A DNF courtesy of a crash and a blown motor in his first two heats didn't stop Hawke's Bay karter Maddie Wise from winning his class at the weekend's 50th annual Blossom Meeting in Hastings.
"It was as if I hadn't been away," the five-time national champion said as he reflected on his Yamaha Heavy class title win at the most annual prestigious meeting staged by KartSport Hawke's Bay at their Roy's Hill track.
After his two initial setbacks and with his back-up engine Wise finished the weekend with six wins and the most points of all the Yamaha class competitors. It was the five-time national champion's first meeting in 3-1/2 years.
"A lot of people left the class and it was taken out of the nationals. But it looks like it could be back in at the Easter nationals so I could be racing regularly again," Wise explained.
Despite having a rear grid draw, Wise stormed home for a sixth placing in the 14-lap Yamaha GP, the best of the Yamaha Heavy class drivers.
"I was 12kg heavier than the top Yamaha Lights drivers and I wasn't far behind them with lap times. I think I surprised a few as I hadn't had any practice drives," Wise, 21, said.
For the past three years he has raced superstocks and last summer was in the Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes team. He had little trouble reverting to non-contact racing.
"There were a few occasions when I was tempted to give drivers in front of me a nudge to get them out of the way like I would at speedway. But I opted to keep the peace," Wise quipped.
International competitor Tom Bewley and Clubsport 120 class driver Willie Pearson were the other Bay starters to win titles.
Te Mata School pupil Bewley won the Vortex Mini Rok class by six points.
Hawke's Bay's sole competitor in the Cadet Rok class and the youngest Bay driver at the meeting, 7-year-old Puketapu School pupil Grayson Stowe, finished sixth in his class, which was won by Marlborough's Arthur Brougham. Stowe was third in the 10-lap GP for his class, his best result for the weekend.
Jamie Van den Berk did the best of the four host track drivers in the Junior Rotax class which was the biggest of the weekend with 22 starters.
Van den Berk was seventh, Dylan Anderson 14th, Stuart Baker 15th and Jack Halpin 17th. Marlborough's William Exton won the class.
Hawke's Bay's Matt Saunders was ninth in the Clubsport 120 class.
Hawke's Bay's Shaun Hibbs did well to finish second in the Clubsport Briggs LO206 class after destroying his chassis early on Saturday.
Hibbs raced the rest of the meeting in an unfamiliar KartSport Hawke's Bay "Have a Go" chassis.
Manawatu's Michael McCulloch won the Rotax Light class. The Bay trio of Zac Stichbury, Jacob Smith and James Aston were second, 11th and 12th respectively.
Aucklander Graeme Smyth won the open class in which Hawke's Bay club stalwart Stuart Sowersby was eighth.
Racing a KZ2, Smyth, was almost out of fuel as he won the feature event, the Giesen Classic Cuvee-sponsored 50-lap Senior Grand Prix which had more than $1500 worth of prize money up for grabs.
Smyth was one of 17 starters in the event. Stichbury and Smith were sixth and seventh respectively in their Rotax Light class karts.
Bewley also finished third in the 10-lap GP for his class. Van den Berk was second with a storming drive in the Junior Rotax 10-lap GP.
KartSport Hawke's Bay vice-president Alan McNicol said the meeting attracted 103 drivers from Dunedin in the south to Whangarei.
In addition 45 vintage karters raced in exhibition events.
"There was only one race on wet tyres first thing Sunday morning. The rest were completed in brilliant Hawke's Bay spring weather sunshine."