Speedway: Victory turns Smith's bad luck

By Shane Hurndell

Within 24 hours of 2013 ticking over on Tuesday, Hawke's Bay stockcar driver Josh Smith got his New Year's wish.

"I was hoping for a change in luck and I got it ... I'm stoked," Smith said after he and Hawke's Bay Speedway Club clubmate Marty Cooke won the Best Pairs event for their class at Meeanee on Tuesday night.

Towards the end of 2012, things weren't going well for the 30-year-old father, on and off the track. He was laid off from a truck driver's job in Hastings and is still hunting for a new job.

"My share of the prizemoney [Cooke and Smith won $750 each] will come in handy at this time of year," he said.

On the track, Smith's season began with him on the receiving end of a roll after a hit from clubmate Regan O'Brien in October. His car's chassis was bent in the roll.

His next meeting was a trip to Palmerston North and he got squeezed and rolled there. At last month's Gisborne Classic, Smith's car was severely damaged while helping three clubmates, Brent Loveridge, O'Brien and Jemma Palmer, podium.

"I needed a whole new front end after that trip, so you can see why I'm so stoked with tonight ... and to win the final race tonight was the icing on the cake," Smith said, amid countless congratulatory handshakes from fellow competitors in the 10-pair event.

Smith and Cooke won the title by five points from Wanganui's Hilton Parker and Wellingtonian Tony McLaughlin. Bay's Grant Hollyman and Dana Kingsbeer, of Gisborne, were another 10 points behind in third place.

There were plenty of spectacular hits during the event. McLaughlin was shoved up the wall in the first heat by the Bay's Mike McLachlan, who continued to stir for the remainder of the night and thoroughly deserved his driver of the night award for the class and Pro Parts Driver of the Meeting award.

Heat two saw Stratford visitor Kurt Vickers rolled by McLaughlin and McLachlan turned around by Hollyman. One of the best hits in the third heat saw Hawke's Bay's Bryce Cross smash Palmerston North visitor Jared Lamb into the wall.

It was a memorable night for Hawke's Bay club members as Steven Martin claimed a three-peat of Bay saloon championship titles and Max Bayley won the 22-car Burger King Hawke's Bay Ministock Championship.

Martin beat Wellingtonian Gary Marshall in a four-lap run-off for his title after claiming two podium finishes in the heats. Martin's clubmate, Tim Towler, did well to finish third in the 14-strong class which included Wellington visitor Vic Abbott, 66.

Bayley won his first two heats and a second placing in the third heat to clubmate Trent Palamountain was enough to give him the title by three points from Palamountain. At least one Bay driver rolled or flipped in each of the three heats for the non-contact ministock class.

Benjamin Prebble rolled in the first heat, Caitlin Wiliams on the same pit gate corner in the second heat and Tarryn Jones four metres from the same place in the third heat.

Although just four Bay sidecar crews fronted, they produced close and exciting racing. Kim Johnston and Clint Durbin won the crew of the night award with two wins from three starts, including a convincing victory in heat two.

Kiwilite class stalwart Justin Power recorded an 18.16s lap time on the way to two wins and a second placing in his eight-strong class.

The Bay's Dave "The Sheriff" Brand produced some entertaining stirring and also secured a heat victory in a nine-strong streetstock class. Brand's clubmate, Darren Melling, impressed in his final rehearsal before travelling to Dunedin for this weekend's national championship.

Melling will be the sole Bay-contracted driver at the nationals but Bay-based David Hampton will attempt to retain his title.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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