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Mixed bag – Woodford Glen Easter adventure.

Team Fox’s last scheduled event for this season was the Modified Invasion run over 2 nights on Easter weekend. We were pleased to be in a position to return the favor by supporting one of the South Island events in return for the South Island guy’s efforts in supporting ours over the years.
The Modified Invasion event is unique in that is it held over 3 nights, at two different tracks, in 2 different Islands and with a different race format on each night. As Team Fox didn’t attend round 1, in Wellington, we knew we were out of the running for the overall honors so simply treated each night in Christchurch as a stand alone meeting.
We would like to thank the Woodford Glen promoter Steve Lennon and the modified rep Brett Stack for putting something together to get us down and, for the most part, we were made to feel welcome. Given recent events we were given the cold shoulder by a few, which is human nature, but luckily they were in the minority and hopefully as time moves on, and emotions settle down, a bit of honest reflection will kick in and people will look at the events over the last few months with a little more perspective and move on.
Night 1 format was in some degree similar to the Dirt Cup format we used this year. The 23 starters were split into 3 groups. Each group would have 2 x 12 lap races which meant racing against each of the other groups once. Foxy was in the Koken Group with 4w, 5gm, 24c, 49c, 81c and 88c. Our first race was against the Christchurch Glass group which had 4c, 7c, 15w, 19a, 51c, 54gm and 67c. We drew grid 6 for this race and followed Mike in the 4c across the line in 2nd place. On returning to the pits we found out that we were going to be relegated 2 places back to 4th for an apparent poleline infringement which we though was a tad harsh and after some debate with the officials they decided to relegate us 1 spot instead of 2. We had a feeling of déjà vu with this as the last time we ran in Christchurch, for the NZ Champs, the same thing happened in our first race! Anyway, we copped it on the chin and moved on to our 2nd heat.
This 2nd heat was against the Ampro group which consisted of 1nzc (5w), 8w, 13c, 32gm, 62c, 69c, 72e and 114c. This was to be our first race against Luke in the 5w (1nzc) machine for the weekend and with Foxy leaving from grid 7 and Luke leaving from grid 6 it was advantage Luke (row in front, outside line). We got off to a reasonable start and were following Luke through the field early on when an over zealous move by 72e into turn 3 had a flow on effect that impacted on us. Scott went in to hot and collected the 4w car of Paul Hodson who in turn collected us hard on the left rear, spinning us out and damaging the Jacobs ladder. Foxy was able to restart in position but the damage impacted on the car performance and he had to settle for bringing the car home as best he could. This resulted in us coming home 4th with Luke finishing 2nd,
The results from the heats had us back a bit from where we would ideally like to have been. The top 8 cars on points next contested an 8 lap shootout to get final grid positions for the 20 lapper. We scrapped in to the top 8 finishing 4th. Luke being top on points after the heats chose to leave from 2. Luke shot out to the lead and was never threatened, Foxy made some good passes to get up to 2nd from a grid 4 start meaning that the final 20 lapper would have Luke and Foxy off the front row with Luke having the massive advantage of lane choice.
By now the track was toast, there was only 1 race line and it was about 2 feet out from the wall! There was no low line at all and if you tried to run low you went backwards at a rate of knots. We actually got off to a pretty good start, Luke shot out in front leaving from 2 and Foxy was able to hold off the guys leaving from 3 and 4 and keep control of 2nd on the track. We were close enough to take full advantage of a small mistake by Luke exiting turn 2, on what I think was lap 2, and Foxy got through to the lead of the race. This was short-lived unfortunately as a yellow shortly after meant that we had to form up going back a lap and this reinstated Luke to the front. To be fair, although we had hit the lead, it was unlikely that we would have been able to hold on to it for the rest of the race given the amount of stoppages that happened in this race. A faulty bleed off valve in the right rear meant that the pressure in the right rear tyre dropped too low while running around under caution. Foxy actually thought he had a flat right rear or at best a slow leaking puncture. Due to this issue Foxy had to be conservative on the restarts as running into turn 1 at pace with a deflating right rear could well have gone pear shaped, as it was the car got up onto the right rear when he pitched it in driving slowly so going in to hot and he could have easily have ended up on his roof.
