Thanks to Alan Skayman
It was time again for the annual teams race between the Auckland Allstars and The British Lions Superstocks Team. The British team this year was lacking in teams racing experience with only one driver having taken part before, that being Chris Brocksopp driving the ex Peter Bengston car. The other team members were 217GB Lee Fairhurst, 218GB Derek Fairhurst and 2 first time visitors to these shores in 37GB Chris Cowley and 207GB Ben Hurdman. Danny Wainman was supposed to have been in the team but he was on a 21 day standown after being knocked out the week before at the World 248s. With no Tony Maclanachan this year Peter Falding was the Team Manager and in charge of the tactics.
After the practice laps Lee Fairhurst was on the front row Team GB with Ben Hurdman on 2nd row inside. Chris Cowley was on row 3 with Chris Brocksopp bringing up the rear. Derek Fairhurst was the man in the middle. The Auckland team consisted of the two Marx brothers 53A and 63A, Bernie Fox in 42A and Gary Lonergan in 95A The plan was for Lee and Ben to run and the two Chris`s would block.
At the drop of the flag 217GB and Bernie Fox were side by side trying to hold one another as were 37GB and 53A. Bernie Fox had got Lee to the wall but came back across in front of Ben Hurdman who managed to get his front bumper under the nerf rail of the 42A and keeping his foot down put the Auckland car onto its side. This called for the Red Flags and at this stage Ben was now leading but with a flat front inside tyre. Lonergan was then pulled off the track for hitting on the reds. This meant the Poms were now 4 cars on 2 and in the driving seat. Lee had suffered major front end damage but Brocksopp and Cowley were both still fully mobile. This therefore meant a change of plan and full credit to Brocksopp he then went into running mode and Fairhurst went into block mode.
Within 2 laps of the restart 53A Phil Marx car came to a halt on the infield with technical troubles. So the only Auckland car still mobile was Bryce Marx and Lee was trying valiantly to hold him up despite the front end having collapsed. That was very much how the race ended with Chris Brocksopp taking the win for the Brits and regaining the trophy. Not a classic Teams race by any means but the guys did what they needed to and it was an aperitif for the main event the following week.
They then ran the rest of the meeting with Lee jumping into Dereks car and again all four drivers showed great skills and the kiwis certainly knew they were there with Lee taking the feature race of the night.
Superstock Teams Championship – Robertson Holden Speedway, Palmerston North 6th& 7th February.
The meeting all Kiwi Superstock Fans love (and a growing number of Brits) had arrived again for its 35th year. 11 teams of 5 cars and 6 drivers had arrived from all over New Zealand along with one team from Great Britain. The British Team this year consisted of team Captain Frankie Wainman Junior, Lee Fairhurst, Chris Brocksopp, Chris Cowley and Ben Hurdman with the evergreen Derek Fairhurst as the sixth driver. The cars the drivers were racing this year were probably the best the team had ever had as a whole. Chris Brocksopp was in the Bengston car with all of the rest being loaned out from the Taranaki. Frankie was in Phil Ogles car, Lee in the Rob Lintern maintained car, Chris Cowley in the Gernhoefer Contracting car and Ben Hurdman in Nik Kisers car. The draw had been done earlier in the week and the Brits were up against the Stratford Scrappers and last years runners up the Wanganui Warriors. Peter Falding was in charge of Team Strategy as Team Manager and Guy Parker once again had sorted out the logistics of it all for Team GB.
After scrutineering in the Palmerston North city centre the cars were all transported to the Robertson Holden Speedway ready for the nights entertainment. Once again the stadium appeared full to its 16,000 capacity with many spectators in their teams colours and a number of Union Jacks scattered around the stadium. Chris Cowley proceeded to get the crowd going on the parade lamp by jumping on his aerofoil and conducting the cheers of the Grandstand.
Team GB were up on Race seven giving them some time to see a few races and also watch their opposition who were up as race 4. The race between Stratford and Wanganui was a brutal one giving both teams damage which would hopefully play into the Brits hands. Stratford won by 100 points to 65.
Stratford had managed to get a full compliment of cars back out to take on the British Lions. The Stratford Scrappers consisted of 41S Bruce Williams, 52S Gary Johnson, 66S Clint Hill, 75S Carl Shearer in the Tank and 82S Paul Johnson. Lee started front row outside with Frankie second row inside, Chris Cowley on row 3 and Chris Brocksopp bringing up the rear. At the start Lee turned left into 82S taking him to the centre green. This put Lee in front followed closely by Frankie with the 82S car followed by 75S. Brocksopp was having an arm wrestle with 66S and Chris Cowley was taken to the Granstand wall. Fairhurst and Wainman were travelling in union until Lee was blocked by the Clint Hill car allowing Frankie to take the lead. 338GB was holding the Shearer tank as Lee continued to battle with Hill. One of the Stratford cars was having a go with Frankie as Lee came round to overtake but 52S managed to catch him on the bend and gave Lee a ride on the wall, but no major damaged was sustained. Frankie was stilling playing cat and mouse with the Stratford cars, putting hard hits in and then driving past them. Brocksopp was then hit hard coming out of turn 1 causing his front wheel to come adrift flying through the air, this brought out the reds. Frankie took the comfortable win from 82S, 75S, 37GB and 217GB giving the Brits a 130-65 points win.
