By Lance Moore – Team Manager
On The last weekend of February the Central metal Waikato Raiders attended the NZ Stockcar Team Champs at Stratford. The C.M.W.R had a mixture of youth and experience with drivers Larry Henderson 8H, Brad Philpott 24H, Barry Rhodes 46H, Justin Hutchby 88H, Clinton Cheetham 361H and 6th driver Nevin Shrubb. The team was the same as the team we had at last year champs except for Hutch who was a welcome addition. The team has been slowly improving over the last year and the team has a an awesome spirit and a keen support crew. We came to the event with hopes of making the top four and possible podium finish.
Our first race was against the Gisborne Gladiators, a team that placed third at last years’ event. This turned out to be an awesome effort by all the drivers, almost a perfect race. Gisborne had the early lead but the boys stuck to their roles and by the half way mark in the race were well in control. We were able to come home 1,2 3 and 5th for a the biggest point haul of any team over the weekend of 175 points. The bonus was to have very little damage to any of the cars.
With such a great effort we only had to get about 60 points to ensure that we qualified for the finals, and hopefully come through the race without too much damage. In a close race with the Pumas, Brad ran second all the way and with the other boys working well together we finished 2nd, 3rd and 5th to again get 70 good points. This gave us 245 points, 2nd equal with Palmerston for qualifying night. Its’ been a long time since the Raiders have finished that high up on the first night at the national champs. A coin toss gave the 2nd spot ahead of the Pumas. This gave us a quarter final against current champions Stratford, who were not racing that well on the first night and finished in 7th place on the first night, after a defeat by Kihikihi and win against Tasman.
With some steel damage on the 8H but no major damage to any of the other cars we had come through the first night in good shape. We started early on Saturday morning at Combine Motors in Inglewwood who were kind enough to let us use their workshop to work on the cars James, from J Engineering, and all the crew members from the cars worked together and put in a big effort and all the cars were sorted by noon and we were back at the track at 3 ready to race.
There was a real buzz in the team with the prospect of a quarter final win. The interest from the speedway public went up a level after our qualifying night success. People were really taking an interest in the Raiders with lots of wishes of good luck and a lot of T shirts sold, this certainly gave the boys a lift for the nights racing ahead.
Our quarter final race against the Stormers was hard fought and there was no lack of effort from the boys but Stratford moved up a gear from the night before and we were unable to match them.
A loss meant we would race the Pumas for 5th or 6th place, who had lost their quarter final to Rotorura. Barry Rhodes 46H came in for his first race of the weekend and the boys’ gave it everything. The Pumas had an early lead but the CMWR came back at them to get the lead with 46H and hold for a large part of the race until they got our lead car with only a couple of laps to go. So overall with another loss to the Pumas we finished sixth. While there was disappointment in the camp, 6th place was a good improvement on last years’ 11th place at the same event. The whole team will be so much better for its experience of teams racing finals. Only Hutch had really experienced this level before of one off racing. We have been steadily building but there is still a long way to go compete with the top teams in the big events. I am however sure good results at the big events are not that far away.
There are so many people to thank for their contribution over the weekend. Firstly I wish To thank our sponsors, Central Metals, J Engineering, Customise Earthworks, North Bins, No1 Stockcar Bodies, Xsight and The Meat Warehouse, what a great help their contributions have been.
The pit crew lead by James Marshall from J Engineering, what a job they did for us, keeping our cars on the track and going so well.
Thanks to Laura for all the work she does with our sponsors, Maddie and Shelly who have along with Laura have done a great job selling our merchandise. Thanks to Kristen for all the work she did organising food and the accommodation.
Thanks to Colin and Michele Cheetham for the feeds on the BBQ and all the work they do in the pits always generous with your time and effort.
A huge thankyou to the drivers, you were awesome and there was never any lack of commitment on your part. The old hands Larry 8H and Hutch 88H really were outstanding over the weekend with the younger guys 361H Clinton, 46h Barry and 24H Brad not far behind.
Finally a huge thanks to the fans and the people who supported us on the weekend, or took an interest in the team, you created a real buzz round the camp. It was a shame we could not have delivered some more wins for you. I can only say we will continue to work hard at improving our skills and I feel a good result at a major event is not that far away.