Hawke's Bay superstock driver Jason Long last night declined to elaborate on the issues which saw him leave the Hawkeyes camp to race for Gisborne at the ENZED Teams Champs in Palmerston North on February 3 and 4.
A key member of the Hawkeyes team which won the most prestigious event on the Speedway New Zealand calendar in 2016 and last year, Long, said there were a few issues earlier in the campaign.
"I wasn't happy with the way a few things were handled so I decided I wasn't going to race for Hawke's Bay. Gisborne had only four cars so their crew welcomed me with open arms.
There was no way I was going to miss the event and ideally I would love to be racing for Hawke's Bay but I am not able to."
"Dad owns the car and was part of the decision. It was one of the hardest decisions for him in more than 35 years involved in the sport," Long said, referring to his father Murray who raced for the Hawkeyes for 20 years and in 52 races at the Palmy event before announcing his retirement in 2015.
"I've got nothing against the other drivers or Mike [Hawkeyes new manager Mike McLachlan] ... we're all good mates. I haven't ruled out a return to the Hawkeyes in the future if we can work things out."
When quizzed what his reaction would be if the Hawkeyes drew Gisborne when the section draw is made next week Long replied: "That would be awesome. If I can't race with my mates it would be good to race against them."
A Magpies rugby player who won the inaugural People's Choice award at the 2016 Hawke's Bay Sports Awards function, Long, said people have asked him if this decision means he will be playing for Poverty Bay instead of the Magpies this year but he will remain with the Magpies.
McLachlan said he understood Long's reasons for wanting a change this season as other Hawkeyes have done in the past.
Always the entertainer, McLachlan, a proud Taradale premier rugby player who often plays against Long, suggested one could say it's because Long plays for Hastings Rugby and Sports that he made himself unavailable.
"It was bad enough to have a Texan in the team [Regan O'Brien] let alone a Hastings player," McLachlan quipped.