By Rob Arnold.
After a month’s hiatus over the peak of the championship season, the Huntly International Speedway kicked off the second half of the season in a low key fashion, albeit with some substance as Waikato titles for production saloons and stockcars were up for grabs as well as another leg of the DVS Super Saloon Series.
With many now maxed out their summer break time along with kids just about to start the school year plus being a week after the epic World 240’s at Rotorua and the colossal PN Superstock Teams Champs a week later, public interest for this meeting was never going to be that high, so it wasn’t surprising to see a moderately light crowd on hand but those that did go witness a good night’s racing without reaching any big heights.
The highlight for most people was the Waikato Stockcar Championship, traditionally a hard fought title attracting a healthy number of out of towners from neighbouring venues. With both Waikaraka and Rotorua running that night however, the field of 27 , while still very much a healthy one wasn’t up to the same calibre of previous editions with only a few out of towners present. One may ask then why wasn’t a better date available for this title more conducive to attracting visiting cars, and the answer is that calendar pressures meant that this was the only viable date for this event, and it’s a fact of life for race organisers that sometimes track championships like this one have to be run on less than optimal timeslots. This highlights the need for greater communication between venues over the off season regarding the scheduling of local titles, but that is another matter for another time.
In terms of aggression it was a moderately entertaining affair and at the end of three heats we saw promising young lion Dylan Ashton score his first major success in the rapid 422H to take home the Waikato Championship for 2020 with 93 points just one ahead of 49H Kyle Hickford, another promising youngster with seasoned campaigner Brett Aikin in the 27H completing the podium with 86 points. 51A Alistair Van Amsterdam was fourth on 81, with 97K Kasey Cheetham driving out of his skin in the best drive of his career to finish an excellent fifth with 77 points, with 37H Ben Caldwell completing the top six.
The DVS Super Saloon series made its third visit and final visit to Huntly for the season with 14 in attendance. The impact of the dry weather the Waikato has experienced since Xmas with the difficulty in getting moisture into the track to provide side by side racing showed in the largely processional racing, but it was still close and competitive action with the three heats and the Rural Direct Cash for Cash sporting four different winners. 77K Ross Creswell, 55A Ricky McKay and 96A Lance Jennings were winners in the heats with 21H Steve Williams winning the Dash for Cash. Jennings was in fine form to score his second consecutive feature at Huntly in this series in a easy flag to flag win in the 15 lap event after the early challenge from runner up 35R Marcus Bullen faded as the track slicked up. Creswell, 48A Wade Jennings and McKay completed the top five.
The field of 17 for the Waikato Production Saloon Championship was the best muster since the 2015/16 season, reflective of the upswing in fortune for the category this season at Huntly, which had several Kihikihi and Rotorua visitors in the mix. Run to the traditional three heat format they had a solid’s night racing which was fairly clean save for some bumper car antics in the opening heat. 48H Dave Pilkington, the longest serving driver in the category having race every season since they were introduced to the Huntly programme in the 2004/05 season was in fine form to take his blue Telstar to the championship with a win a two thirds with 6H Vaughan Glidden [Mazda 6] and 63H Peter Craddock [Mitsubishi Galant] tied for second, the pair separated by a coin toss that went in Glidden’s favour with 42H Lance Gribble [BMW 3 Series] best of the rest.
Rounding out the programme were modifieds and youth ministocks. The light five car field of the former were there simply to give some turnaround time for the other classes on a otherwise light programme and their racing was processional enough to be the night’s coffee class. Newly minted 1NZ Brad Lane won all three heats with ease. Youth ministocks had close hard fought yet clean racing all evening, wins going to 7H, Hamish Hambling, 97H Jayden Dredon-Manning and 95H Imogen Whittaker.