TWENTY-two of the best saloon drivers from throughout New Zealand rolled into X Factor Cars Riverside Speedway last Friday to battle it out in round two of the Holden Trade Club Saloon Speedweek, supported by Fulton Hogan.
Three weeks of steady rain threatened to turn the event into a disaster but sunshine and strong winds helped the drenched circuit develop into what drivers said was the best surface they had driven on at Riverside, a true credit to track manager Trevor Black.
The event saw entrants split into three groups, who raced each other once in three heat races, with the top 12 contesting the Dash For Cash which would also decipher the starting order for the 20-lap feature final.
In the heat races, Chris Taylor, of Kihikihi, collected a race win and looked to be a serious contender. Rob Flood, of Blenheim, snuck home ahead of local driver Graham Williamson in heat two, while in heat three it was Auckland’s Nigel Ross who took the race win.
Taylor and Ross then went on to win their respective Dash For Cash races, to give them front row grid honours for the grand final.
In the final, it was Ross and Taylor who galloped off to a solid start only for the race to be put under caution less than half a lap in, due to a five-car pileup midpack. Once the track was cleared it was Taylor who got off to a flyer, pulling away from the field to hold a solid lead. An epic battle was brewing behind the leader with Ross swapping places on several occasions with Peter Schouten, of Christchurch, Mark Hinton, of Stratford, and Scott Lansdowne, of Auckland, all racing wheel-to-wheel to get up front.
Halfway through the final it looked to be a full-blown conclusion with Taylor well in front but debris on the track led to the leader stopping on track, bringing out the caution flag, and compacting the field. With Taylor now out, it was Ross who had to withhold the pressure from an angry pack of cars behind him. Schouten mounted the biggest challenge, threatening to take the lead many times. Christchurch’s Billie Woodhouse then suffered the same fate as Taylor, parked up with a flat tyre, again bringing out the caution flag with just a handful of laps to go.
At the restart, Ross got off to a clean start, and Schouten sat close enough that if Ross was to make a mistake the race would be his. But Ross kept his cool to claim a popular victory ahead of Schouten, who also claimed the fastest lap of the day, and Dunedin driver George Phillips making a late charge through the pack in third.
Series organisers Wes Hughes and Steve Williams were thrilled with the event Riverside had hosted and praised the track, arena and support from the club.
Of the locals, a solid night put Williamson in the top 10 in the four-round series, while Jeff Richardson suffered damage for the second night running.