| Modified Invasion Christchurch.
Easter weekend has come and gone for another year and it seemed strange being in Christchurch and not Rotorua. Unfortunately for us the weather gods didn't play the game and instead of the 2 night programme we went down for, we ended up running the one night only. It is a long way to go and a huge expense just to get the one night of racing in but that is the way it goes sometimes.
Saturday dawned murky and wet and it became pretty obvious early on that the racing wasn't going to happen. An early call saw the Auckland boys and girls, 29 of us in total, swap the racing gear for the drinking gear and we were pretty lucky to have a pub on our doorstep staying at the Redwood Hotel. Early afternoon we had a phonecall from Tash and she suggested we head in to the city for a spot of go-cart racing. A quick check to establish numbers that were keen and we headed in to give it a bash (not literally!). A 120-lap team's event was put in place with 6 teams of 3. The first red light incident didn't take long when an aggressive move by a well-known modified pilot (and Waikaraka promoter) resulted in him climbing up and over one of his pitcrews car! The result was a stern telling off and one broken go-cart!! Thankfully things settled down a bit after that and apart from the odd bit of barging from time to time a great time was had by all.
For the record Team 56a/99a won the race even thou they were the only ones to break a carů.. go figure! The rest of us believe that some money must have exchanged hands but we will leave it at that.
After the go carting Tash's father, and Woodford Glen club president, John Rodgers, graciously invited us back up to the track for a BBQ, which we accepted as we were starving. I must say Big Al from Modified 2nz does a mean BBQ and we tucked in to a few steaks and sausages (not to mention a few bevee's) before calling it a night. Big thanks to Tash and her folks for looking after us.
Sunday dawned a lot more promising and after a bit of looking around the City we loaded up and headed off to the track at about 3:30pm. 17 mods fronted for the nights racing and apparently it was the biggest field they had assembled all season. Of the 17, 6 were from the North Island. These were 2nz, 3nz, 5w, 6a, 56a and 99a. A smattering of coast cars was present as well giving the event a truly national feel.
The format for the night was a bit different to what we were use to and with the event being down to one night it was decided that the first 3 races (front, middle, back) would be used to establish a top 8, the top 8 would contest a 1 lap pole shootout and the winner of this would choose their starting position for the 25 lap feature.
Being down to a one-night affair, with no practice, didn't do the North Island guys any favours as we were behind the 8 ball straight away with regard finding a set-up. It didn't help that Foxy duly pulled marble 11 (his crap luck with draws this year continues!). This meant that once again we would have to put up with 3 inside starts with grid 3 in race 2 and grid 13 in race 3. It's harder enough to do this when you have a car well set up for the track let alone when you don't.
Anyway the first 3 races were down as 12 lap events so with 17 cars on the track it didn't leave much time to make pass's.
As I said Foxy was off grid 11, 2nz Scot Lane was on 9, 29c Glen Leech left from 10, 56a Paul Blakeley from 12. Both 84c Natasha Rodgers and 6a Brian Jesen were further back in the pack.
At the start Glen was quickly into the work of passing cars from his outside start. Foxy was able to follow Scotty thru and get past Paul. Once things settled down it was obvious we hadn't got a great set-up on the car and although Foxy could hold his own and get past the slower guys, he didn't have the car speed of either Glen or Scotty. A bit of luck went our way when, with only 1 lap to go, Mike Gourley in the #4c car had a scary moment when his throttle jammed open at the end of the straight. Mike dove to the infield and back onto the track smashing very hard into Steve Thompson in the #7gm car causing extensive damage to them both. This elevated Foxy up to 4th in the race behind 29c, 33gm and 2nz.
Race 2: Grid 3.
Extensive changes to the car were made after heat 1, as it was evident that our car speed wasn't there and we needed more sidebite. Grid 3 would normally be a doddle but with 2nz on 1 and 29c on 2 this wasn't the case. Changes were made to stagger, wing settings and a few other things here and there.
Glen shot out to the lead early from his front row start followed by Scotty. 56a Paul Blakeley got the jump on us from his grid 4 start and this relegated us back to 4th. This race was pretty uneventful with the top 4 runners finishing in this order. We felt the car was slightly better but still not good enough to compete with the faster cars. Pretty hard to pass these guys if you can't even catch them!
