A punishing weekend of stockcar racing didn't bring any titles to Whanganui, but a number of local drivers enhanced their reputations.
From a marathon qualifying session ending at midnight Friday night to a brutal and at times controversial finals night, the Hawke's Bay Doors New Zealand Stockcar Championship at Meeanee Speedway in Napier delivered action aplenty.
After Friday night's qualifying, only Trazarn Ryland-Annabell (33V) had earned direct entry to the final 30.
However there were six places up for grabs from two repecharges, and nine Whanganui drivers had a second chance.
Callum Sturzaker (15V) and Blair Reeves-Smith (212V) earned grids one and three for the first repecharge, and finished one-two to join Ryland-Annabell in the finals.
It was a team effort however, with both Dion Black (61V) and Kaelin Mooney (26V) doing some excellent blocking to prevent their clubmates coming under attack, after Cody Alabaster (16V) was eliminated early.
The second repecharge featured Blair Lockett (89V), Gerry Linklater (98V), Mark Johnston (78V) and Jack Purcell (5V).
However, Lockett was eliminated early, riding over the front of the car of a Palmerston North opponent and rolling over. Although the car landed back on its wheels, it was too damaged for Lockett to continue.
Kihikihi driver Ben Ellis became the 30th and final driver to qualify for the finals when the Hawke's Bay car of Ethan Anderson was taken out on the final corner. The significance of that would become apparent later in the evening.
Harley Robb (991C) won the first championship heat from 3NZ Mitch Vickery, 9S Sheldon Arapere and 1NZ Ben Smith. Reeves-Smith was the best of the Whanganui competitors in 11th place.
Callum Sturzaker crossed the line in fourth place in the second championship heat, behind Smith, Luke Miers (15P) and Stratford rookie Karlin Painter-Dudley (267S). Then controversy struck.
Smith and Miers were excluded from the results of heat 2 for failing to go over the scales as they drove from the track, a Speedway New Zealand requirement. That saw Sturzaker promoted to second place in the heat.
After two heats, Vickery topped the standings with 56 points, ahead of 2NZ Tyler Walker, Arapere, Richard Keijzer (186R) and Hawke's Bay's Brett Loveridge (16B).
Vickery's title challenge quickly ended as he was slotted up the wall early and onto his side. Walker was also eliminated quickly, in what was quickly became a brutal third heat.
With just a few laps remaining, William Hughes (99S) put in the hit of the race, while running interference for his Stratford teammates Arapere and Painter-Dudley. After having a go at Loveridge through turns 1 and 2, Hughes caught the Hawke's Bay star in a massive hit, powering Loveridge's car into the wall by the pit gate. The car almost rolled, but came to rest in a cloud of steam and smoke, leaving Loveridge, the on-track points leader, stricken and out of the championship.
That left Ellis, the last driver to qualify, in both the race and points lead, a position he held until the chequered flag fell to become the newly-crowned 1NZ.
When the points were tallied, Arapere, Painter-Dudley and 95A Gary Lonegan, winner to the NZ Stockcar Grand Prix in Gisborne in December tied for second place. After a four-lap run-off, Arapere took 2NZ ahead of Lonegan. Painter-Dudley, a newcomer to the Stockcar class and a regular visitor to Whanganui took fourth place.
Callum Sturzaker ended up tied for eighth overall, Blair Reeves-Smith a further 2 points back in 10th, and Trazarn Ryland-Annabell finished the meeting in 16th place overall. All three young men could be hugely proud of their efforts, finishing in the top 10 per cent of the 213 cars that passed through scrutineering on Friday.
Add to those three the performances of Alabaster, who surprised even himself finishing fifth equal in his qualifying group, veterans Lockett and Linklater and younger drivers such as Black, Kaelin Mooney and Johnston, and the future of the Stockcar class is in good hands.
Meanwhile, Production Saloon driver Brent Hackett (434V) took second place overall at the New Zealand Production Saloon Grand Prix at Huntly Speedway on Saturday night.
Hackett has been one of the stand-out performers in the class this season, and this result will give him confidence heading into the Tom Francis Building New Zealand Production Saloon Championship at Oceanview Speedway this coming weekend, where 60 cars from as far away as Invercargill, Cromwell and Dunedin will go into battle on the tight Whanganui track.