Speedway: Two podiums at NZ saloon car champs

Tauranga speedway drivers Steve Cowling and Brent McClymont raced to podium finishes at a marathon New Zealand Saloon Car title decided early on Sunday morning in Cromwell.

In an eventful 25-lap final that started at 12.15am on Sunday and took about 40 minutes to complete - and saw only eight of the 19 starters last the distance - Cowling finished runner-up to Blenheim racer Rob Flood with McClymont recovering from heat race dramas to advance from grid 11 to third spot.

Cowling's effort came three weeks after winning his first home track feature race at Baypark while McClymont extended his unrivalled record of finishing on the podium in every one of the six New Zealand Saloon Car titles held to date.

Cowling started the main event from grid five with his younger brother Chris being the top qualifier after three heat races.

But Chris Cowling was one of several drivers to come unstuck on a heavily watered outside line, hitting the wall while leading the final on lap three.

Auckland Nigel Ross took over the lead briefly before Steve Cowling moved into the lead.

"I got into third on the first lap and then Chris backed it into the wall," said Steve Cowling.

"Then I passed Nigel Ross and I led for a while but Rob (Flood) drove around the outside of me as my car went off a little bit towards the end of the race."

Second place easily surpassed the goal the 29-year-old had set before making the journey to Central Otago.

"My first goal was to qualify and once I'd done that my next goal was top-10. So I'm really pleased to come away with 2NZ," said Cowling.

"The most difficult part was all the cautions which really broke the rhythm of the race."

McClymont finished right on Cowling's rear bumper, adding a third place to his previous two wins and three runner-up finishes in the national title.

Earlier it seemed McClymont's success streak had been ended through a bizarre incident, the steering wheel coming off in his hands during the second heat.

"It's spring loaded and came off. I ended up going down the back straight with it in one hand and trying to steer with the other but I ended up in the fence," said McClymont.

"It pretty much wiped the front end off the car - both front arms, the shocks and a wheel.

"But we got it all fixed and from grid 11 I missed the pile-ups at the start and made a few passes."

Other Baypark drivers who made determined title bids at Cromwell's Central Motor Speedway were Tirau's Michelle Wymer who qualified sixth and climbed as high as second before her run ended with collapsed front suspension and Paul Cressy (Matamata) who ran sixth early on but was sidelined by a rear puncture.

Among the eight finishers were Baypark racers Daniel Corrin (Gisborne) and Steve Muir (Tauranga) in fourth and sixth respectively - Corrin staging a comeback from grid 15 after his car caught fire. An upcoming national championship was also in the back of the mind of Mt Maunganui's Brent Emerson as he dominated Saturday night's South Pacific Super Saloon 30-lapper at Baypark Speedway.

Emerson didn't let the frustrations of a lap scoring glitch - which prevented him from emerging from the heat races as the top qualifier and then being relegated during the pole shuffle - upset his momentum.

Emerson should have finished fourth in the opening heat but he "lost" a lap somewhere within the electronics of the lap scoring system and was officially placed ninth before winning heat two.

"I was frustrated but I wasn't angry," said Emerson.

"When you get angry it's when you start making mistakes. It just made me even more determined."

After making up two starting spots in the pole shuffle shoot-out Emerson was relegated in his match-up against Waihi racer Mark Hutchins and started the main event from grid three, quickly moving into second and chasing Hutchins.

"I knew he would run up high and I was happy to follow him (Hutchins) on the bottom and wait for my car and tyres to come on," said Emerson.

"I made a few adjustments on the run (Emerson can alter the brake bias and the rear panhard bar location from the cockpit of his Lovelady Shelby Mustang) and the car felt really good."

Once into the lead Emerson was lapping half a second quicker than his rivals and built a clear advantage, eventually coming home nearly half a lap clear of Tauranga's Gavin Dyer who moved ahead of Hamilton's John Roberts in the closing laps.

Emerson will head to the NZ Super Saloon Car Champs at Woodford Glen near Christchurch on February 15-16 as one of the leading contenders.

"I have got all new panels to put on the car and we'll go through and check everything and leave nothing to chance," he said.

"The car has been working really well on slick tracks and although Woodford Glen will be different to Baypark and anything can happen, it's good to be going down there with a good starting point."

Young Whitianga racer Bodie Abrahamson achieved a clean sweep of the three saloon car races at Baypark on Saturday night leading home Neil Head and Brett Kaye in the feature race.

Mt Maunganui's Brad Tyrrell clinched another sprint car feature race win, passing Rodney Wood early in the race and vanishing into a swirling dust cloud to take a clear win. The late race excitement was provided by Tokoroa's James Dahm who completed a last lap pass on Wood for second place.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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