Friday 6th February saw the 34th annual running of the New Zealand Superstock Teams Champs at the Robertson Holden Speedway in Palmerston North. On an overcast day 11 teams from around New Zealand and the team from Great Britain of Frankie Wainman Jnr, Craig Finnikin, Neil Scothern, Daniel Wainman and first timer Michael Scriven would do battle to win the Title of Superstock Teams Champions. Frankie and Michael were racing track owned cars, with Craig in the Joblin Motorsport car, Neil in Rebecca Barrs car and Daniel in a car loaned by Roydon Collingwood. Last years winners the Bay Park Busters were back with a new name of the Bay Park Brawlers and the irrepressible Palmerston North Panthers, 16 times winners, were also in attendance but without the 1NZ car of Peter Rees and his son Asher who both caused considerable controversy when they withdrew from the team in the week.
After the Scrutineering, which takes place in the Palmerston North Town Square the teams, all descended on Arena Manawatu for first night and qualifying. The twelve teams were split into four groups of three with Team GB drawing the Bay Park Brawlers and the Stratford Scrappers. The aim of the first night is to win both of your races but also to get as many cars across the line in the top five as possible with 100 points going to the winner 40 for second then 25, 20 and 10 points for fifth place. The Lions were the last to run in the group and were up against the Stratford Scrappers who had just been dealt to by the Bay Park Brawlers, with the Brawlers amassing 150 points against the Scrappers 45.
The Stratford team consisted of 6s Brett Boniface, 42s Shane Hurley, 52s Gary Johnson, 75s Carl Shearer and 82s Paul Johnson. Stratford won the toss and Hurley took pole with Finnikin on the outside. Frankie was on row two inside with Gary Johnson on his outside and the tank of Brett Boniface behind Frankie. Neil was on the outside of row three with Daniel taking up the inside rear and Shearer in the final position. At the start it didn't look good for the Lions with the 515GB car not moving off the line and Shearer took Craig into the wall with the 42s car leading from 52s. Scothern was into block mode holding up the leader and as Hurley came out of turn 2 he took a swipe at the Scothern car trying to free his team mate. Neil held it and the 52s car flicked off into the wall ending the Stratford mans race with the car on its side. As the reds went out this still had the 42s car in the lead with Neil in second and Frankie, who had managed to get moving in third place. On the restart Craig was again dispatched to the wall while Daniel was battling with the Stratford Tank. This lead to the younger Wainman ending his race on the centre green. Neil then spun the 75s car as Frankie came around to pass Scothern and from there on it was the Frankie and Neil show as they tore up the racetrack in a display of how teams racing should be done. Everytime Frankie came upon a Stratford block car Neil would surge past block the Stratford car allowing Frankie a clean passage. Craig was still having fun holding the 52s and 75s cars up at the same time. On the last bend Scothern and Wainman were faced with two Stratford cars lying in wait again Scothern went in front of Frankie to allow him to face a one on one on the last bend with 515 squeezing through to take a well deserved victory from 52s, 152gb, 6s and 55gb taking the final spot for a 135 to 60 point victory.
The final race of the first night saw the Lions take on the Bay Park Brawlers and the winner of this one would progress through to the top tier with the loser going in to the second tier. The Brawlers side consisted of the highly experienced 19m Kerry Remnant, 57m Dave Tarrant, 73m Karl Ross, 84m Mike McLachlan and 119m Lance Aldridge. The Brits won the toss in this one with Neil taking pole and 19m on his outside, Karl Ross was on the inside of row 2 and Frankie on his outside, Craig sat behind Ross with Tarrant on his outside and Aldridge and Michael Scriven brought up the rear for his first ever teams race. At the flag it was not good news for the Brits with Frankies gearbox letting go leaving him stationary on the start line. Scothern was driven into the wall by Ross with Ross taking the lead. Craig went into block mode to allow Scothern back into second as the reds went out for the stricken Wainman car. On the restart there was more bad news for the Lions as the diff on the Craig Finnikin car let go and he was now stationary on the back straight. With four Brawlers cars still in good working order against Scothern and Scriven it was always going to be an uphill task. Scriven and Remnant were having a battle and Scothern was also in amongst it. When Scriven hit the Scothern car in a melee on turns 3 & 4 that then put Neil out of the race. This left Michael to battle on alone to no avail as the Brawlers mauled the Lions and took the first place in Group D. The Lions had survived the night and although qualifying as second in the group could still fight for 3rd place on the Finals night if things went their way.
A walk round the pits after the meeting showed that the Lions would have a fair bit of work to do on the cars to be up and running for the Finals night. Frankies car needed a new gearbox, Daniels car needed major repair work and Daniel had also injured his ankle. The Joblin machine of Craigs needed a new diff and Neil Scothern had injured his wrist.
A capacity crowd of around 16,000 people greeted the parade lap for Finals Night with all of the British Cars making it onto the grid. Daniel was still hobbling and Neil had his wrist strapped. The Lions were up against the Manawatu Mustangs and not only needed to win this but score as many points as possible if they were to get a chance to go for a podium place. The Mustangs consisted of 79p Kerry Humphrey, 94p William Humphries, 581p Jordan Dare, 591p Wayne Hemi and Alec Wilson was the 6
This loss meant the Lions weekend had finished but once again the guys had given as much as could possibly be asked of them and had the machinery not let them down on the first night who knows what might have been. The rest of the meeting was totally entertaining and was one if not the best Finals night I have seen. The Teams final between the Palmerston North Panthers and Wanganui Warriors was a brutal affair with both sides giving their all. Peter Bengston who shone all weekend took the victory for the Panthers despite having had stitches in his knee on qualifying night and a pretty wild ride up the top of the wall in the final and finishing the race with only three wheels turning.
The Lions had done themselves proud with all five drivers deserving credit. Special thanks must also go the guys who loaned their cars, Tony McLanachan who managed the Team, the many sponsors who contributed to the effort, the families and crews who came out with some of the guys and Guy Parker who organised it all and made it all happen yet again. Roll on 2016 Go the Poms!!!