| NZ Champs / Dirt Cup
Part 1 - NZ Champs
The weather leading up to the NZ's did not look to flash but apart from some very cloudy weather on the Friday all went well. The humidity on both days was extremely uncomfortable but at least it didn't rain!!
Friday night was the qualifying and a disappointing field of 29 cars eventually fronted. When you consider we originally expected closer to 40 cars you can understand the disappointment. The field was split into 3 groups and although the group we where in only had 9 cars, they were 9 quality cars. With only 4 direct transfer spots up for grabs from each group, the pace was going to be hot.
As well as Foxy we had 9w, Tama Arapere. 84c Natasha Rodgers, 56a Paul Blakeley, 69w Mike Moore and a few other fast cars. Foxy drew grid 7 for the first heat and with the way the draws went this meant we would have inside draws all night. 1st bit of bad luck for the weekend!
The racing was pretty clean and incident free from our group and when the dust settled after the last heat we had been able to achieve a win and two 2nds to be the top qualifier. Foxy was also setting the fastest lap times. We went home pleased with our position.
Finals night was a disappointment. If is fair to say that after all the hype I had tried to build up, over the last few months, to see the track dust up like it did in the repercharge was very heart breaking and all I could think was “shit... here we go again, 3 years in a row!”
Foxy ventured out to the infield for the griddraw and when asked what grid he would like he said grid 20 as he knew it was going to be a massive advantage to be off 20 in the first race and 1 in the last.
He didn't get it, in fact he drew the draw from hell… grid 15. Bang smack where you do not want to be in a 20 car championship in heat 1, trapped on the inside with no where to go when everyone plows into the first corner.
We were confident that if he could negotiate the start without damage that the car was good enough to allow him to work his way thru the field, unfortunately the start could not have gone worse with massive damage resulting in the first turn from over exuberant drivers bouncing off each other.
This found Foxy come off the worst and exiting turn 2 he found himself dead last with suspension damage that destroyed the cars sidebite, a deflating right rear and other superficial damage. This effectively ended Foxys chances of winning the title as he was unable to make any inroads during the race and ended up coming home in a lowly 13th place. Not a great reward from grid 15!! Allan moved from 4th to 3rd and Scotty got the benefit of the carnage in turn 1 to go from 20th to 8th (most of which was done at the start). It was obviously not our night.
Things were not going to be much easier in the next 2 starts either with 2 more inside starts! We have never been to a championship before where we have received 3 inside starts, in fact I didn't think it was possible. This was clarified to me by an official when he told me that SNZ have now changed the way the championship format is done and this now means that there are 3 cars in a 20 car field who will receive 3 inside starts and 2 cars who will receive 3 outside starts. Unfortunately for us we were one of the unlucky ones while Allan was one of the lucky ones with 3 outside starts. Scotty got the dream draw with 2 outside starts in his rear and middle grid (20 and 10) and his one inside draw was 1!
After heat one it took us right up to the start of heat 2 to repair the damage. We replaced the jacobs ladder, r/r shock. Birdcage rodend, r/r tyre, bumper and wing. More damage in one race than we have had all season. Foxy was off 5 in heat 2 and.. Yippee! We got thru turn 1 with no damage!!.
We where however back in about 8th place as both Tama and McPhee where able to slingshot past us on the outside before we could extract ourselves from our inside grid. This made the next 20 laps very hard work because we would need to pass them both again, which believe me is no mean feat!
Foxy drove his nuts off in this race and slowly worked his way past the cars in front one by one. Most of his passes where on the outside and he was one of the only guys using this part of the track. Thru the dust I saw the white come out with Foxy in the lead and he wasn't headed to the flag. An indication of how hard this race was that Scotty could only move from 10th place to 7th, a gain of only 3 placings. Allan faired better coming home 4th from grid 14.
Heading into the last heat the championship was Allan's to lose as he had a clear 5-point advantage over the field and another grid 14 start. Scotty was only 1 point behind us and was off grid 1so Foxy knew to have any chance to finish on the podium he would need to finish no worse than 2nd in the race from his grid 11 start.
