NZ Midget Grand Prix
A mediocre crowd fronted for the NZ Midget Grand Prix. Overcast skies kept the temperature comfortable for the fans.
Drivers were confronted by a race track more suited to a motocross event than a Midget title. Moisture was deep
in the surface and caused problems all night long. Competitors found themselves hanging on at times as their vehicles
were vaulted in random directions. Yes we did have substantial rain in the first half of the week but even in the
worst of circumstances competitors are entitled to a better track than what was dished up. A fair amount of gear was torn up on the night but for spectators who come
for the crashes it was probably the night of the season.
Grid for the 30-lap Grand Prix saw 1nz Spencer Bayston and 3nz Michael Pickens on the front row. 11a Shayne Alach
and 7a Brad Mosen were the second row. 27a Hayden Williams and 95s Duane Hickman occupied row three. If anyone
was to be a factor perhaps 2nz Zach Daum would be the man from grid 11. Perhaps Bayston thought grid one set
the pace at the drop of the green as he led away. It appeared to be a generous decision by the officials not
to call the start back. Pickens appeared to take a cautious approach in the opening laps which was interesting given
he knew the track well having just taken the victory in the Sprintcar feature.
Pickens caution would see 11a Shayne Alach make a slide job up the inside and into second place. The lead
trio skipped away from the best of the rest being 27a Hayden Williams and 96a Chris McCutcheon. The preferred
line on the track was through the middle, which had been tilled prior to the race for the umpteenth time in
Pine Tree Bend. Pickens found some comfort and became racier. He and Alach closed the gap to race leader
Bayston as the three approached lapped traffic. Pickens got up the inside of Alach and a lap later was able to
take advantage of Bayston being unsettled. The fans rejoiced but not for long.
Lapped traffic became a factor and Pickens would be caught in the wrong spot when 36a Ben Drummond became
unsettled entering Pine Tree. Bayston was on the inside and back into the lead. From memory I think Pickens
went back to third but would be saved by the first caution of the race. Daum was upside down on the back
straight. 97a Thomas McLean was also involved and would take no further part in proceedings. The big loser through
the opening stanza was Mosen who found himself down the field. In his early days Mosen would revel on this sort
of the surface so perhaps something wasn't right with the car. The double file restart was supposed to be led by
Bayston but from my angle it appeared Pickens took liberty and went early. It was similar to the initial race start
but the roles were reversed. I guess you could say it was 1 all!!
Alach got a poor restart from the second row but managed to rectify the situation courtesy of an excellent exit out
of turn two. Pickens led away but was bitten by the track exiting turn 2. Bayston making up substantial ground as
Pickens gathered up his ride. The American able to make the move back into the lead. However it wasn't to last as
next time around it was Bayston's time to be thrown off line. Pickens back to the front at the half-way mark. For
once the race settled for a few laps until a battle erupted for second. The crowd erupting as Alach made the move
into second place. A couple of laps later we had our second and final caution, debris on the front straight. Pickens
led away from the double file restart with Alach right on his tail.
The move for the lead came swiftly. A slide job through Town Bend and Alach weas in the lead! Pickens cut back
on the exit to reclaim the top spot. I have to say from my angle there were two wheels on the grass and a bit
of contact as well. The drama was to escalate. The Pickens machine sounding distinctly off-song though the latter
portion of the race. Alach was the only driver who had something for him, catching Pickens with around five to
go. Alach made a bit of a lunge for a gap that wasn't really there and contact was made. Amazingly despite Pickens
vehicle issues it was as close as Alach would get. Pickens taking the win and his 5th NZ Midget Grand Prix
from Alach, Bayston, Williams and Maskovich.