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NZ SALOON TITLE NIGHT 1



Night one of the Saloon title dawned fine and sunny. 49 cars took the start, qualifying in four groups with the top four in each group qualifying directly. The track started off one-laned around the pole. An outer lane came in after the sun went down through the middle stages of the meeting. Through the final heats the track went off a bit and passing was a bit of a struggle for everyone except the upper echelon of drivers.

Group 1
A rough start for this group gave way to two good heats. 36m Dale Bigwood got the title underway, firing his car way wide exiting turn two, going up the wall and rolling spectacularly down the back straight. More carnage was to follow. 7s Richard Dreaver made a nice inside pass entering turn 3 but went high into the marbles, spinning back into the line of traffic. 271m Steve Sowling sandwiched between Dreaver and 88h Dave Roigard. Roigard the only driver able to continue despite what appeared to be some loose barwork sticking nastily out the back of the car. The drama continued as 11a Lynne Yates tried to climb the wall exiting turn 4 on the final corner. Through it all 4a Anita Sloot held the boys at bay to take the win from 89a Tom Roberts and 27b Josh Smith.

Heat two was actually a race! 74a Scott Lansdowne dominated to take the win from 88h Dave Roigard and 271m Steve Cowling. Roigard looked to be a good chance to qualify but prior to the start of heat 3 pulled infield reporting possible engine damage. An early clash between 271m Steve Cowling and 17b Sam Croy saw Croy cut a right front to conclude a miserable night for the bay car. Cowling would go on to claim second place which with his DNF points from heat one (Saloons do get DNF points) was enough for Cowling to sneak into the top four. 16s Thomas Korff winning the third heat from Cowling and 7s Richard Dreaver.

Qualifiers - 74a Scott Lansdowne, 27b Josh Smith, 16s Thomas Korff, 271m Steve Cowling



Group 2
Another Saloon demo derby in heat 1 for this group. As an aside every driver was stating other drivers were overdriving or had too much adrenaline etc. No driver seemed to think they were overdriving themselves!! Anyway a mid-pack melee in pit bend on lap one took out 8s Craig Korff, 14m Brett Kaye and 27s Joe Ingram. On the restart 61k Josey Peat Bennett seemed to take too much speed into turn 1 and just about took out 3nz Michelle Wymer who also narrowly missed getting involved in the opening incident. Wymer would be the mover in the opening heat from her rear grid, claiming fourth behind 92b Kevin Martin, 88h Stefan Roigard and 18k Chris Taylor. The action calmed down a bit in heat two. South Island hotshot 72c Peter Schouten taking the win from 8s Craig Korff and 18k Chris Taylor.

Heat three was a fairly mundane race. 42m Trent Amrein got the better of 3nz Michelle Wymer off the start but came under pressure from Wymer late in the race. With Wymer high on points there wasn't much of an edge to the contest, though the two combatants managed to make decent contact at one point coming out of turn two. Wymer aside I find it hard to see a genuine contender coming from this group.

Qualifiers - 3nz Michelle Wymer, 42m Trent Amrein
Run Off (2 to progress) - 18k Chris Taylor, 86h Stefan Roigard, 92b Kevin Martin

Group 3
Perhaps the most enthralling group was this one with some contenders having horror nights whilst others showed surprising pace. Flat tyres were the story of heat 1 with 166h Geoff Webb cutting a right front and 8m Jarrod Fletcher a right rear. 54c Ryan Marsden immediately stood out as a driver of real quality, able to utlise higher reaches of the track to make moves. His pass on 272m Chris Cowling enough to make any North Island fan sit up and take notice. 36a Cole "The Cole Train" Morrison another to show good speed. 77k Ross Cresswell winning from 5a Phil Mainland and Marsden. Heat two was a beauty. 54c Ryan Marsden skipped away from his front grid. A gaggle of cars formed well behind him constantly racing two wide. I was really impressed with 242w Ashleigh Halcrow who was racing with and passing some esteemed company.

Unfortunately Halcrow drove into the back of 36a Cole Morrison towards the end of the race, sparking a crash that took out 77k Ross Cresswell and 8m Jarrod Fletcher. You wouldn't be nominating Fletcher to buy a lotto ticket such was his bad luck. From my angle it appeared Halcrow was the cause and the officials agreed, sending her to the rear. Judging from her reaction the driver may not have been in agreement with the decision. 166h Geoff Webb suffered more issues, from memory it may have been another tyre failure. Marsden winning from 46s Daniel Hinton and 36a Cole Morrison. Heat three was memorable for the performance of 166h Geoff Webb. The luckless Webb showing superb speed and guile to snatch second on the line fron the impressive 242w Ashleigh Halcrow, 272m Chris Cowling the runaway winner.

Qualifiers - 272m Chris Cowling, 54c Ryan Marsden, 5a Phil Mainland
Run-Off - 36a Cole Morrison, 46s Daniel Hinton



Group 4
This group raced without any major incidents over their 3 heats. Indeed there was just one DNF (and a DNS) for which a mechanical malfunction appeared to be the cause. 21h Steve Williams was the stand out of this group and easily scored the most points of any competitor across all groups. Williams intricate knowledge of the Waikaraka surface paid dividends, able to open up lines enabling passing moves. Williams would win the opening heat and the final heat with third place in heat two securing a points haul just two points off perfection. 49m Bodie Abrahamson was another to impress but the one to come out of nowhere was 48a Jeremy Silcock. I've never really heard of this guy before but he was very impressive, driving tight and tidy lines whilst maintaining momentum.

There was a gap back to the fourth and final qualifier. 146a Paul Wright, 45s Mark Hinton, 66r Peter Church, 27a Stephen Corry all came close but fell a point or two back from 46e Paddy North.
Qualifiers - 21h Steve Williams, 49m Bodie Abrahamson, 48a Jeremy Silcock, 46e Paddy North