Only 15 cars started the last heat, which further aided Allan's run to the title. Foxy was going to need to drive a blinder to get any where near it with some classy cars in front of him on the grid including Tama, McPhee, Jesen and Dixon to name but a few.
Scotty shot to the front as expected and it wasn't long before Jesen had moved his way into 2nd from grid 6. Foxy was having an almighty battle with McPhee and Tama back in the field and it took a few laps for Foxy to cleanly pass these guys on the outside line and give chase to Dixon and Jesen.
With about 10 laps to go Foxy had passed both these 2 guys and was on Scotty's bumper. Scotty was defending the inside line so Foxy had a look at the outside. In hindsight he should have waited until he had a better chance to make the pass stick before attempting it because once Scotty knew he was there he changed his driving line to mid track to keep Foxy out. Foxy did get one other shot at a pass when he was able to get on the outside of Scotty exiting pitbend but unfortunately for us he just couldn't quite get the drive coming off the turn and Scotty was able to hold him out to the flag.
Things became interesting when Tama was able to make a late pass on Jesen for 3rd, which meant that there would be a 3-way runoff for 2nd.
It seems the only people who didn't realise this where the officials and a lot of time was wasted while things were sorted out. In the meantime for some inexplicable reason the decision was made to water the track!! This resulted in a skating ring down low and although the guys tried to move the water exiting pitbend they were unsuccessful. Exiting cemetery was even worse.
This made the runoff a joke with it obvious that the guy on 2 would have a massive advantage. This advantage was made even bigger when Foxy was told that if they needed to restart the runoff because in their eyes Foxy got the jump (Scotty on 2 was pacesetter) then Foxy would be excluded from the runoff. This meant that in effect he couldn't mount any pressure on Scotty at all. Poor Tama got lumbered with grid 3 and no hope in hell so the whole thing was a shambles.
Congrats to Allan and Scotty for taking 1 and 2 on the night. Foxy's ability to even get near the podium after heat 1 is a credit to his ability and his determination. To get a 1st and 2nd from the heats in which he had no damage speaks for itself. Heartbreaking thing is that Foxy would have only had to finish 9th in the first heat to have won the title. There is no way that an undamaged #11would have not done better than that. We knew going in that form and ability would count for little if the 3rd ingredient wasn't there on the night. The 3rd ingredient is luck and we had none at all.
Roll on this week for the Dirt Cup.
Part 2- Dirt Cup
Leading up to this meeting there was a fair amount of drama with regard how this meeting was going to be run. There has been plenty of gossip and ill-founded accusations of “toy tossing” but I am afraid the truth is a little more boring. I will cover this part at the end.
A fair amount of work had to be done in the week leading up to this meeting due to the damage incurred at the NZ title the week before. A quick trip up to Cardwells on Friday was needed to purchase a new set of birdcages and a new shock. The birdcages were slightly different to the old ones we had so we had to alter a few things to make them fit. This resulted in a busy Saturday and we arrived a bit later than normal at the track for a reformatted Dirt Cup.
21 cars fronted and it was decided to split the field in half and give each group 2 15-lap points races (marble and reversed). The top 6 points scorers across both groups would contest a flying lap pole shootout to find the starting positions for the 25 lap final.
I would like to think that the groups were reasonably even and we found ourselves in the first group with 1nz Allan Haigh, 6a Brian Jesen, 14c Mike Gourley, 10s Willy Noonan and a few others. Foxy had his normal luck with the marbles and drew grid 11 (there were 11 in our group and 10 in the other). Our first race was down for race 2 of the programme and the track was still pretty wet. Foxy took a conservative approach at the start waiting for the track to come right to allow passing. We were lucky the races were 15 laps so there was no need to be impatient. By race end Foxy had moved his way thru the field and came home in 2nd, behind the 6a car of Brian Jesen. A good start for the night with no damage!!
After watching the other group we decided on limited changes for our 2nd heat as the track looked to be holding up better than it did the week before. In hindsight it was the wrong decision as the track started to go off ? way thru and it was just lucky that we started off the front. As you would expect Foxy was able to take the win from the front row start and this meant we were the top qualifier from our group for the pole shootout. Also getting thru from our group was 6a Brian Jesen and 1nz Allan Haigh. The top points scorer from the other group were 56a Paul Blakeley, 2nz Scott Lane and 77s Craig Ward.
