Last summer the Burger King Pro Dirt Super Saloon Car Series was decided in the last race of the last round at Palmerston North.
The narrow winner of the touring speedway series was Tauranga's Chris Cowling, and he is expecting just as much intensity when the dirt flies at the 2019-20 series opener at Mount Maunganui's Baypark Speedway tomorrow night.
"Last year was exciting and it came down to the last race at the last round between Sam [Waddell] and I. Whoever finished in front won the series," Cowling said.
"With so many good cars and drivers the level of competition is really high and it wouldn't be a surprise to see something just as close this season."
Cowling isn't picking any favourites for the title which has 24 contracted drivers racing in a seven round series.
"You never know who is going to be running up front on any night, especially this early in the season when there have been a couple of rainouts and we haven't done much racing yet," he said.
Speedway's super saloon car class has prospered in recent years with an influx of new drivers.
"I think the Pro Dirt series is one of the reasons for that. It has improved the level of competition and the standard of driving," Cowling said.
"A lot of tracks have four or five really good cars but the series has 20-plus top cars racing on different tracks and surfaces. When you're racing regularly in a situation like that, everyone moves forward."
The Pro Dirt Series will take the wide-tyred, 700-800 horsepower methanol-fuelled super saloons to seven venues over the next 11 weeks. Baypark provides a belated opening to the series after the first round at Upper Hutt's Te Marua Speedway was rained out .
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It's the 12th season for the touring series and its eighth running with Burger King title sponsorship. Cowling's success was his second Pro Dirt title after winning the 2015-16 series.
Young gun third generation racer was second last year, and behind the BOP duo, the top-five was completed by Napier's Steve Flynn, national champion Steve Cowling (Tauranga) and Christchurch racer Mark Osborne.
In recent years Osborne has been the most successful Pro Dirt driver winning the title three times in four years from 2014 to 2017. Osborne is expected to make a later start to his 2019-20 campaign while his team completes the build of a new car.
Series co-ordinator Grant Flynn said he's expecting 24 contracted cars for the Baypark series opener with several local drivers joining the field as well. The format sees drivers race through time trials, heat races and either the Lucas Oil pole shuffle shootout or a last chance B-Main to decide grid positions for the feature race.
Along with race dates at Gisborne, Wellington, Napier and Auckland's Waikaraka Park the series will make its first South Island appearance with a January 18 date at Woodford Glen near Christchurch.
The now traditional finale is the second night of the Super Stock Teams Champs in Palmerston North on February 8.
2019-20 Burger King Pro Dirt
Super Saloon Car Series
November 16— Te Marua, Wellington (postponed, new date TBA)
November 30—Baypark, Mountt Maunganui
December 27—Meeanee, Napier
January 18—Woodford Glen, Christchurch
February 1—Waikaraka Park, Auckland
February 8— Palmerston North