Mike McLachlan praised the intelligence levels within the Hawke's Bay Hawkeyes superstock team after they won the Palmerston North Teams Champs title for the third time in five years on Saturday night.
"I had to leave the team for a meeting to discuss a technical issue with officials. By the time I had returned the boys had worked out the game plan for the final. That definitely takes the pressure off me. They are so calm and collected and get along so well with each other which is why we do so well," manager and reserve driver McLachlan said after the Hawkeyes returned home today.
Although stoked with what his team of 1NZ Randal Tarrant, former 1NZ Jason Long, Thomas Stanaway, Regan O'Brien and Quinn Ryan had achieved at Speedway New Zealand's most prestigious event in front of a capacity crowd McLachlan admitted the feat hadn't fully registered.
His team, which has recorded three wins, a second and a third during the past five years, was unbeaten this weekend. On Friday night they scored two convincing wins.
The first was against the Whanganui Warriors, who missed the services of former Hawkeye Maddie Wise, who was a late withdrawal with a back injury, and the second was a 130-65 effort against the Kihi Kihi Kings. McLachlan said when Tarrant took out the Kings' Asher Rees when he was leading on the last lap to allow Long to secure the win that was a key moment in the weekend's campaign.
"But overall it was a top team effort. Everybody played their part as a team player ... everyone contributed."
On Saturday night the Hawkeyes beat the Wellington Wildcats in their semifinal and the Gisborne Giants in the final of the 14-team event which again attracted the Great Britain Lions team. McLachlan agreed the title was the perfect farewell for veteran O'Brien, 40, who will retire from racing at the end of the season.
"As I said after last year's second placing we are in good shape for the coming years at this level. We've got so many good young drivers coming through and they are all Hawke's Bay born and bred."
McLachlan pointed out shortly after Saturday night's prizegiving the Hawkeyes attention had already turned to the March 6 and 7 Auckland Teams Champs. The Hawkeyes have never won this event and will miss the services of Tarrant who has received an invite to the Battle of the Stocks in Christchurch and Stanaway may also receive one.
O'Brien, who first raced for the Hawkeyes in Palmy in 2014 and was a member of the 2017 title-winning team, was rapt with his final fling in Palmy.
"It meant more this time ... it was massive. I did all four races."
"People have said I can't retire now but that's definitely it ... there's no better way to finish."
O'Brien pointed out a torque arm on his car broke in the win against the Kings and his brand new fuel pump gave up as he crossed the finish line in the final.
Ryan replaced Stanaway for the final and secured the victory against a three-man Giants outfit who managed to secure the services of Peter Rees who was originally excluded from the final after a rule breach. However this decision was later overturned otherwise they would have had two drivers.
"They had three drivers so Jason, Randal and I held them up and this allowed Quinn to go and chase the flag," O'Brien recalled.
With Tarrant winning the New Zealand championship in Whanganui last month, solo bike rider Bradley Wilson-Dean win a fourth consecutive national title in Invercargill last month and now another Palmy Teams superstock title this season is turning out to be one of the biggest in Hawke's Bay speedway history.