Hawke's Bay stockcar driver Randal Tarrant had every right to be feeling a little apprehensive when he turned up for the provincial championship at Meeanee on Saturday night.
A week earlier his Bay clubmate and one of the hardest hitters in the class, Mike McLachlan, had warned Tarrant he would do everything possible to prevent him from winning the title.
However, McLachlan or "Mr Speedway", as he is better known because of his passion for the sport, was a late withdrawal.
"Mike hadn't recovered from his sore back collected when racing for the Hawkeyes at the Superstock Teams Champs in Palmy last weekend, and that proved to be a lucky omen for me tonight," Tarrant said before the prizegiving for the 17-car championship.
Tarrant, 19, became the youngest driver to win the championship when his first placing and two seconds in Saturday night's three heats saw him beat Bay clubmate Grant Hollyman by four points in the battle for the title. What made the win more of a feat was the fact he didn't require any assistance from his father Beatle.
"It was an awesome night. The track was good and it was neat to win in front of a good crowd," Tarrant said referring to the 3000-strong crowd.
An apprentice mechanic with Ruataniwha Automotive in Waipawa, Tarrant was looking forward to giving his boss and major sponsor Ross Hatfull a positive report on the night's racing at morning smoko today. He hopes his luck continues when he travels to major meetings in Rotorua and Auckland during the coming month.
Defending champion Tony Palmer of the host club won the first heat and did well to finish third in the championship after completing most of the third heat with a puncture on his right wheel. As expected, there was plenty of hard hits for the fans and just eight of the 17 starters were left in the third heat after seven of the 15 laps were completed.
Experienced Meeanee Mauler Marty Cooke and fellow Bay driver Joshua Smith were both shoved up the wall during this heat.
Classy Rotorua driver David Elsworth retained his Under-25 Superstocks Grand Nationals title. Elsworth, 22, recorded first, second and third placings in his three heats of the 14-car event to capture the first prize of $1500.
Last year, Elsworth won the East Coast Championship in his next outing at Meeanee after the Grand Nationals.
When asked if he could complete the double again, Elsworth replied: "That's the aim and this season I'll be coming here for the Autumn Nationals too.
"I think I've only ever had one bad meeting here. Other than that I've always been on the podium. Tri-rails like mine love this track."
An agricultural contractor, Elsworth, intends to put his prizemoney into his travelling fund. He beat Palmerston North's Chad Ace by one point and 3NZ Thomas Stanaway was a further two points back in third place.
A last minute entry, Zac Lawrence, did the best of the Hawke's Bay starters with an eighth placing.
Lawrence drover Michael Peryer's car and this was his first taste of racing in this class.
One of the Bay's best hopes pre meeting, Quinn Ryan, did well to finish fifth in the first heat off grid 11 but two DNFs put him out of the prize money.