The top 6 shootout seemed to me to be a farce and I have no confidence in the times they came up with. I am not sure how the times could be wrong seeing as they used the ELS but I can't believe that the guys were doing high 19 / low 20 second laps. This is 4-5 seconds slower than race pace and seems unlikely. Anyway as we were the highest points scorer we got to go last for the shootout. Our time was crap and this gave us a grid 5 start which is poor reward for being the top scorer from the heats!
Major changes were made to the car for the 25 lapper, as we knew it wouldn't be won in the first half of the race but the second half. Foxy didn't seem to mind about his starting position and believed that if we got the set-up right he had no doubt he would be able to pass the guys in front. In front of him on the grid was 77s Craig Ward on grid 1, 1nz Allan Haigh on 2, 56a Paul Blakeley on 3, 6a Brian Jesen on 4. 2nz Scott Lane was on the outside of Foxy on grid 6.
The start of the race was frenetic with 56a Paul Blakeley doing a great job of getting past both the guys in front of him to lead going into pitbend for the first time. Foxy was hot on his tail, quickly moving past Brian, Allan and Craig. Paul was doing a great job out front and it was only when a backmarker spun off into the infield, kicking up a cloud of dust, that Foxy got his opportunity to fly past him on the outside while they were temporarily both off the gas.
Once in front Foxy was able to clear away and the decision on the set-up paid off. The car was hooking up nicely and he was soon in to lapping the backmarkers. As the race went on Paul's set-up started to suffer and he was passed by both 1nz and 2nz but neither of these guys were ever going to get close enough to challenge Foxy for the win with the race going the full distance without a caution.
The only concerns that I had was when 38a lost his front end leaving him stranded just off the track in pitbend and when 4s Mark Dixon collected the wall leaving him vulnerable sitting out on the wall in cemetery bend with 1-1/2 laps to run. Both these cars were in dangerous positions and the lights should have been triggered. Understandably both drivers were a little upset with the officials on the night and there were words exchanged.
So there we have it. Foxy was able to capture his 4th Dirt Cup title making him the top of the pile with regard this event. It somehow seemed a hollow victory given the change to the event and the dramas leading up to it. I am wrapped for him as it made up somewhat for the bad luck the week before at the title. It will take me a while to get use to the rubbish he has to endure from people who enjoy seeing him get beaten. Don't get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinions and their favourite drivers but the pokes about his driving skills and style of racing are extremely unfair completely baseless and in all honesty he deserves better. He is a great ambassador for the sport and he is one of the real nice guys in the class willing to help other guys out where he can. The sport needs guys like him and will be the loser if /when he hangs up his helmet.
A big thanks to our sponsors who continue to show their support to Foxy. It was great to have Roger, from Container Sales and Leasing, present for both big meetings and his support of Foxy and the team is greatly appreciated. Big thanks also to Brian from BDC Engineering, Robbie from STL Linehaul and Phil from P G Hydraulics.
My reasons for withdrawing from organisational aspects with regard the mods.
This has been blown out of all proportion. Contrary to rumours of dummy spitting etc (others are entitled to a different view), my reasons are pretty straightforward.
I got involved in the first instance to promote and re-establish the Dirt Cup as New Zealand's leading Modified event as I honestly thought the class / drivers / fans wanted it. Unfortunatly it has become clear to me that the club itself (or people within the club) don't feel the same way.
Paul Blakeley and I have spent a great deal of our time trying to organise both of this years modified events. We felt we had a great opportunity to showcase the modified class as one that was exciting to watch and one that was marketable to the general public. We had an agreement with the club with regard format and prizepool structure that was accepted by all parties and confirmed. We had done our part with regard finding the required sponsorship amounts required and we pestered the living hell out of the competitors to get as many of them up here as we could. A lot of these guys have had bad experiences in the past up in Auckland and have been reluctant to run here, so it took some fast talking with some to get them to front with assurances that things had changed.
