Expect the Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes superstock team to be on the podium at the Palmerston North Teams Champs for the next two years at least.
That was the promise from Hawkeyes manager-driver Mike McLachlan after he returned from the most prestigious event on the Speedway New Zealand calendar this afternoon.
"Yes we were gutted to lose the final but the boys were rapt to be among the top two teams at the end of the weekend. We've been on the podium for the past seven years and with all the talent coming through we can stay there for a while yet," McLachlan, 38, said.
"I'm almost double the age of the other boys who are all keen to come back next year," McLachlan said, referring to 1NZ Jason Long, Tom Stanaway, Randal Tarrant and Quinn Ryan.
"I couldn't have asked for more from these boys. Randal [Tarrant] was outstanding and Quinn [Ryan] made his debut at this level and had a nice calm head. Add the likes of our manager [Regan O'Brien] and our sixth driver [Quintin Butcher] and we've got a special crew.
"Then there are all our sponsors and our huge fan base who were all down there in force again ... I can't thank everyone enough," McLachlan said.
He pointed out the team will let the dust settle on the weekend before meeting to decide on how they approach the Auckland Teams Champs later this month.
That event may be an opportunity for other members of the squad including Butcher, Adam Groome and Maddie Wise to get track time.
The weekend's second placing to the Canterbury Glen Eagles followed a third last year and back-to-back wins in 2016 and '17.
"The boys were pumped for the final but it didn't go to plan. We lost two cars and that cost us," McLachlan said.
Canterbury deserved their first title with a comfortable win in the final of the 13-team event which was again staged in front of a capacity crowd.
The Hawkeyes suffered an early blow when Tarrant collected damage and another when McLachlan's misfiring tank was walled by Cantab Harley Robb.
Asher Rees secured the title for Canterbury and Long and Ryan were the best of the Hawkeyes in the final finishing second and third respectively. Other members of the Canterbury team were Malcolm Ngatai, Jayden Ward and Lloyd Jennings.
"I gave up thinking we could win it quite a while ago," an emotional Ngatai told media after the final.
"That was until these two rascals from Palmerston North turned up," he said referring to former Manawatu Mustangs driver Ward and Palmerston North Panthers driver Rees, who shifted to Christchurch in the off season for work.
The Hawkeyes' 140-25 semifinal win over the Gisborne Giants was a brutal encounter. Long destroyed Peter Rees in the opening turn.
Hawkeye Tom Stanaway was launched high into the safety fence at the end of the pit straight at pace by Ethan Rees in the hit of the night. The immediate aftermath saw Long nail Ethan Rees with a damaging blow.
Giant Nick Vallance had his wheelguard removed by Tarrant while he was leading. This enabled Ryan and Tarrant to finish first and second respectively but the Hawkeyes had plenty of damage to repair before the final while the Glen Eagles had five fit cars after their 135-60 win against the defending champions, the Palmerston North Panthers, in their semifinal.
The Hawkeyes were the top qualifiers by 15 points on Saturday night after convincing wins, 150-45 against the Whanganui Warriors and 175-20 against the Waikato Wanderers.
Tarrant rolled Wanderer Dave Moore on the first turn and the Waikato lads struggled to recover. Ryan celebrated his debut by securing the win in a Bay trifecta which also included Long and Stanaway.
The ninth and final round in the Burger King Pro Dirt Super Saloon Series was also raced on Sunday night. Series winner Chris Cowling of Mount Maunganui won the 25-lap final.
Another Bay Park-contracted driver, Sam Waddell, was second and Hawke's Bay's two-time national champion Steve Flynn third.