Hey there race fans, well the big one is over and done with for another year and was just one of those meetings that you go “well that’s racing". The NZ stockcar champs was, from a drivers perspective, just an awesome event run like a well-oiled machine that flowed and had plenty of action to keep the punters happy. For us as a race team on home soil we seemed to be playing catch up with our setup from the shakedown night as the track was different to that we expect on normal race nights.
26th Dec - Shakedown meeting
With a few minor adjustments done on the car leading up to the event we thought we would just do one or two runs to make sure everything was sweet ready for the next two nights of racing. Lucky we did as from the outset we had a major "push" on and our setup was surprisingly way off in the first run so with a few changes we went out for another run. Slightly better in the setup but after 3 laps the left front wheel bearing and lock nut came off and we just made it back to the pits with the car carrying a bit of damage. With the repairs completed just two minutes to late we didn’t get a chance to try again to make sure we had the setup sorted for the next nights qualifying.
27th Dec - NZ Champs qualifying
The day dawned with some dodgy looking clouds as we ventured down to scrutineering and just in case there were any problems we made it there early and forth in the cue. We made it through all the relative checks but the weight was a little close to the maximum coming in at 1496kg (max allowed 1500kg). For qualifying we were in the pink group and had 23 other contenders challenging us for the four qualifying spots available.
Race one starting p14 on the grid we made good progress from the start picking our way through the field to be 4th position considering our car still wasn't cornering well in turn one and two. On the white flag lap that all changed as 258p Neville Harrod spun us around and clouting the wall coming out of turn two in a decent hit that also sent us spinning to the infield. Finally making it back on track we came home in 15th spot not only loosing 11 spots but also losing one of our in-car cameras out the window.
Race two starting p2 we knew we needed a win to get back in with a chance of qualifying and with a reasonable start on the outside line we made it through turn one and two but now down to forth spot we stayed there slowly picking up spots with good consistent laps and avoiding the carnage we made it back to 2nd with four laps to go until going through the ruts on turn three the right rear wheel studs broke and we were down to three wheels. Still going surprisingly well we got through another lap holding our position and coming up to get the white flag we got caught up on 63r Jeremy Fleming as he was heading for the infield and that’s where we finished with a DNF.
Race three starting p21 and with a goal of getting at least one Rotorua car through we endeavoured to slow or stop 17p Shane Simpson from the start and with him being on p19 right in front of us we got straight into it slowing and spinning him right in the start. The plan was working well for a couple of laps but he got away and that is one quick car once he was away and each time we thought we had a chance to put in a decent shot there was someone else in the way or another Palmy car to hold up. Unfortunately the plan didn''t work and we didn't get a car through to the finals but hey we had a blast trying.
28th Dec - NZ Champs Finals
We had a few repairs to do during the day with bent shocks and a fair amount of welding to do but nothing to serious. We managed to scrape into the third tier champs so we were happy to be racing for something after our run of bad luck the night before it could only get better surely??
Race 1 and starting p25 in the 28 car field we set off on a very wet track for the first race and picked up at least 10 positions in the first corner with a big tangle up. Using my local knowledge that when its wet on the inside line normally the outside line next to the wall is dry, fired into turn three as we do normally where we then found the wall very heavily as there was no dry line....ouch (won't do that again). Now up in the top 10 we constantly picked up positions each lap and with a calculated move up the inside of 52v Francis Potaka when he went wide (learning from previous experiences) and then 48r Ivan King we made it up to 2nd on the last lap (later up graded to first position)
Race 2 we were on p11 and with another good start on a much drier track we made some progress up the field until a decent hit going into turn three and the car just died with what we think is a dead battery so it was all over for the day. That’s the highs and lows of stockcar racing but we came away happy with a win and got to watch what was a great Finals meeting, Congrats to 1nz Peter Rees , 2nz Bernie Fox and 3nz Regan O’Brien on their placing which is no easy feat from a starting list of 160 plus competitors.
Next meeting will be on the 13 & 14 Jan 2012 in Rotorua.