The first Speedway New Zealand superstock championship of the 2023-24 season is all set to go this weekend right here in Whanganui.
The Sharp As Linehaul Limited New Zealand Superstock Grand Prix will provide two nights of action-packed racing at Fast Lane Spares Oceanview Family Speedway.
Around 60 of New Zealand’s best cars and drivers have entered the Grand Prix and, although the list is a little smaller than expected, the quality of the field is outstanding.
No fewer than 16 Whanganui drivers have entered the Grand Prix in a sign of the strength of the class at Oceanview Speedway.
Qualifying heats will be held on Friday night, with entrants having been drawn into one of four groups.
The top six points scorers from each group over three heats will qualify directly for the 26-car field to contest the Grand Prix title over three 15-lap races on Saturday night.
A repechage early in Saturday’s programme will provide the final two qualifiers.
As usually happens when the groups are drawn, there’s a “Group of Death” and this year it’s Group A which features current 1NZ Asher Rees, his father Peter and the ever-competitive Scott Joblin, both former New Zealand superstock champions.
Add in former New Zealand stockcar champions Jayden Ward, the sole South Island entrant, and the evergreen Dale Robertson, Hawke’s Bay flyer Quinn Ryan and locals Max Holloway and Dylan Marshall, both of whom have been in fine early season form, and the competition in Group A will be intense.
Group B features one of the top local hopes Kaelin Mooney, with father Dion also in the group driving Mason James’ car, as well as the hugely promising Trent James in his new 56V Sharp As car.
They will face tough competition from the likes of current 2NZ Josh Prentice, Chad Ace, Brent Hislop, Stefan Roigard and Kylee Symes from Stratford.
Two former New Zealand champions head Group C - William Humphries and Randal Tarrant, who won his title at Oceanview in January 2020.
The Levien brothers, Keegan and Ethan, are always at the sharp end of the field and up-and-comers like Jacob Buckrell and Matt Picard will put on a good show, while local hopes will rest with Mark Johnston and Shaun Smith who debuted a brand-new Rees car last week and was on the pace right away.
Veteran Wayne Hemi, a former New Zealand superstocks and Grand Prix champion, is the standout entrant in Group D but he will be pushed hard by the likes of Brett Loveridge, Michael Rumney and Hamish Booker.
The locals are well represented in this group with former stockcar champion Gerry Linklater and current Warriors captain Zane Dykstra looking strong, while Scott Duncan is starting to find consistency in his reconfigured car.
This is the fourth time Whanganui has hosted the Grand Prix.
Evan Mooney won the title in the 1983-84 season at Oceanview Speedway, while Kerry O’Connor won at the local track in the 1995-96 season.
Hemi won the Grand Prix title at Oceanview the last time it was held here in an event that will be forever remembered for Peter Rees rolling Dale Robertson in spectacular fashion in the run-off for second and third.
The other Whanganui driver to taste Grand Prix success was the late Keith Turner who shared the title with Hawke’s Bay’s Tony Warner in 1979-80.
A big field of stockcars has entered as the main support class on both Friday and Saturday, and the ever-popular classic stockcars will also be on hand both nights.
Included in the ranks of the classics is “The General” Dave Evans, Grand Prix champion in 1985-86 and a two-time New Zealand champion.
On Saturday night an invitation-only field of 26 youth ministocks will pair off with the 26 drivers who qualify for the Grand Prix in a Best Pairs competition.
When this was tried at the New Zealand superstocks in Whanganui in early 2020, the winners were Randal Tarrant and a young Trent James who will definitely be one to watch in his superstock this weekend.
The public gates open at 4.30pm both nights and racing starts at 7pm.
Everything points to an outstanding weekend of racing at the Sharp As Linehaul New Zealand Superstock Grand Prix.