IT was obvious speedway fans have been missing their fix of action with the long break putting paid to any racing for many months.
The team at X Factor Cars was expecting a fairly quiet season opener at Riverside Speedway, with Pack The Park being a chance for locals to see former All Blacks running around, they were expecting a few hardcore fans to roll in to take in the action.
What eventuated was a massive crowd. Cars were lined up outside the arena well before opening time, and the crowd numbers blew the minds of club members, making the Covid-19 lockdown seem like a distant memory.
The facility looked a picture – the grounds were perfect and the track looked fast, which is testament to Justin Blackman and his team, who have had to overcome rain, hail and snow in the past few weeks to put up a track good enough to race on. The track held up well despite cutting up in turn one in the last few races of the night.
The big crowd was treated to plenty of entertainment with four teams entered in the Flooring Xtra Demolition Derby Teams Championship. Last year’s finalist Team DATAS and the Wolfpac was put to the test by two teams stacked with drivers from contact grades, who were having a crack at lifting the title.
Those two teams, South Island Select and Wreckem Racing, did enough to make the final and put on a fantastic display of crash and bash, much to the delight of the fans.
Troy Dryden, who was racing for Wreckem Racing, crossed the line first to secure the title for his team, which was made up of Dillon MacHattie, Jason Fisher, Drew Sutherland and Chris Kergozou.
Sprintcars were always going to be an attraction and they put on a show.
Riverside’s Jack Brown stunned the field with two wins from three starts, and a solid second in the last race. Jason Scott, of Cromwell, claimed the last race but was made to work for it, and the other young Riverside driver, Jacob McIntyre, was also impressive, picking up two third placings.
Saloons were getting early track time in advance of the SW Finance NZ Saloon Championship in January. Cromwell’s George Phillips was fast, claiming two race wins but Riverside’s Graham Williamson looked to bridge the gap in race two and claim a win in the third.
Youth Saloons were impressive. A grid of 15 cars, which included four drivers on debut, went about their business trouble-free, testament to these young drivers. Reigning Southland champion Harrison Brown claimed two wins with Josh Livingstone taking one.
Dunedin driver Glen Johnson upstaged the locals in race one of Modified Sprints, racing off to a commanding win, but local champion Vaughan Marshall was all class in race two and three looking to once again be the man to beat.
Due to track conditions Six Shooters and Production Saloons only got to run two of the scheduled three races.
Cromwell’s Adam Evans claimed a hard-fought race one, managing to hold off Jacob McIntyre for the win, while in race two it was Emma Gordon who dominated the field and bought the crowd to their feet with a strong victory.
Tony Jones fought his way through the field in race one of Production Saloons and repeated the dose in race two, once again working his magic through the field, which was no easy feat.
The final class racing was Streetstocks and race one saw all sorts of carnage. Steve Dryden’s return to Riverside was cut short when he made contact with Luke Molloy, sending him hard into the wall and putting him out for the day.
Steve’s son Troy would soon join him on the infield thanks to Jesse Hamilton, who pinned him to the wall on the main straight. Zach Newsham would go on to win race one.
Dillon MacHattie avoided all sorts of carnage in race two to claim a deserved win while race three was stopped early after Chris Kergozou put a monster shot on Luke Molly causing Molloy to roll while Kergozou’s car leapt sky high and perched itself firmly on top of Molloy’s bonnet.
Both drivers walked away uninjured but both cars suffered considerable damage, bringing the meeting to an end.
X Factor Cars Riverside Speedway will return on Saturday, October 31, with the ILT Foundation Fireworks Extravaganza.
This will also be a special milestone as the club celebrates 25 years of sponsorship of the fireworks event. For this meeting the club will also take on the name of ILT Foundation Riverside Speedway to acknowledge the support.