Motorsport: Massive weekend for Baypark saloons

By Colin Smith

Many regular Baypark race-goers will have their attention divided this weekend watching the 30-lap South Pacific super saloon car action and awaiting news from the New Zealand saloon car champs at Cromwell.

Twelve Baypark-registered drivers will line-up at the Central Otago track for the saloon car nationals, by far the largest contingent to represent any track among the 39-strong field chasing the national title.

It's the first time the saloon car championship has been staged at a South Island track since the class gained national status six years ago.

The driver with the best record in that time has been Tauranga's Brent McClymont who has posted a remarkable sequence of first and second placings in the five previous titles.

McClymont claimed the 2009 and 2011 titles and finished runner-up in 2008, 2010 and again last year when he split the Matamata duo of Jeff Barron and Paul Cressy as Baypark racers swept the podium at Kihikihi Speedway.

Barron and Cressy are competing at Cromwell this weekend while recent form on South Island tracks has positioned Tauranga's Chris Cowling as a strong contender.

Cowling contested the DHL South Island Speedweek in November, winning two of the five rounds and taking the overall title.

Also making the journey to Cromwell are Tauranga's Kevin Moore, Steve Cowling and Steve Muir, Matamata racer Tony Heuvel, Tirau's Michelle Wymer, Tokoroa racer Chris Taylor and Gisborne-based Daniel Corrin.

Corrin won the North Island title at Auckland's Waikaraka Park in late December with Chris Cowling claiming runner-up honours.

In addition to McClymont, Baypark will be represented by another second two-time New Zealand champ (in the super saloon class) at Cromwell, although commuting between work at Mt Maunganui and living in Cromwell this summer means Shane McIntyre hasn't actually raced at his home track.

"I've still got an M on the car," says McIntyre.

McIntyre raced in Speedweek and then sold his Camaro saloon. He's arranged to drive the most recently completed of his Hypermac designs - a Corvette owned by Hawke's Bay racer Ian Mudgway - at the saloon champs and had a winning test run in the car at Gisborne last weekend.

Cromwell's Central Motor Speedway was the scene of the first of McIntyre's two NZ Super Saloon Car title victories back in the 2008-09 season.

"Cromwell is quite a different track but it shouldn't take the good guys who do lots of laps very long to figure it out," says McIntyre.

"It's got one real tight corner like Woodford Glen [in Christchurch], quite a long straight and the other straight is really a gentle bend like Stratford."

The championship begins tonight with the field split into three qualifying groups to find 20 finalists. Three heat races will decide grid positions for a one race final on Saturday.

The drivers most likely to challenge the Baypark front-runners are recently crowned South Island champ Darryl Ainsley, who is the home track favourite, Aucklander Nigel Ross and former champions Phil Towgood (Whitianga) and Steve Williams (Kumeu).

The saloon car action remains in the South Island for another week with Dunedin's Beachlands Speedway staging the NZ Grand Prix on February 8-9.

When racing resumes at Baypark on Saturday night - after a three-week break - the Super Saloon Car 30-lapper will be the main event.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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