Certain aspects of the New Zealand champs were unacceptable and although a lot of this lies at the feet of the SNZ officials, there is blame to be had by the club as well. A lot of the public feedback with regard this meeting was justified and I found that I couldn't in all good faith argue any differently. I took the approach if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.
The straw that broke the camels back for me was when I was informed on Tuesday morning that the decision had been made at a committee meeting on the Monday night to cut the Dirt Cup to one night and change the format. In hindsight they will use the argument that it was the right decision as only 21 cars fronted but at the time they made this decision they were unaware of how many cars they had. They made this decision when the information they had in front of them was that they would have had nearly 30 cars. If 30 cars had fronted it would have been a shambles, hence the change to the format which to me meant that the event was no longer the Dirt Cup.
It was not only the decision that disappointed me but also the way it was done. Paul Blakeley who is the modified rep and part of the promotions teams was not present at the meeting as both he and I were entertaining (at my cost) some of the out of town drivers as a thank you for fronting at our meetings. For the decision to be made without any consultation with Paul is a disgrace and should never have been allowed to happen.
After this decision was made, but before it was made public, I contacted the influential member of the committee who was behind the change and explained my concerns about the decision and advised them that if they followed thru with it I had little choice but to withdraw from all involvement with regard the weekend meeting and future events. I believed it compromised my position and it would have been hypocritical of me to continue on when I didn't agree with the decision. There was no raised voices or foot stamping or anything else, just a calm level headed discussion. The decision stood so therefore I withdrew immediately
The lack of information relayed to the competitors and public after this decision was, in my opinion, unacceptable, with numerous drivers ringing me wanting me to confirm what was going on. We lost cars that decided not to front once it was changed to a one-night affair and that was also unfortunate. I feel extremely sorry for the competitors who fronted as they had very little time to alter plans and I feel they have not been treated fairly. To make matters worse when we all arrived at the track on Saturday we were told that the decision had also been made to reduce the prizemoney as well. This should have been made aware to the competitors before they arrived not once they arrived on Saturday. This to me is morally unacceptable and reinforced in my own mind that my decision to withdraw was the correct one.
Over the last few years both Paul and I have put a great amount of our time and money into the organisation of the class as well as raising serious money for the guys to compete for. A lot of this money has come directly from Paul and myself and, I for one, have decided enough is enough. The crap that Paul, especially, has had to endure from people with ulteria motives is childish and unnecessary. These people don't seem to mind taking their share of the prizemoney on offer, that he has been able to generate, and instead of appreciation he gets ridiculed and rubbished by small minded, idiotic people with no idea of what they are talking about… why would anyone bother putting up with that??
I will revert to what I enjoy about the sport and that is in assisting Foxy. The money earmarked to support and sponsor events for the class will now be spent solely and wholely on the #11 modified. I have advised Paul to do the same thing with his race team and I will be interested to see what he does.
I wish the club well in its endeavours to carry on where we have left off with the class. I hope that they can work together and reap the rewards that having great modified racing can do for the club. I personally believe that unless changes are made and the place is run differently there will always be problems and people will come and go, disillusioned with how things are handled. As with any club people have different agendas and this coupled with a distinct lack of communication and clear direction as to who is responsible for what always leaves the risk of mistakes and bulls-ups occurring. The last 2 weeks are proof of this and I for one am glad I am not involved with the upcoming stockcar champs! Be prepared for some late nights!!
To those out there that have helped where they can and shown their appreciation for the efforts made, thanks for your support. Also want to thank Mike Gourley, Natasha Rodgers and Steve Thompson (Nz's only due to damage) for making the effort to come up as your presence made it feel more like a national event. It is a big ask to stay up for both meeting so thanks again for fronting. We hope to return the favour later in the season for the Modified Invasion at the Glen. The Stratty guys never let us down and you guys are great ambassador's for your club (Anne said to say thanks for the crayfish Jacko, you are welcome anythime!).
The next outing for the #11 mod is the NZGP at Huntly on the 24th February. This is the only major event that Foxy hasn't won and he is looking forward to giving it another shot this year.
See you at the track