DON'T discount the Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes superstock team's chances of winning a third title in four years at New Zealand speedway's most prestigious event this weekend.
The Hawkeyes confidence levels received a timely boost a week out from the 13-team ENZED Teams Champs in Palmerston North with Saturday night's win against the Great Britain Lions at Meeanee.
"After a couple of losses earlier in the season we really wanted that win," the team's most experienced driver and hero of the night, Mike McLachlan, said afterwards.
"We can go into the Teams Champs fired up now. The boys were pumping afterwards. It was a boost to the confidence for everybody ... it showed we can still do it," McLachlan, 38, who is in his eighth year with the Hawkeyes, explained.
"We had lost a bit of faith because we didn't know if we were using the right game plans. But the boys read it pretty good tonight and it showed the depth within our squad," McLachlan said referring to the fact only he and 1NZ Jason Long, who secured the chequered flag two laps ahead of Great Britain rival Karl Hawkins, will be in the Hawkeyes line-up this weekend.
McLachlan, who is also the Hawkeyes manager, put one of the Lions rookies, Ben Riley, on his roof on the second lap of the 10-lap race. On the next lap he rolled Bobby Griffin.
"They were nice and easy gentle rollovers. We did not want to be left with too much work to do on our cars before next weekend," the modest McLachlan remarked.
Another of the Hawkeyes, Quintin Butcher, put Frankie Wainman Jnr into the wall on lap nine. The Lions took the opportunity to give Riley and Hawkins their debuts.
Experienced campaigners, Frankie Wainman Jnr and Lee Fairhurst, were both rested.
"We wouldn't under estimate Great Britain if we were to meet them in Palmy. You never under estimate any team in Palmy," McLachlan added.
His team for Palmy, which also includes Tom Stanaway, Randal Tarrant and Quinn Ryan, and their new colours will be introduced to supporters at the Hawkeyes Meeanee headquarters from 6.30pm on Thursday.
Just like the Hawkeyes, the Meeanee Maulers stockcar team members, were also in celebration mode on Saturday night after retaining the Clapperton Shield with their win against the Gisborne Gladiators. Cameron Swift did well to secure the win for the Maulers and teammate Regan Penn was second. Ben Holt was the best of the Gisborne drivers in third place.
Andre Stenson and Daniel Melling produced some well timed hits for Maulers. Stenson put a beauty on Holt and Melling took Jordan Fleetwood out.
The fact three Gladiators, Dave Glassford, Fleetwood and Tristan Johnson along with Mauler Brett Loveridge, didn't finish the race was an indication of how brutal it was. Later in the evening Loveridge rolled clubmate Bryce Cross in spectacular fashion in the second heat for the 26-strong stockcar class. Cross rolled once on the track and once on the wall.
Cross had earlier won the first heat. His clubmate Ben Milne won the second and Holt the third.
Host track driver Josh Smith won the 14-car Hawke's Bay Saloon Championship by four points after recording two wins and a second placing in his three heats. Gisborne's North Island champion Daniel Cook beat Hawke's Bay's Steven Martin in a run-off for second place. National champion and New Zealand Grand Prix champion Ethan Cook of Gisborne saw his title hopes disappear when a mechanical issue forced him out of the first heat after just two laps. Huntly's 2NZ Cam Roigard was out of contention three laps later when his car caught fire.
Hawke's Bay's three-time national solobike champion Bradley Wilson-Dean won all three heats in his five-strong class despite having a fall in his final heat. Aucklander Daniel Brett won all three heats in the three-strong junior solobike champion.
Hawke's Bay's Denton Hodgkinson was a convincing winner of all three heats in a 10-strong production saloon class.