG Hydraulics has been instrumental in helping us achieve this result. Phil has not only helped with chassis and setup input into the car but he has also worked closely with Foxy to hone his race-craft skills. This may sound a bit strange to some but believe me there is more required in winning these things than just turning up with a “she'll be right attitude”. Like us, Phil believed we had unfinished business in Christchurch, well Phil we don't anymore mate! Thanks for your help.
To Tony Marsh from Marsh Motorsports, thanks for the engine mate! She continues to run strong and I may be a tad biased but I reckon it is the best engine in the country! If you guys out there want an engine builder who knows how to build winning engines and is great to deal with than I strongly suggest you ring Tony. He is one hell of a nice guy and will look after you. Thanks Tony and we were glad you could be there on the big night to share a beer.
To Steve and the guys from the Woodford Glen Club, thanks for a great couple of weeks. It was a pity the weather intervened but you guys made the most of a bad situation. The right decisions were made at both the shakedown and the champs so you deserve a pat on the back.
Congrats to Rosie for taking out the 2nz spot, by his own admission he was struggling earlier on with the Glen track but he persevered and got a great result for him and his team. Rosie will be around for a while and I can see him being a thorn in our side for the years ahead!
Jacko, what a legend mate. Foxy really appreciated it when you were adamant that you wanted to be the one to pass the trophy over at the end of the night. We know that would not have been an easy thing to do mate and means a lot. You have carried the 1nz proudly over the last 12 months and are a credit to the class. I am sure that there will be more battles to come in the following years mate and we wish you well in Greymouth for the GP.
To all the crew, friends, supporters and their families, thanks guys she has been a long time between drinks but we finally have it!
The next meeting for Team Fox will likely be back at home on January 23rd (TBC).
Thanks for your support