LIKE many rugby front rowers Brett Loveridge is a man of few words.
The prop for 2011 Hawke's Bay development grade champions Hastings Rugby and Sports prefers to let his on-field actions do the talking. Loveridge, 20, adopts the same approach with his stockcar driving.
His displays as a rookie with the Meeanee Maulers team this summer have certainly got the fans talking. One of his biggest fans is long-time Maulers manager Greg Zachan who has predicted Loveridge will be a big asset to the team.
"His enthusiasm is contagious and he will do whatever he is told," Zachan said.
Loveridge, who has raced in the Bay for the past two seasons after moving from Huntly, where he raced ministocks for four seasons, has retained his berth in the Maulers for the prestigious third annual Peter Barry Memorial Teams event which will be raced at ZM Meeanee Speedway tonight and tomorrow night. It wasn't a surprise considering his form for the Maulers in four outings this season.
"I would rather do the hitting but I will do whatever needs to be done," Loveridge said.
The Maulers have yet to win the Peter Barry Memorial event which is raced in memory of Central Hawke's Bay businessman Peter Barry who died in 2009 following a speedway accident in Palmerston North. Loveridge is confident the team, which also includes 3NZ Regan O'Brien, Aaron Iremonger, Marty Cooke, Beatle Tarrant and Jeff Hart, has a good chance this weekend if they all work together.
He pointed out the Maulers are eager to redeem themselves after a tame loss to the Gisborne Gladiators a fortnight ago.
"We had a new team then and a couple of our cars developed engine trouble right before the race started," Loveridge explained.
The Maulers will take on the Gisborne Gladiators in their first qualifying heat tonight then the Stratford Stormers. Loveridge lives with experienced Bay driver Tony "Shiny" Palmer, who will race for the Gladiators.
Loveridge has two of the better mentors in Palmer and his boss at Ansin and Monteith where he works as an auto-electrician, long-time Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes superstock driver Murray Long. The driver of a V6 Holden-powered car gained plenty of confidence out of being the top Hawke's Bay car in his group at the North Island championships in Gisborne last weekend.
Last year, Loveridge produced one of the best hits in the Peter Barry Memorial event when racing for the Bay's Orange Roughies, leaving Wanganui's Dion Mooney hanging in the safety fence.
"We didn't qualify for the second night and I ended up racing for Wanganui as they were short of drivers and cars," Loveridge recalled.
He admits there is a bit of pressure in the countdown to tonight's racing. "I want to do the job and not let the team down."
The Maulers will be one of two Hawke's Bay teams in the 11-team event. The Orange Roughies' line-up will be Matt Gautrey, Randal Tarrant, Mike Smith, Nick Powell, Bryce Cross and Keith Hingston.
Joining the Gisborne Gladiators as the visiting teams will be defending champions Palmerston North Pumas, Wanganui Vulcans, Stratford Stormers, Eastern State Titans, Kihi Kihi Crusaders, Auckland Alleycats, Wellington Young Guns and the Manawatu Steelers.
In addition to the Peter Barry Memorial Teams event for stockcars, the Alexander Electric New Zealand TQ Championship will also be raced tonight and tomorrow night. Seven Hawke's Bay drivers will be among the 30 starters including defending champion Craig Todd and his cousin Duane Todd who finished second at last year's nationals in Nelson.
It will be a major surprise if both of these drivers don't end up on the podium tomorrow night. Hawke's Bay's James Tollison will be eager to complete both nights of racing after a cam chain problem forced him to withdraw before the first heat was completed in the Meeanee-hosted North Island championships back in December.
Other Bay starters will be Paul Ludeman, Colin Matthews, Phillip Plummer and David Wilson.