Close racing and a spectacular seven car crash in the Sprintcar Feature marked the opening meeting of the season at The Racecourse Hotel and Motorlodge Ruapuna Speedway on Saturday evening.
The seven-car pile-up happened on lap ten of the Quake City Stampede as the cars were coming down the back straight with plenty of damage with several cars rolling and the concertina effect drawing other cars into the melee as the field raced by. Cars involved included Matt Honeywell who was third at the time, Ray Baughan, who Speedway NZ officials ruled was the prime cause of the red lights having to come on, Allan Chapman, Auckland’s Jamie McDonald, Steve Duff, Paddy North and Oscar Harcourt. There were some heated exchanges between drivers and crews as the repair bills were added up. Jamie Duff, the race leader was lucky to avoid the carnage. As officials raced to clear up the damage rain started to fall which prevented the race from being restarted with placing awarded to Duff, Sam O’Callaghan second from Honeywell. Before the pile-up Duff was well in control of the race, holding a five second lead over O’Callaghan with Honeywell awarded third.
Duff had dominated both his heat races, taking over the lead on the restart after the early leader, Brett Sullivan spun out. Duff went on to take the chequered flag by over half a lap from O’Callaghan with Ray Baughan in third place. During the race Duff , who was among the many competitors praising the excellent track conditions was rattling off lap times in the low 13 second bracket with his best of 13.0423, the fastest lap at the track for a number of seasons. Duff was just as impressive in the next heat, winning again with ease from Allan Chapman and Jacob Brownlees, with McDonald, a former NZ title holder, like Duff, having his first meeting since having a season off, forced to retire was a collapsed front end.
McDonald then took out the final heat, leading from start to final after winning the race into the first turn from Honeywell with O’Callaghan, in the Freeman Motorsport machine in a close third. The race continued at pace until a caution light on lap six with McDonald untroubled to resume his lead on the restart going on to control the pace and take out his first win of the season from Honeywell with Sullivan managing to edge O’Callaghan over the final laps.
As usual the Three Quarter Midgetcar section turned in close racing during all their races. The pace was hot in the opening heat with Ben Morgan coming out on top with Liam McCoubrey second with a tight battle for third place with Kimberley Yeatman prevailing with Scott Bailey and Shawn Shilton less than 0.6 of a second back in fourth and fifth place respectively. Shilton come out on top in Heat 2, but only just with McCoubrey side by side Shilton at the final line with Scott Bailey back in third place. McCoubrey could not be denied in the Feature when leading early on from Morgan with a close battle for third place then developing between Shilton and Bailey. McCoubrey was untroubled to take the win from Morgan with Shilton and Bailey cars locked together on the finish line with the electronic timing crediting third place to Skilton by a whisker - 0.0711 of a second.
There was also close racing among the Midgetcar with all three races keenly contested and producing three different winners. The opening heat saw Jeremy Webb claiming the chequered flag, with the national TQ champion holding out the fast finishing Davey Kerr with Glen Durie in third place. The second heat saw a blanket finish with the leading three cars separated by just over a second at the end of the eight laps. Durie came out on top with Kerr again in second place from Webb, closely followed home by Reon Taylor and Jack Low. The Feature saw Kerr and Low swapping the lead in the opening laps before Kerr opened up a lead with Low then driving a great race to claim second place with a car length back to Webb in third place.
Andrew Gregge was the standout in the Six Shooter class, going through the meeting unbeaten. Gregge was a comfortable winning in the opening heat heading home Jeremy Scarlett who managed to just hold out Arran Hutton. Heat two again saw Gregge move out to a handy head with the minor placing again a battle between Scarlett and Hutton with this time Hutton coming home in second place by less than a second. Gregge was again dominate in the Feature leading early on and steadily increasing the lead with Hutton more comfortable in second place from Scarlett closely followed home by Sam Johnson.
Despite a smaller field than usual the Modifield Spirit class was competitive. Courtney Jones and Craig Cox has a great dice before Jones claimed the win in the opening heat from Kieran Harris. Heat two saw Harris take the win from Nelson's Jayden Basalaj with Jones third. Jones was back in winning form when claiming the win in the Feature, clearing away to win from Harris with Bredan Daly coming home in third position.
The Quarter Midgets section has grown in numbers this season with a handful of drivers taking to the dirt for their ‘rookie’ season. South Canterbury’s Jacob Cunniffe, continued on his good form from last season when coming from mid pack to win both of the heat, having a great dice in the second with Jack Brownlees, claiming the lead on the final lap, with Malakai Webb claiming third place in both heats. Cunniffe then took the lead from the green flag in the Feature, pressed all the way by Brownlees with Webb again in third place.
Sprintcars. Ht 1. Jamie Duff 1, Sam O'Callaghan 2, Ray Baughan 3. Ht 2. Duff 1, Allan Chapman 2, Jacob Brownlees 3. Ht 3. Jamie McDonald 1, Matt Honeywell 2, Brett Sullivan 3. Feature. Duff 1, O'Callaghan 2, Honeywell 3. - placings awarded
Three Quarter Midgets Ht 1. Ben Morgan 1, Liam McCoubrey 2, Kimberley Yeatman 3. Ht 2. Shawn Shilton 1, McCoubrey 2, Scott Bailey 3. Feature. McCoubrey 1, Ben Morgan 2, Shilton 3.
Midgets Ht 1. Jeremy Webb 1, Dave Kerr 2, Glen Durie 3. Ht 2. Durie 1, Kerr 2, Webb 3. Feature. Kerr 1, Low 2, Webb 3.
Modified Sprints Ht 1. Courtney Jones 1, Craig Cox 2, Kieran Harris 3. Ht 2. Harris 1, Jayden Basalaj 2, Jones 3. Feature. Jones 1, Harris 2, Brendan Daly 3.
Six Shooters Ht 1. Andrew Gregge 1, Jeremy Scarlett 2, Arran Hutton 3. Ht 2. Gregge 1, Hutton 2, Scarlett 3. Feature. Gregge 1, Hutton 2, Scarlett 3.
Quarter Midgets Ht 1. Jacob Cunniffe 1, Jack Brownlees 2, Malakai Webb 3. Ht 2. Cunniffe 1, Brownlees 2, Webb 3. Feature. Cunniffe 1, Brownlees 2, Webb 3,