Racers gear up for nostalgic Sunday

By Colin Smith


Memory Lane is exactly quarter-of-a-mile long this Sunday when the Bay Rodders host the annual Nostalgia Drags meeting at Fram Autolite Dragway, Meremere.

While an Easter Sunday date isn't the traditional scheduling for the Nostalgia Drags the 2012 event retains its traditional week of separation from the Beach Hop at Whangamata.

The Bryan Fraser Engineering Nostalgia Drags have become a highlight of the Kiwi drag racing and hot-rodding calendar and are a prime example of how a purely club-promoted event can be staged to professional standards.

Once again there is an international flavour with three Australian teams in action. Australian racer John Fleming returns to defend the Front Engine Dragster title he won last year with his Rattler II while the Midnite Special of Ardmore racer Daryl Slater and the new nitro-fuelled Flathead V8 dragster of Hamilton's Martin & Rea team are among the other attractions. The Phantom Racing '23 T Altered of Australian racer Marcus Page is returning to the Nostalgia Drags and the third Australian car is the "Doorslammer" style Willys Coupe of Wade Wagstaff which runs a supercharged big block Chev and is capable of low-7secs passes.

As has become traditional the front-engine challenge has a $5000 purse and for the first time the prize-money has been matched for the Competition category thanks to the support of Tauranga enthusiast Graham Somerville.

A full 16-car Competition field will chase the cash including Aussie racers Page and Wagstaff, Tauranga's Ian Metz, Tony Christiansen and Karen Hay and Te Puke racer Dave Gauld with his new Ford Coupe-bodied supercharged altered. Other titles to be decided on Sunday include the Flat-head challenge, Four-banger challenge, Classic Gasser and Pre-48 Hot Rod categories. Qualifying begins at 9am.

Top performance

Newly crowned New Zealand motocross champion Ben Townley (Tauranga) took his winning form across the Tasman to deliver an unbeaten performance at the opening round of the Australian MX Nationals on Sunday.

Townley (Honda) won both segments of the back-to-back short motos early in the day for the Open Class at the Conondale track in Queensland and then dominated the longer 30-minute third race with fellow Kiwi Josh Coppins (Yamaha) finishing second. Townley has taken the lead in the championship with 75 points from Coppins on 62 and Suzuki's Todd Waters on 54.

The Conondale round is likely to be Townley's sole appearance for the Carlton Dry Honda Thor Racing squad before he relocates to Florida and replaces injured Honda star Chad Reed in the TwoTwo Motorsport team for the US Nationals which start in California on May 19.

Suzuki's Cody Cooper (Papamoa) is eighth in the championship after the opening round.

Round two is at Coonabarabran in NSW on April 14-15.

Engine woes

An electrical problem frustrated Tauranga driver Phil Campbell throughout the opening round of the New Zealand Rally Championship at Whangarei last weekend.

From the opening stage of the event Campbell's Ford Fiesta ST would switch into "limp mode" several times per stage, requiring the car to be switched off and the engine management computer to be re-set on each occasion. Campbell and co-driver Venita Fabbro lost more than six minutes to class winner and teammate Josh Marston on Saturday and the team was unable to rectify the issue overnight. The shorter stages on Sunday meant the car was not affected as often and Campbell was able to beat Marston on two of the days eight stages, although he lost a further 1m 40secs overall to his rival. Campbell was still able to secure a useful haul of points from the Whangarei event as he and Marston were the only drivers contesting the Group N 2WD category. "We don't know what caused the car to drop into limp mode but it will certainly give us something to do between now and Wairarapa," said Campbell.

The second round of the New Zealand Rally Championship is Rally Wairarapa on April 28-29.

Calendar changes

There have been further changes to the April racing calendar at Baypark Speedway. The next meeting on April 14 will see a second attempt to run the Super Stock Invitation event that was rained out in March and also a return of the Minisprints, which were unable to complete their programme at the Boxing Night meeting. Having two invitation classes on the same night means the BOP Champs previously scheduled for all classes on April 14 will now be split over two nights.

The Super Saloons, Stock Cars and Youth Ministocks contest their titles on April 14 while the BOP Sprint Car and Saloon Car titles will be on the April 28 programme along with a Midget Car Invitation event.

Easter actionRotorua's Paradise Valley Raceway hosts its traditional holiday weekend speedway double-header on Saturday and Sunday.

The popular Hickey Contractors Easter Extravaganza has racing for Super Stocks, Stock Cars and Modifieds on both Saturday and Sunday evening supported by Minisprints and Production Saloons on Saturday and then Saloon Cars and Youth Mini Stocks on Sunday. Racing starts 6pm both nights.

4x4 trials

Also on the Easter motorsport programme is the national final of the New Zealand 4x4 Trials Championship near Paeroa.

The sixth round hosted by the Thames Valley 4WD Club follows on from the penultimate round staged by the BOP 4WD Club near Te Puke last month.

The venue is Strange Rd, Hikutaia north of Paeroa on State Highway 26.

Busy programme

Taupo Motorsport Park has a busy Easter weekend motor race programme with 11 classes wrapping up the 2011-12 season at the final of the Independent Race Classes summer calendar. Championship titles in the Weldwell Formula First and Bridgestone Porsche Series will be decided along with GTNZ, combined GT1/GT2 classes, Super Mini, NZ Six/Holden HQs, Pro 7, Pre-65, SS2000, NZ Sport Cars and Central Muscle Car categories. Qualifying starts at 9am on Saturday. One race for each of the 11 categories starts from 1.30pm on Saturday. A 22-race programme on Sunday starts at 9am.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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