EMOTIONS ran high for Wanganui motor racer Bob Smith at the weekend when he nailed his first ever national title.
The usually laid back character had good reason to let the emotions run - not only had he chalked up his first national title, but it came at Manfeild on his 64th birthday on Saturday and some 46 years after he began racing.
The national title was the NZ Mazda Pro RX7 competition and he went into the final round in his ASR Spraypainting-sponsored machine in second spot, 15 points behind the leader, South Island 23-year-old Daniel Taylor.
"I had resigned myself to finishing second, but I was the top qualifier and gained pole position.
"I managed to claw back the points after the first race before getting shunted in the side and spinning out to finish sixth in the second race, allowing Daniel to take the lead again," Smith said yesterday.
"I didn't really have a plan in the final race, but we both jumped the gun and were given a 10 second penalty.
I overtook him on the first corner and then stacked them up behind me. Coming up to the final laps I gunned it and left him a bit flat footed with traffic up his rear end.
"He left it too late and a couple of guys passed him, so with his 10 second penalty I managed to hold on for the win, although only by .2 of a second."
Smith is just the fifth North Islander to win the national title, traditionally hogged by South Island drivers.
He is the oldest competitor to win the title and is set to make even more history if he wins the North Island title as well.
"I'm leading the North Island series by a country mile and have won every round so far. There are six rounds in the North Island championship and I have just two more to go. If I can hold on I will be the first ever to hold both titles in the same season."
Smith began racing as an 18-year-old and has become somewhat of a legend in speedway and track racing over the years, racing stockcars, superstocks, super modifieds, sidecars, transam V8s and saloon cars.
"I've been third twice in national stockcar series and won a few North Islands, so this one is special. It's taken me 20 years to win this because the RX7 series has only been going that long. I'm a life member of the New Zealand RX7 Association - it was quite an emotional day on Saturday," Smith said.
Smith has won the first four rounds of the North Island series run at taupo, Manfeild, Hampton Downs and Manfeild again last weekend. His next outing will be Manfeild on February 23 with the final round scheduled for Taupo at Easter Weekend.