| So close yet so far!
Another NZGP has come and gone and unfortunately it still remains the only major title to allude Foxy.
20 cars fronted on Saturday night in Huntly for this years running of the NZGP, and it was a field of class with 1, 2 and 3nz all present along with all the rest of the best cars running in the North Island.
Track conditions were challenging as the track this year hasn't quite been as good as last year's efforts but it still made for good close hard racing. The majority of the passing of the quicker cars thou had to be done on the inside as there was nothing on offer on the outside of the track.
3 x 20 lap races would decide the title and Foxy finally had a bit of luck with the marbledraw pulling grid 8. Such was the quality of the field, grid 8 wasn't going to make the race a doddle as leaving from 1 was 77s Craig Ward with Paul Blakeley in 56a on 2. Allan Haigh, 1nz had grid 4. 55s Paul Ward left from 5, 22r Glen Lloyd had 6, 2nz Scotty Lane was on 7 and Foxy on 8. With a class line up like that in front of him things were not going to be easy. The start was a frenetic affair with cars ducking and diving everywhere. Paul Blakeley shot out to an early lead and was setting a fast pace. Allan moved quickly into 2nd, as Craig seemed to be struggling and was dropping back. Foxy got a great start and quickly moved into 3rd. As the race progressed a mixture of traffic and car set up came into play and Allan was able to move past Paul into 1st. He was followed quickly by Foxy moving into 2nd. 22r was having a good race and he also was able to get past Paul. Things settled down at the front and this was the way they came home. 1nz (grid 4), 3nz (grid 8), 22r (grid 6), 2nz (grid 7), 77s (grid 1), 9w (grid 17?), 56a (grid 2) and 6a (grid 19). Biggest movers where Tama in 9w and Brian Jesen in 6a, both up 11 places.
The track was pretty much gone by the time heat 2 hit the track. Foxy had grid 18 in this one and he knew it was the race he had to pull out all stops in. With all the big guns in front of him there was only one way to go. Tama was off grid 6, 77s Craig Ward grid 11, Paul Blakeley grid 12, Allan Haigh grid 14, Glen Lloyd grid 16 and Scott Lane grid 17. At the start Foxy dove to the outside trying to slingshot around the first turn traffic jam unfortunately it didn't work as Paul Blakeley had the same idea from grid 12 and stopped Foxys momentum. This allowed all the cars on the inside to get back thru and relegated Foxy back to pretty much where he started. Normally the start of the races is all-important as to how far you will progress on these types of tracks, as once the race pace is set passing becomes very difficult. This is how this race panned out as well with Foxy taking what seemed an age to slowly pick guys off one by one. Up front Tama had hit the front and looked to be comfortable, that was until Allan was able to move into 2nd and give chase. These two were fighting it out up front while Foxy was still trying to work his way into contention. Perseverance was rewarded when Foxy finally seemed to break clear from the pack into 3rd. This was important with Allan running 2nd, as we knew the title race was going to be close and every point critical. The running order didn't change even after a caution with Tama taking the win from Allan and Foxy. The biggest mover in this race was Foxy up an amazing 15 spots from grid 18. Hard work done??…. Not yet!
Going into heat 3 it was clear the championship was a 3 horse race with Allan having 39 points with a 1st and a 2nd. 2 points back on 37 points was Foxy with a 2nd and a 3rd followed by Tama on 35 points from a 1st and a 6th. We were pretty happy with this, as we knew we would be starting in front of them both. Allan had enjoyed two starts in front of us in the first two races by quite a margin so this meant that he would be a fair way back in heat 3. There was daylight back to 4th in the overall points, so no threat there.
Tama was leaving from grid 9 in this one and Allan had another grid 14 start. Foxy had grid 6. To win Allan knew he only had to finish directly behind Foxy but we knew this wouldn't be an easy feat with both Tama and 2nz Scotty Lane in between him and us. As well as these two there were guys like 4s Mark Dixon and 6a Brian Jesen for him to deal with as well. At the start 5w Brian McPhee shot out to a big lead from grid 2 and Foxy quickly moved into 2nd to give chase. It took a caution for Foxy to be able to close in on him and a quick look back in the field made a pleasant sight as we could see that Allan was yet to make any progress. On the restart Foxy followed Brian for a few laps to get a gauge on his driving line to decide where was the best place to attempt a pass. He decided his best chance was on exiting turn 2 as Brian was going in slow and tight into turn 1 but drifting out wide coming off the turn. Foxy went in deep into the turn and got under Brian coming off but Brian wasn't having a bar of that and came down hard to keep Foxy out. Contact pushed Foxy into the water on the poleline. Foxy skewed sideways and nearly drove full noise into the wall and this let 4s Mark Dixon thru. How Foxy gathered it all up to only lose one spot amazes me but he did and set off again in pursuit. A bit of luck kicked in here for us when a caution was thrown for a spun 29a Mark Wade on the poleline and this meant the field had to go back a lap on the restart. This put us back into 2nd. Allan in the meantime had been able to move his way into 4th behind Mark Dixon and, although he too had some scary moments working his way thru, was now looking like the championship was his. He was aided a wee bit by one leading driver deciding to move over for him to let him thru but at the end of the day that's his prerogative and we also have benefited from this in the past so can't grumble. Nothing wrong with helping your mates out.
The last 4-5 laps after the restart where pretty much follow the leader with the only interest being to see if Brian would make a mistake to allow Foxy thru or Mark would make one to allow Allan thru. Either one of these things happening would have made a clear-cut result for the title. No opportunities were forth coming for either of them and they came home in that order. 5w, 3nz, 4s, 1nz, 9w.
After 3 hard fought races with such a class field it is amazing to think that 2 guys could have dominated the points as much as Allan and Foxy did. Both finished on 56 points out of a possible 60. Tama was back in 3rd with 51 points. This meant there was the need for a runoff to decide the title and Foxys bad run of losing coin toss's continued with Allan winning the toss and choosing the all important grid 2 for the decider. When your luck is in, it's in so you can't do much about it. As expected Allan won the start and drove away to the title. Very little Foxy could do about it and if we are being honest we probably didn't have the set-up right for the runoff anyway. We have now had two runoffs in 3 meetings in big events and come out the loser in both, as you would expect we are not overly happy about it but that's the way it goes. Seems to be a hell of a lot of hard work done for it to be decided in such a luck orientated way but hopefully our luck is due for a change.
This week we head off to Wellington to try and defend our North Island title. Allan now has a 2-1 lead on us at the major events of the year with his wins in the NZ's and GP against Foxys win in the Dirt Cup. Lets hope we even the ledger up in Wellington although the local's will be a force to reckon with and should not be discounted.
Looking forward to it!