Race 3: Grid 13.
Finally we had a race where we were to start in front of the 2 quickest cars on the night. Scotty was leaving from grid 17 and Glen from grid 15. More extreme changes were made to the car with torsion bars and shocks changed, stagger once again altered and various other subtle changes. All these changes proved to be the right things to do and we finally looked to have a car with a good base set-up that allowed foxy to be competitive. Foxy noticed the difference straight away and was quickly into passing the cars in front. A great drive had us come home in 1st place and was more like it. Both Scotty and Glen seemed to struggle in the traffic getting thru with Glen only being able to come home in 6th place with Scotty even further back. It had taken us 3 races but we looked to have a starting point.
When the points were tallied up Glen had a clear 2-point lead over us giving him the advantage for the pole shootout. A couple of points further back was 2nz Scott Lane followed by 56a Paul Blakeley and 5w Brian McPhee. 6a, 73c and 77c rounded out the top 8.
The format for the pole shootout was simple. First out was 73c and 77c for a flying lap. The highest qualifier was rewarded by getting to choose if they wanted to start from grid 1 or 2 (strangely no one picked grid 1!!). The winner stayed on the track while the loser returned to the infield. The next car came out, drove to the starting position they wanted and again raced their one lap.
The big winner in this shootout (and the one who saved it from being a bit of a non-event) was 6a Brian Jesen who duly disposed of 73c from his preferred grid 2 start but followed that up by beating 5w, 56 and 2nz from grid 1 starts. This moved Brian up from 6th on the grid for the 25 lapper to a grid 3 start. His run was ended when he came up against Foxy but it was a great effort. In the final runoff for pole Glen, as the highest points scorer from the first 3 races, predicable chose grid 2, won the start and Foxy had no answer.
25-lap feature race: Grid 1.
As the winner of the shootout Glen was able to choose his starting position and the fact he choose grid 2 was no surprise. Foxy left from 1, Brian from 3, Scotty from 4, Paul from 5 and Brian McPhee from 6. Tash who had a night to forget was further back in about 10 I think.
Being a 25-lap race we made a few more changes to cope with the slickening track conditions but we were reluctant to make too many, as we needed the car to be reasonable early on to maintain our position on the racetrack. In hindsight we know we didn't go far enough with the car as we had no answer to the speed of the 29c car. The positive is that we believe we can get the car to go a hell of a lot better at the Glen track that how we went on Sunday. We now believe we have a good base set-up that can be put on the car as a starting point and we also know what would be required to make the car faster and more competitive later in the night. It was a real pity we only had a one night affair as we believe with what we had learned by the end of the night would have put us in a far better position if there had been a night 2.
The results a well known now that Glen drove extremely well and drove a way for the win. Our car was good enough to comfortably hold 2nd without ever being able to pressure Glen. Brian Jesen drove well to take advantage of his good work in the shootout and hold down 3rd. I didn't see the final results but I believe that 56a Paul Blakeley was able to hold out 2nz Scott Lane for 4th.
All in all we went away pretty happy. We had a much more competitive car than what we had down at the Glen last season and put some of those gremlins to bed. There is no doubt that Glen is the man to beat in the South Island and there is no disgrace finishing 2nd to him on the night. Hopefully next year he will make the trip up North to contest both the NZ title and the Dirt Cup so we can get the opportunity to race him on tracks that we are more familiar with.
Thanks again to Lewis Dawson for the invite to attend and the rest of the great folks at the Glen, especially the Rodgers who went out of their way to look after us all. We had a blast!
Thanks also to Roger from Container Sales and Leasing, Robbie from STL Linehaul and our other sponsors who helped us make the trip down south. As always it is greatly appreciated.
At this stage we haven't made a decision on if we are done and dusted for the season or not. There is one more meeting for mods scheduled at the park this season and this is the King of the Park event set down for the 28th April. Foxy is the reining champion of the event so there is a bit of eagerness to attend the meeting to try and retain the title and finish the season on a high. The decision will be made in the next few days.