Every restart gave the same result, Luke was able to drive away easily under full throttle while Foxy had to manage his pace for the first few laps under green until the heat in the tyre built up the tyre pressure, all this while trying to hold on to his position. After about 2 laps on each restart Foxy was able to get going again and at this point the gap between he and Luke remained constant but was not closing. This showed the cars were very similar in track speed. Luke’s quickest lap was a 16.73 and Foxy’s was a 16.77. Average times for an average track.
Foxy was able to bring the car home in a comfortable 2nd place without really ever threatening Luke outside of the brief moment we hit the lead. Might things have been different if there had been no caution right after hitting the lead? Who knows, maybe but we would have needed the race to go the distance without further holdups to have had a chance to hold the lead and this never happened. On checking the tyre pressure in the right rear when Foxy returned to the pits straight after the race it was less than 6 pounds so Foxy’s decision on how to manage this on the track proved to the right thing to do.
Night 2 and again we knew the format was different. With points from the first two rounds counting towards where you started all night in this round we knew that all night we would be in traffic while Luke would enjoy front row starts in every race. Luke is hard enough to beat given an even chance but near on impossible given front row starts all night! No complaints though, we knew that was likely going to be the case going down there as this was the format. It will be interesting to see if the promoter stays with this format for next season as I believe he did try to change it on the night but there was to much reluctance on behalf of the drivers with the prime staring grids for obvious reasons! Ha!! One can hardly blame them.
Our plan for night 2 was always to use this night as a testing night with next years NZ Champs being held at the track first and foremost in our minds. This decision was made even easier when the results from the night before confirmed the likely outcome of Luke enjoying track advantage all night. We have been wanting to try something a bit different with regard set ups and up to now have not really had the opportunity to try it as every time we run we are running for a title (downside to not running clubnights). There was plenty of discussion during the day between the team and we decided to try the radical ideas we had, after all in our view we had nothing to lose. With the track being so black on the first night, and really only offering the highline as a racing option, we thought that if we could get a setup that would allow us to run the low line where nobody was running (or if we are being honest, no one had been able to run) we may be able to find a quicker way around the track than the highline as we would be out of the traffic. Good theory anyway!!
Race 1 for us on the night was the top 14 cars on points after rounds 1 and 2 having a 15 lap race. Our performance on the one night we had raced in the series had been enough to qualify us for a grid 8 start and with Luke leaving from the front row the plan was to try and move up as many places as we could to make sure we would be in the 8 car pole shuffle still to come (first 8 across the line qualified for this in the order they finished this heat). First impressions of the new set up were encouraging, the car didn’t look to be doing anything silly but without knowing what the lap times were we really had no idea if the car was better or worse than night 1. Unfortunately no lap times were posted in the pits afterwards either so we were pretty much winging it on gut feel. After making quick progress into 4th Foxy seemed to struggle a little to keep with 7c and 13c who were fighting it out for 2nd and 3rd. With these guys racing side by side lap after lap it left Foxy with nowhere to attempt a pass on either and he had to settle on coming home in 4th place. We were happy this would put us in the shuffle. Luke won easily from the front.
Before the shuffle we made another couple of tweaks to the car. The track wasn’t as bad as night 1 but was still offering little on the inside line. It was obvious to all that the outside line was still the place to run and we expected all the guys would pick grid 2 starts when they had lane choice in each shuffle. I must admit to being surprised that out of the 8 guys, 2 actually chose to leave from grid 1 when they had the choice. Both ended up losing. Our shuffles were really a non event. Our first was up against Mike in the 4c machine and Foxy chose grid 2. Mike jumped the start a little and was harshly disqualified. David in the 13c was our next opponent and chose grid 2 meaning we had to leave from 1. David used a bit of gamesmanship in this one; as the guys were heading around to start at a comfortable speed and wheel to wheel, David bulked a little before the chalk line and this meant Foxy had about a wheel advantage on the line so he was also deemed to have jumped the start and was disqualified. Smart move by David and well played. David went on to beat Hayden in the 7c machine (Hayden was one of the guys who for some reason chose to leave from 1). Luke didn’t make the same mistake beating David in the last shuffle from grid 2.
