Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes superstock team manager Mike McLachlan was quick to thank his side's doubters in the wake of their third placing at Speedway New Zealand's glamour event at the weekend.
"I want to thank all those keyboard warriors who doubted us and said we wouldn't qualify for the second night. That sort of talk had the boys humming before we got there ... it was good to prove them wrong and by the end of the weekend we had the two fingers up at them," McLachlan said as he reflected on the Hawkeyes third placing at the 14-team ENZED Teams Champs in Palmerston North.
His new-look team of rookies Maddie Wise and Randal Tarrant, Regan O'Brien, Quintin Butcher and Adam Groome beat the Whanganui Warriors 150-45 and the Waikato Wanderers by the same score on Saturday night. In front of a crowd of 18,000 on Sunday night the Hawkeyes were beaten 155-40 by a Gisborne Giants team which included former Hawkeye Jason Long before they recovered to beat the Stratford Scrappers in the first across the line battle for third place.
"I'm absolutely stoked. I couldn't have asked for anything more from the team," McLachlan said.
Wise and Tarrant had memorable debuts in the victory against the Warriors. Wise put some spectacular hits on Dion Mooney and Shaun Pearson and Tarrant secured the victory as the Warriors struggled to match the pace and aggression of the 2016 and '17 champions.
"I told you Maddie would be the one to watch. He probably went a bit too hard in that first race but he put his name on teams racing," McLachlan said.
Wise, 20, said he hoped he did enough during the weekend to become a regular Hawkeye.
"I snapped my steering in that first race which put me out of the second. I learnt you don't have to go so hard if you don't have to. The key to this stuff is driving smart and working together as a team."
"I had a lot of faith in Randal. I had raced with him and coached him in the Meeanee Maulers stockcar team." McLachlan recalled.
"Randal has got the brains ... he was born to teams race."
Groome, who was making his fourth appearance at the event for the Hawkeyes, secured the win against the Wanderers.
"That was the best I had seen Adam race ... he played smart," McLachlan said.
O'Brien, the oldest of the team at 38, was also making his fourth appearance with the Hawkeyes. He impressed with his leadership and blocking.
Butcher, 34, who was making his fifth appearance with the Hawkeyes, delivered the mongrel he promised he would.
Long secured the win for the Giants in their semifinal against the Hawkeyes. Tarrant, 24, was first across the line against the Scrappers, a race where O'Brien's superior blocking ability proved the difference.
Long's team was beaten in a brutal final against the Palmerston North Panthers. McLachlan said Long raced well against his former team and congratulated him for what he achieved with the second placed team.
The Panthers beat Great Britain in their semifinal.
"Claire [McLachlan's co-manager and partner] and I were very proud of our team. We travelled down with a lot of confidence because of the vibe we got soon after the team was named."
McLachlan heaped kudos on all 18 of the team's sponsors as well as the crews for each of the five cars.
"People don't realise for each of our cars there were at least four to five guys working hard behind the scenes so that car would be ready to race again. Add to them all of the wives and partners and children and a hell of a lot of people made a lot of sacrifices so we could achieve that third placing."
The Hawkeyes next outing will be the Auckland Teams Nationals on March 3 and 4.
McLachlan said he will have a meeting with his troops next week before finalising his team for that trip.
"There are plenty of sore bodies as well as damaged cars. However I do know all of the boys will be available for Palmy next year."