The sun shone down on Fast Lane Spares Oceanview Family Speedway last Sunday afternoon as racing resumed for the second half of the racing season.
The pits overflowed into the top carpark as racers poured into Oceanview to contest the 2021-22 Oceanview 5000.
With nearly 120 young drivers competing for spots in the 26-car fields for the 16-and-under and 14-and-under divisions, qualifying was always going to be a challenge.
And with racing under way in the hottest part of a very warm day, keeping the track damp proved a consistent challenge, with the water truck turning innumerable laps between races.
Once qualifying had been completed, the intensity of the racing stepped up a notch but, as afternoon turned into evening, the track settled and the finalists had an excellent racing surface.
Ethan Whittaker (88H) took out the opening heat of the Phil Carey Concreting U14 division, finishing ahead of Rotorua teammates George Crawford (971R), Cohen Wright (88R) and Byron Brown Dixon (913R), Thomas Davis (7W) and Regan Ogle (46V).
Ogle took out heat two with a comfortable win over Lucas Symes (274S), Levi Jones (717H), Seth Ireland (42B), Davis and Wright.
After two heats Ogle had a two-point lead over Wright and Whittaker, with Davis and Symes a further one and three points behind respectively.
Ogle's chance of a championship lasted less than two laps as he and Ben Tulloch (65V) came together on the back straight, with Ogle spinning backwards into the wall.
That was all Wright needed as he raced away to win the heat and the title, while Whittaker battled to get a run from mid-pack.
A fourth place in the final heat was enough to give Davis second place overall, a reward for his consistency with three top-five finishes.
Crawford and Whittaker tied for third and went to a run-off, with Crawford taking the final place on the podium.
Tasman Bryson (42R) took out the opening heat of the Tableau Trailers 21 U16 division, heading home Cam Houston (94B), Flynn Ashton (23R), Keegan Bunce (81B), Brayden Shaw (71S) and Harry Hocking (47W).
With the grid changes, the evenness of the field was shown in heat two, with a completely different top six.
Rynan Dittmer (14B) took the win ahead of Zac Ingram (116A), Trent James (56V), Kayden Barker (11H), Jack Cunningham (11R) and Asha Penn (55B), with Bunce and Bryson the next finishers.
Bryson took a one-point lead into the final heat, with Ingram, Bunce and Dittmer all within striking distance going into the 15-lap final.
Hunter de Ridder (88P) took out the final heat ahead of Kacy Wade (85H), with Ingram, James, Barker and Penn following in quick succession.
Bunce and Bryson both started the final heat back in the pack, and neither was able to make a run forward.
That gave Ingram the victory by nine points, with James, Penn and Dittmer tied in second place.
A run-off was held to separate the three young drivers and although James crossed the line first, he was relegated by Speedway NZ officials, leaving Penn in second place overall and Dittmer in third.
James made amends in the Youth Interclub Challenge, winning the race between two representatives from each club at the event.
However, the consistency of Rotorua drivers Bryson and Wright, who finished third and fourth respectively, was enough for them to take the Darryl Taylor Trophy.
The saloons made a welcome return to Oceanview after a long absence with Danielle Halcrow (124P) her father, Martin Halcrow (242P), and Blake Hooper (12S) taking a win apiece.
The level to which the track had recovered was shown as Hooper set a new lap record for the class with a 16.164 lap in the final race.
Jayden Ward (971C) turned up with his new superstock to get some track time, and the car showed its potential with two wins.
In the final superstock race, Ward and Cody Ogle (13S) had a running battle as Ogle's father Phil (282S) took out the win.
In the stockcars, wins were shared between Cody Lockett (99V), Kaelin Mooney (26V) and Nathan Black (67V).
For Black, it was his first race victory in 15 years of racing.
And so a long, hot day drew to a close, a meeting with one of the largest competitor attendances ever at Oceanview Family Speedway, and a day when the Wanganui Stockcar and Speedway Club volunteers who run the facility put in a massive shift.
Racing continues on Sunday at 6pm with the running of the West Coast Stockcars and the West Coast Production Saloons.