I personally think the officials on the night did not handle the shuffle well. These things need to be controlled by someone who is experienced in them. At the Dirt Cup I always request a starting box, not just a line, and guys are given the benefit of the doubt once. Drivers are told they need to keep a constant pace leading up the start and although grid 2 is the pacesetter, grid 1 sets track position and the outside car cannot slowdown after entering turn 3 heading for the starting box. This avoids the balking issue. Kicking a guy out after 1 attempt is harsh and robs the crowd of seeing one of the more exciting race formats available to us. Crowds want to see these shuffles actually happen, not see guys sent to the infield. May as well not bother to have them.
To the final 25 lapper. We were down to leave from grid 4 right behind Luke who chose grid 2. Plan was simple, follow Luke through right at the start and see if our new setup would allow us to pressure him as the race went on. Foxy got a blinder at the start by not only getting around David, who started from 1, but also getting under Luke off turn 2 and taking the lead! Foxy led at the end of lap 1 but once again a yellow was needed when an incident back in the pack though turns 3 and 4 resulted in a complete restart. Second night in a row! Bugger!!
On the restart Luke didn’t make the same mistake and although we again got into 2nd Luke was able to keep the lead. This time the race was green for a number of laps but it seemed as the laps went on that the car was struggling. On about lap 7 there was another caution while we were running 2nd, on the restart not only couldn’t we keep up with Luke, we fell into the reach of Mike in the 4c and David in the 13c. The car was really suffering mid turn and off the turn, so much so that both these guys were able to get under Foxy pretty easily. Things were not looking good! On about lap 9 Foxy went into turn 3 and turned the car around, this is not something we do very often and it was obvious at this point that the setup we had tried was a dismal failure! Foxy decided that to continue on was dangerous to both him and to the other guys in the field so he parked it up. Luke went on to take a deserved win and take a clean sweep of all the features in the series.
Although disappointed with our night 2 performance we are pleased we achieved what we wanted to from the weekends racing. We went down to Christchurch with the bigger picture in mind and we came away with a setup from night 1 that was competitive and a setup from night 2 that we have wanted to try for some time but now know does not work. This set up will be filed away in the recycle bin! When / if we venture down next time we won’t be 2nd guessing ourselves on a “what if” situation on how to go quicker. We feel we have come away wiser from our visit and have a pretty good idea now on what slight changes we need to do to be competitive come NZ champs time next season if we attend.
Team Fox final comments re NZ Champs issue:
It seems everyone has now had their say on this issue and with SNZ now making a public statement by way of their newsletter last week we feel it necessary to clarify a few points and then refrain from any further discussions / comments:
1/ The correct appeal process and procedures are set out in the SNZ rulebook in section M7-10.
2/ Team Fox followed the correct procedures.
3/ SNZ’s own rules stipulate that the appeal committee’s decisions will be final and binding. Rule M7-10-25.
4/ SNZ have chosen to ignore their own Appeal Committees decisions and in our opinion are in breach of their own rules.
5/ SNZ update is factually incorrect in that they state that Team Fox’s protest on the night was unsuccessful. This is in fact wrong; Team Fox WON their protest on the night.
6/ Up to now SNZ have refused to post a retraction / correction with regard this above point even after we have pointed it out to them that it is wrong.
7/ Neither Team Fox or the Appeal Committee were advised in advance that SNZ were not going to abide by the appeal committees decisions. Both parties only found out by reading the SNZ update when it was publically released. Team Fox find this to be poor form.
8/ SNZ were obligated to make all correspondence from all parties with regard the issue available to the appellant 5 days prior to the appeal hearing as stated in rule M7-10-22. It has been bought to our attention that this in fact did not happen and not all correspondence was made available to Team Fox. This action alone is in breech of this rule.
9/ This was the first appeal heard under the new criteria recently voted in by the members. Previous appeals were heard by an appeal committee and recommendations were made to the SNZ board but it was up the board to make the final decision.
The members voted to change this to the current procedure where by the appeal committee is independent from SNZ so that a fair and even process can take place to address issues.
How can SNZ expect its members to have faith in a system if they retain the right to be prosecutor, judge and jury on any, and all, issues that may (as in this case) involve SNZ mistakes?
