Only two nights before racing for the New Zealand Championship at Auckland's Western Springs, the full-throttle commitment displayed by top sprint car drivers on Wednesday's fast and rough track at Baypark showed that being conservative has no place in high-powered world sprint car racing.
With the cars leaping though the ruts and bouncing over a big "cushion" of dirt on the high line, it was Hamilton's Dean Brindle who delivered a feature race win in a 25-lapper billed as the Baypark Sprint Car Championship.
Brindle, the 2009 New Zealand champ, moved past early leader James Dahm (Tokoroa) and in spite of a tangle with a lapped car - which saw him brush the pit straight wall and bend his right rear wheel - it was a commanding win for Brindle.
"It was rough and fast and you had to pick your lines," said Brindle. "I got it wrong a couple of times but then I kept it smooth and picked my way around the worst of the ruts.
"I ran up against the pit wall lapping a car and it bent the right rear wheel. It started to vibrate a bit but it wasn't a problem."
Brindle said the win was a confidence booster going into the New Zealand title at Western Springs this weekend.
"We didn't win a feature at all last season and this is my first win this season, although we've had plenty of seconds and thirds ...
"After a couple of average nights at Western Springs lately Baypark has been good to us [Brindle ran second to US racer Jonathan Allard at the NZ Grand Prix] so hopefully our momentum is coming at the right time."
Dahm was committed to the high line, bouncing and wheelstanding his way through the 25-lapper in spectacular style. He just managed to hold off Californian racer Peter Murphy to claim second spot.
Murphy, who ranks among the favourites for NZ title success, was making his final Baypark appearance for the summer and said the track conditions weren't ideal for his car.
"We're good on a slick track but I haven't got enough motor on a fast track," said Murphy. "I could stay with them [Brindle and Dahm] in the traffic but when things opened up it was all I could do to keep Dean in sight."
Dahm, his younger brother Keaton, Mount Maunganui's Brad Tyrrell and 2011 national champion Rodney Wood (Tauranga) are the Baypark drivers entered for the New Zealand title. at Western Springs tomorrow night.
A frustrated Wood should have been in pole position for the main event on Wednesday night but was told his lap scoring transponder hadn't worked in the opening heat. The sixth place he should have been credited with and an impressive second heat win would have him as the top qualifier but he opted out of the feature rather than start back in 14th spot.
The meeting was the second in succession at Baypark to start late after delays in preparing the racing surface. Only the sprint cars, super saloons and youth ministocks got to complete a feature race before the 10pm curfew.
Waihi's Mark Hutchins drove well under pressure from Tauranga's Gavin Dyer to win the super saloon feature and James Greenhalgh led home a massive 43-car field to win his first mini stock main event.
Baypark Speedway - results: Production Saloons: Heat 1 David Pilkington 48h; 2 Ethan Cook 76g; 3 Ryan Neave 71h. Heat 2: 1 Marcus Bullen 35h; 2 Pilkington; 3 Cook.
Heat 3: 1 Cook; 2 Bullen; 3 Neave.
Youth Mini Stocks: Heat 1: 1 Samuel Waddell 81m; 2 Aidon Decke 88m; 3 Cameron Taylor 56h. Heat 2: 1 Tyson Wright 55r; 2 Ash Henstock 87m; 3 Jason Gillon 43m. Feature: 1 Hayden Greenhalgh 8m; 2 Troy Power 65a; 3 Ben Neave 71h.
Super Saloons: Heat 1: Gavin Dyer 88m; 2 Mark Hutchins 53m; 3 Paul Carter 33m. Heat 2: 1 Hutchins; 2 Carter; 3 Jarred Fletcher 8m.
Feature: 1 Hutchins; 2 Dyer; 3 Carter.
Stock Cars: Heat 1: Karl Daniel 23m; 2 Stacey Keach 97m; 3 Eben Young 35m. Heat 2: Ian Daniel 24m; 2 Keach; 3 Paul Mabey 15r. Feature: Not held.
Sprint Cars: Baypark Championship, Heat 1: James Dahm 6m; 2 Jamie McDonald 71a; 3 Daniel Thomas 55h. Heat 2: Rodney Wood 51m; 2 Peter Murphy 11usa; 3 Greg Pickerill 18a.
Feature: 1 Dean Brindle 22a; 2 Dahm; 3 Murphy.
Saloon Cars: Heat 1: 1 Colin Dyer 89m; 2 Chris Cowling 272m; 3 Bryan Fraser 98m. Heat 2: 1 Brent McClymont 2nz; 2 Michelle Wymer 75m; 3 Jeff Barron 1nz. Feature: Not held.