It's fair to say Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes superstock team driver Clayton Hagen is a little under done going into tonight's race against Great Britain at Meeanee.
It will only be Hagen's second teams race for the Hawkeyes and the second-season driver has only done two meetings this season. Tonight's meeting will be his first in three months.
"I had a bout of pneumonia in November and that put me out of action for a while," Hagen recalled.
"But the advantage of that is that I haven't had to do much to my car and I'm hungry for action."
Like logging contractor Hagen, Matthew Titter will also be having his second race for the Hawkeyes who will host the British Lions on home soil for the first time. They join the experienced trio of 1NZ Jason Long, Mike McLachlan and Quintin Butcher in the team in what will be the final outing for both teams before the Palmerston North Teams Champs next weekend.
"The boys haven't had a win this season yet so hopefully we can turn that around," Hagen said.
In his only previous outing for the Hawkeyes father of five Hagen, 34, helped the Hawkeyes beat the Bay Park Busters in Mount Maunganui in April last year. He knows if he can produce the goods tonight it will enhance his long-term goal of racing for the Hawkeyes at the Palmy Teams Champs in the not so distant future.
"When I was a kid living in Ormondville Mum and Dad [Bronwyn and Robbie] used to take us to the Teams Champs every year. I definitely want to go there and race one day but I might be waiting for a while because there is so much depth in the Hawkeyes squad but in the meantime I will keep learning from the best," Hagen said.
"I've seen Great Britain beat our drivers in the past and I've seen them get dealt to. They've got a strong team this year."
Like many Hawkeyes supporters, Hagen, is unsure what to expect from the Lions team of Bobby Griffin, Frankie JJ Wainman, Ben Riley and Karl Hawkins tonight.
"It could be a pretty tame race as the Lions may not want to wreck their cars before Palmy. We'll just have to be prepared for whatever they bring."
What will Hagen bring to the historic occasion?
"I haven't done much blocking but I want to get amongst it. I could be used as an attacking blocker but at the same time I've got a fast car so my versatility will come in handy," Hagen said tapping his Chev-powered car.
He heaped kudos on retired Hawkeyes captain Steve Jude for the work he has put into him.
"Steve has helped me out heaps."
Hagen gained plenty of experience out of a South Island tour last season but considers a victory in a second tier race at last season's national championship as the highlight of his career.
It's obvious speedway is his No 1 sport these days.
"I used to be into big game fishing but I sold the boat. I enjoy the family aspect of speedway. My wife Shelley is my No 1 fan and the kids can't wait to get into ministocks but I've told them I want to have my fun first," former Karamu High School and Haumoana School student Hagen explained.
"The likes of Shelley and my sponsors, Hawke's Bay Heavy Haulage and Fuchs Oil, all contribute. I couldn't race without them," Hagen added before completing final checks on his car.
Two of tonight's Hawkeyes team, 1NZ Jason Long and Mike McLachlan, will race for the team next weekend. Other members of the team for Palmy are Tom Stanaway, Randal Tarrant and Quinn Ryan.
McLachlan, who is also the Hawkeyes manager, is rapt his team get to host Great Britain a week out from the biggest event on the New Zealand Speedway calendar.
"Great Britain used to go to Auckland before Palmy but I think it was getting a bit expensive for them to take their cars to Auckland and back to Palmy. So we've got an international fixture on home turf against the team we beat when we went back to back in Palmy in 2016 and '17," McLachlan said.
When asked how hard his team will race tonight with Palmy in mind McLachlan replied: "We'll take it as it comes. If the British bring the big hits then we will give them back. I know they've got some new drivers who they want to give track time before Palmy so there may be some gentlemen's agreements.
"I remember our recent wins against Great Britain. They took us right to the edge. They're not gun shy and they put in the mahi [work]," McLachlan added.
Tonight's other feature event will be a stockcar teams race between the Meeanee Maulers and Gisborne Gladiators for the Clapperton Shield. The Maulers team is Brett Loveridge, Andre Stenson, Cameron Swift, Regan Penn and Daniel Melling.
Maulers manager Andrew Powell has as much depth in his squad as Hawkeyes manager McLachlan has in his. Powell is expected to finalise his team for next month's Stratford-hosted nationals tomorrow.
The Hawke's Bay saloon championship will also be staged and production saloons and solobikes will also be in action tonight.