This current procedure avoids this and also does away with the perception of possible conflict of interests between SNZ Directors and the issues being appealed (also could easily be seen as relevant on this issue). I believe that the SNZ directors / senior staff now want to change this back because they don’t like the results. This goes against what the members voted in and wanted.
10/ To date we have still not received satisfactory answers as to why SNZ believe they can ignore their own rules and why, if only out of shear common courtesy, we were not officially advised prior to a public announcement.
11/ SNZ update infers that their own appeal committee have made a wrong decision and they are happy to point the finger of blame for this situation at them. They seem to be completely ignoring the fact that the mistakes made were by their own SNZ people. Not the appeal committee and not Team Fox or Team Keegan. Responsibility, fairness and openness, not to mention basic natural justice, seem to have been ignored.
12/ Although far from happy with the way SNZ have decided to approach this issue, Foxy has requested that we let it go. I pointed out to him that we would have just cause to follow this though by way of legal challenge but this is not what he wants to do. I will respect his request.
He is disappointed that even now he is still to hear anything from SNZ with regard an apology for what has transpired or what procedures will be put in place to stop this happening again.
It is a real concern that so far it looks like SNZ’s only efforts are targeted at taking away the rights of its members to get a fair and transparent hearing when SNZ officials make mistakes instead of working on putting things in place so that these mistakes don’t happen in the first place!
How the finger of blame can be pointed at either Team Fox or the Appeal committee buggers belief. All the committee did was try to fix an obvious SNZ mistake in the best and fairest way they could by acting within the confines of what they believed to be their authority.
Hopefully any and all members of SNZ reading this will see the situation for what it is and make sure that they do not get railroaded into accepting a change in the appeal procedure that takes away all independent oversight in remedying SNZ mistakes. You, the members, will be the poorer for it if you allow this to happen.
Team Fox will now have the winter off and reflect on what has been a successful yet disheartening year. We pride ourselves with putting our best foot forward for the class and the sport as a whole. We are one of the few teams that have put our money where our mouths are by not only travelling the country over the last 20 plus years to support the class at most tracks that run mods, but also by making sure that one of the classes only premier events is funded by way of event sponsorship. We will be considering both of these issues in the coming months and make decisions based on what is best for Team Fox and not for the class as a whole. My money and time may as well be spent on making us go faster rather than putting money in the pockets of others.
There is no doubt that the events of January 12th have left a bad taste and divided the class which is really disappointing. There is a big difference between “earning” and being “awarded” the NZ title and I agree with team Bolton’s views that NZ titles should be earned. Where I disagree is, that on the night, Luke “earned” the title. He was awarded it due to an obvious mistake that the officials on the night had the ability, and the responsibility, to rectify and if they had done so it would have allowed a runoff to occur that might have meant that Luke did “earn” it. This was not allowed to happen though no fault of team Fox as we were very vocal about a runoff being required. We aplogise to no one for taking the actions we were forced to take and we are just very disappointed we had no option but to take them . Both John Lovelady and I agreed on the night that both of us had to do what we thought was right for our teams and it was not personal. This conversation seems to have slipped from peoples memories in the last few weeks now that the appeal decision has been handed down.
I can respect Team Keegan’s decision not to run the 1nz number as this is exactly why Team Fox refused to run the 2nz number after the event. Rightly or wrongly we believed we deserved the 1nz position, Foxy passed more cars than anyone on the night and all his points were earned the hard way. There were very few, if any, gift points on offer to us where as Luke was totally reliant on others dropping out in his rear start heat due to his damage. That is the way it goes sometimes and if this alone had been the difference on the night then we would have sucked it up and moved on. We have no problem in getting beaten on the track by a better car / driver or even by a guy who has more luck than us on the night and anyone who believes we are bad losers obviously has not been in the sport long. What we will not accept is losing events due to SNZ official incompetence when there is an avenue open to us, and all other competitors, to get these issues fixed, preferably to all parties on the actual night of the event!
This issue is now done as far as Team Fox are concerned and no further comment will be made.
See you in the new season if we can find the desire needed to go around again.

 

 

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