10, 11 & 12 January 2008, Waikaraka Park - Auckland
INAUGURAL NZ SALOON CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
To say that I was excited about attending the Inaugural NZ Championship for Saloons was an understatement. I had invested years of effort and with assistance from others along the way, especially Steve Williams with his Speedweek promotion, this event finally became a reality.
I had originally offered the drive of the 9H Saloon to Greg Powell, but as he had Thundercat commitments, I took up the challenge.
Arrived late on the first night, which was only a practice session for out of towners, and had an ale or two with some of the other drivers at the "Meet & Greet" event organised by the Auckland Officials. Was good to finally catch up with Jumbo Berryman, a man instrumental in getting the class started over 20 years ago, along with Frank Irvine & the late John Webster. As a mark of respect, I asked Jumbo if he would like to drive the 9H Saloon in the Grand Parade the next day.
Day 2, and qualifying, saw Ian & I arrive at the track nice and early to get through scrutineering quickly enabling us to get around and say gidday to everyone.
Passed through scrutineering with flying colours, as expected, although others had some issues with radiator scoop heights and rear wings. These issues basically boiled down to the interpretations being adopted by the Officials being different to "ALL" of the competitors... will have to follow those issues up later.
Well the day was very, very hot and I was well pleased when the Grand Parade was called for and racing was to get under way. Jumbo wasn't around so asked ASSCC Vice-President Paul Blakely to drive the car.
Renumbered 19H for NZ's - Grand Parade
I drew grid 8 in the first qualifying heat for my group. Sitting in my car, getting ready to join the dummy grid, and I couldn't get the car to change gear. It was jammed in 1st after the Grand Parade!!! After unsuccessfully swearing at the gear lever, hoping it would release, I realised the futility of this approach and jumped out of the car. I grabbed the nearest jack I could find and jacked up the right side of the car. I then crawled under and whacked the gear selector with my hand, freeing up the selectors. I then sprayed CRC all over it, crawled out, let the jack down and jumped back in the car. This has happened in the past and is just basically, "one of those things that happens from time to time", but WHY NOW!!!! I just managed to catch the tail end of the dummy grid and made it out to compete in the first qualifying heat for my group. It is fair to say, I was wondering what else could possibly go wrong now?
I got a great start, but, unfortunately, I didn't finish the first lap due to another competitor trying to make an impossible pass, up the middle, which effectively turned me around in front of the pack. I tried to continue, but the right front steering arm had been snapped in half, so sought the sanctuary of the infield, along with any hope of qualifying for the NZ Championship round the next night.
Got back to the pits to find the left hand side, front bumper, was badly bent down to the ground, but there was still enough clearance to race, if the officials allowed. Changed the steering arm and quickly checked the set up, as we had already been called up for heat 2.
Was off the rear this time, which was a good thing, given the damage, and was now way off the pace as the set up of the car was way out. Just cruised around and finished.
Heat 3, I was off grid 2. Now for those who didn't know, Grid 2 sets the pace at the start of a race. I wanted a slow start as I knew 112R Mel Hills, on pole, had the goods on me speed wise, but unfortunately due to some poor refereeing Mel was given a huge head start, by jumping the start before the green lights came on. I stayed wide and let the field through as the car still wasn't right. I thought better to let them go and cause no damage. I carried on until a tangle up on turn 1 saw 3 or 4 cars piled on top of each other. In trying to avoid this mess, my car went straight into the wall, as it wouldn't turn properly. This was to be the end of my 1st NZ Champ's.
Video's of Qualifying - 3.45 (Video 1) is the start of my 1st heat, 6.45 (Video 2) is the end of 9H in heat 3.
Day three and the NZ Championship round saw me watching from the Clubrooms, beer in hand.
I was very, very proud of my fellow competitors in seeing them complete 3, 20 lap, races with only 1 yellow light caution. This was an outstanding effort and shows the calibre of the Saloon Competitors and how deserving of the National Class status they now have.
Congratulations to 1NZ Phil Towgood, 2NZ Brent McClymont and 3NZ Steve Williams.