Auckland side car rider Kenny Hammill reckoned his and swinger Daniel Bradley's New Zealand Grand Prix title won at Meeanee on Saturday night was one for the underdogs.
"That was only our fifth or sixth meeting for the season. We would love to do more but I don't have the time or money," Hammill said after the 20-crew 007 Paintball-sponsored event.
A 43-year-old agriculture mechanic, Hammill, and 30-year-old plumber Bradley are only in their second season racing together and this was only their second meeting together at Meeanee.
They recorded three firsts and two second placings in their five heats for the top 16 qualifiers to win the title by one point. They went into their final heat second equal on points with the Palmerston North-contracted two-time national champions Russell Stuart of Hawke's Bay and Andrew Parker and one point behind then-leaders and the best of the host-track crews Justin Lincoln and George Olsen.
Hammill and Bradley won the heat. Lincoln and Olsen and Stuart and Parker were in the same race and finished third and fourth respectively. Lincoln and Olsen ended up in a three-crew run off for second place with Aucklanders Peter Adams and Jason Hira and Palmerston North's Rob Miller and Red George.
Mechanical issues forced Miller and George out at the start and Adams and Hira triumphed in the run off. Lincoln and Olsen did well to make the podium and with three wins, a second and a fourth in their five heats for the top 16 qualifiers deserved to be there.
As Hamill said afterwards:
"It was an exceptional field in which everyone was on the same level. The title could have been anybody's and we were just lucky. There was some really good racing ... we went for the points and it paid off."
Experienced Hawke's Bay rider Craig Boaler lost his first-season swinger Brittany Wealleans to a hand injury in first top 16 heat and raced with Ann Plummer as his passenger in the next four and they finished four points off the podium.
Hawke's Bay's Duane Todd won the Dusty Rhodes Memorial Trophy TQ title when he won the 10-lap final of the 12-car event from grid two. Fellow Hawke's Bay driver Tony Meechan was second and Gisborne's Ryan MacGregor third.
Two-time national champion Todd had earlier won one of the qualifying heats and finished second in the other.
Meeanee's four-time national solo bike champion Bradley Wilson-Dean won the six-bike Hawke's Bay championship for his class. Fellow former winner of the title, Palmerston North's Jason McKay, was second and Palmerston North-contracted Nathan Murray, an 11-time Auckland champion who is racing after a five-year spell, was third.
United Kingdom-based professional Wilson-Dean started his races at the back of the field and displayed his class by getting to the front early apart from in the third qualifying heat which he didn't finish after his bike collected same damage. Wilson-Dean also broke his own track lap record for the Bullring with a time of 49.55s.
His previous record was 52.31s.
One of Wilson-Dean's hosts when he is in Britain, Bruce Cribb, a 73-year-old retired solo bike rider and ice speedway rider impressed with his exhibition laps on a 500 cc-powered Jawa ice speedway bike. On his second outing he hit the concrete kerb of the Bullring and split his knee open on the spikes on his front wheel.
The injury required five stitches. They will be removed in 10 days and he will still be able to continue his nationwide tour which will involve exhibition rides at another five venues.
Meanwhile Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes superstock driver Jason Long finished second at the World 240s meeting in Rotorua on Saturday night. Wellingtonian Keegan Levien won the meeting and Long beat Gisborne's Nick Vallance in a run off for second.
Had Magpies rugby prop Long won the title he would have completed the Grand Slam for his class as he already has the 1NZ, North Island and New Zealand Grand Prix titles on his speedway CV.