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By Rob Arnold

Fireworks on and off the track was the formula for another successful annual Guy Fawkes fireworks meeting at the Huntly International Speedway last Saturday. While Huntly in recent seasons programmes three meetings that have fireworks displays it is the early season one, run close to Nov 5 as possible that attracts the most interest.
This was no exception with another monster crowd typically seen for this event packing the bleachers to near capacity. While it wasn’t quite enough to put out house full signs it was still very impressive given that Waikaraka and Baypark were also having fireworks displays that night, showing the Huntly display is seen in high regard by many that otherwise have little interest in speedway. Another thing that also works in Huntly’s favour is the absence of standalone organised displays in the Waikato, the annual Morrinsville display not held this year because of the Rugby World Cup final clashing with its usual timeslot. That led Huntly to make a small change with recent tradition to run it a week later than usual.
Though fields weren’t as robust as they were 7 days earlier with other tracks within driving distance of Huntly also racing that night and the action not quite as intense as a result, it still was on balance a solid evening of racing.
The best action of the night came from another large field of 22 stockcars, putting on the action we enjoy from them, wins going to 27H Brett Aikin and 361H Clinton Cheetham. The finale saw something of a boilover as 24H Brad Philpott, better known as a stirrer, showed a surprising turn of speed to win the finale, his first ever. In truth, Brad has shown a newfound turn of speed since getting a new car over the win, so perhaps it wasn’t quite that big of a shock for this veteran scribe. 8H Larry Henderson, 422H Dylan Ashton and 922H Hayden Hepworth were also on the pace to score top five finishes while 286H Glen Woods showed the best pace he’s ever had to be fourth in the opening heat.
Their bigger brothers the superstocks felt the effects of the action seen the week before seeing a few locals absent from the entry list. This together with other tracks racing the class on the same night resulted in a relatively light muster of nine, which was down on expectations but the racing was surprisingly close, and the aggression level was also amazingly good for a modest field, so as a whole they really punched above their weight. Baypark cars monopolised the winners circle, 19M Kerry Remnant winning the opening heat with 99M Todd Hemingway really impressing in his debut weekend in the class after a few seasons in stockcars after graduating from youth minsitocks to score two wins on the trot following a solid start at Rotorua the night before.
Also impressing was fellow rookie 23R Kendall Aston to be in the minor money, backing up from her maiden win in her first outing in the class the night before at Rotorua, showing the future of this category is in very safe hands when up and coming rookies can mix it instantly with the established heavyweights. 351R Paul Vazey was also on the pace and arguably best of the rest.
Saloons are feeling the effects of locally contracted numbers at an all time low, and when neighbouring tracks are running the class that night, the trough in car numbers are profoundly felt when they could only just scrape a marginally acceptable field of eight, considered by many the absolute minimum for a decent night’s racing. If not for the visitors coming to pad out the grid, they wouldn’t have been able to race at all. The opening race was an exciting one with 8M Jarrod Fletcher heading out to a big lead only to lose it as he couldn’t find the grip on the outside to lap the 37K Monaro of Ryan Johnson, a car that he should have breezed past.
This allowed the 68H Corvette of Cody Hata to dramatically close up in the closing laps and pass Jarrod’s Corvette on the last corner of the last lap only to run too hot, clip the wall but still able to run to the audible thrill of the crowd, giving the win back to Fletcher. Unfortunately the next two races turned out to be processions, won by Fletcher and the 18K Mustang of Chris Taylor, who won the finale for the second week on the trot, further giving claim to be one of the red hot favourites for the NZ Champs in February. Hata was best of the rest by a wide margin.
By contrast it’s been a long time we have seen the super saloons appear at two successive meetings with healthy fields, with a muster firmly in the mid teens for the second leg of the DVS series for budget level competitor. This was a double header weekend for them with the opening leg at Rotorua 24 hours earlier. Local hero Steve Williams, the only one to be an NZ Champion in both saloon variants proved to be the class of the field to win both the Rural Direct Dash For Cash and feature race, having scored another win and a fifth in his two heat races. Others to score wins were 35R Marcus Bullen and 58A Max Anderson, who along with wife Shirley in the 68A, make the long haul from Kaikohe to compete in this series. 96A Lance Jennings, son Wade in the 48A, 7A Mike Slater,966A Jordan Canaan and 55A Ricky McKay also scored top five finishes over the course of the night, showing just how even and competitive this series. While the track wasn’t able to offer much passing we still saw the fast, clean and competitive action that has been a hallmark of this series since it was established last season.
Production saloons had another night of close clean racing from the pack of 11 and though a wee bit down on numbers from a week earlier it is further proof the class is on the road to recovery after several lack lustre seasons. The Mazda 6 of 6H Vaughan Glidden won the first two heats with veteran 48H Dave Pilkington, who is Huntly’s longest serving driver, debuting when they were added to the Huntly programme in the 2004/05 season winning the finale. Usual suspects 63H Peter Craddock and 2NZ Wayne Warrender prominent in the minor money. The action see so far will be a small taste of what’s to come when the North Island Champs come to Huntly on Nov 30 when a full grid is expected, the first time for around half a decade at least that a full field has been sighted at Huntly, which from past experience is quite good to watch.
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Modifieds made their first run for the season with a healthy field of ten, this class when they were bought back in the 2015-16 season as a contracted class after dropped early in the decade proving to be a surprisingly good addition to the programme, this scribe’s pessimism of their prospects when they were reintroduced well and truly off the mark! While the racing was processional with no one really trying to make a go of the outside groove, the spectacle of these winged V8 beasts partly made up for the lack of on track action. Wins went to 3NZ Jamie Fox, 119H Brad Lane with 52H Jordan Hunter creating something of a boilover by winning the finale. 4H Paul Hodson, 9W Blair McPhee and 193H Syd Ferguson also featured at the sharp end of the field.
F2 Midgets, a budget variation of the category that races at Western Springs made one of their occasional guest visits to Huntly with a healthy field of twelve. While they had good close racing all night, they lacked the flair and bravado the way more expensive open grade examples display in their racing something that will abound when the Huntly leg of the International Midget Series rolls into Huntly on New Year’s Day. They were however not without drama as we saw a couple of rollovers in two attempts to get the second heat underway, one of them fairly nasty. Wins went to 69A Corbin Anderson, 24A Brad Robertson and 35A Brad McCutcheon, showing how evenly matched this sub class is. 81A Leyton Kendall, 14A Kenny Roberts, 5A Eric Smith and 8A Joshua Matthews also scored finishes in the top five.
The fireworks as always didn’t disappoint, thrilling all that were there and in keeping with the custom at Huntly, lit as soon as it was dark enough, allowing those who want to leave early to do so and partly relieving the massive congestion out the car park that comes with big events at Huntly with only one access road into the facility. As it was the on track action still finished relatively early at around 10pm, an acceptable finishing time for those with young families, showing the value of the earlier 6pm starts Huntly is having for early season fixtures.
Huntly has a week’s break this weekend then cranks back into gear with a monster Superstock teams event featuring teams from all over the North Island on Nov 23, an event you won’t want to miss. See you there!!

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