Next up for the Brits were the Wanganui Warriors consisting of 5V Keegan Levien, 23V Scott Duncan, 52V Francis Potaka, 54V Bevan Humphrey and 53V Dion Mooney (who had just got 2NZ the week before in the Stockcar Championships). Lee was on Pole with Ben Hurdman on row 2, Frankie on row 3 and Cowley on row 4 with Chris Brocksopp sitting this one out. At the start Lee went into the lead followed by Humphrey and Frankie. The outside row hadn’t gone with 5V sitting on the brakes. Lee was put into the wall by 54V giving Frank the lead but Lee again managed to keep going without major damage. Chris Cowley was having the drive of his life in this one letting no car past him without a major fight. It was blocking of the first order having two run ins with the 5V car. Frankie was again out in front followed by 54V who was shifted to the wall by Ben Hurdman and then Lee Fairhurst hit the 54V car to put him further up the wall. At the flag it was a demolition of the Warriors by Lions with Frankie taking the win from Hurdman, Fairhurst , Levien and Cowley for a massive 175 points to 20 win .
This meant the Brits had continued their record of making the second day every year they had competed would now face the impressive Gisborne Giants in the second semifinal on the second day. Biggest shock of the meeting though was the meltdown of the17 time winners and reigning champions the Palmerston North Panthers who got beaten by Hawkes Bay and Christchurch meaning they hadn’t qualified for the second day.
Eight Teams would contest the second day with Rotorua, Christchurch, Wellington and Stratford racing in the second Tier hoping to get 3rd place overall. In the Top Tier the Manawatu Mustangs would take on Hawkes Bay in the first semi final with many peoples favourite to win the Gisborne Giants taking on the British Team.
Gisborne won the toss and took pole with Karl Ross 73G alongside Lee Fairhurst. Ben Hurdman was on row two along with Asher Rees 126G followed by old foes Peter Rees 10G and Frankie. Chris Cowley brought up the rear with the third of the Rees clan Ethan 127G. 217GB did a jump start but backed off straight away but went into the lead followed by 73G and Rees senior was holding 207GB. Frankie then came through into third and attacked the Ross car. Ethan Rees then blocked the 515GB allowing Lee to again catch up and deal to the young Rees allowing Frankie to escape followed by Lee who were now both chasing the 73G car. Ross then spun on his own allowing the Brits to take first and second. Chris Cowley was unbelievably having a better race than his previous holding up both 126G and 10G in one go. Ross put Hurdman up the wall on the pits turn. Wherever you looked something was happening. Ethan Rees managed to squeeze the 515 car into the wall but this was to prove the Giants undoing as Karl Ross came past to take the lead clipping the 127G car sending it up into the air and back down on his roof. Gisborne were now down to 3 cars and on the back foot. On the restart Wainman and Ethan Rees were continuing there battle as were Cowley and Rees Senior and Hurdman and Asher Rees. Wainman and Cowley then teamed up and disposed of Peter Rees and Lee was now holding up the two Junior Rees cars. Peter Rees then had a go at Fairhurst but Fairhurst had the better of him spinning him down the straight. Ben Hurdman then did a risky manoeuvre attacking off the grass (which got him a call to Referees office after the race). Wainman was now in the lead but Peter Rees had other ideas taking Frank to the wall holding him there putting Fairhurst back in the driving seat. As Lee came round to take the flag Wainman had got away from Rees Senior who diverted his attention to Fairhurst about 20 yards from the flag allowing Frankie to make it 3 victories out of 3 followed by Lee Fairhurst, Asher Rees, Peter Rees and Chris Cowley in what was undoubtedly the best race of the weekend.
The Brits were through to the final for the second time in their history where they would meet a very polished Hawkes Bay Hawkeyes who had very comfortably beaten the Manawatu Mustangs.
Peter Falding lost the toss but Hawkes Bay put the Brits on pole with Lee Fairhurst and Jason Long 2NZB on his outside. Row 2 was Thomas Stanaway 87B with Ben Hurdman followed by Frankie and Mike McLachlan in the tank with Steve Jude 16B and Chris Cowley bringing up the rear. At the start Lee took the lead followed by Stanaway with Frankie in 3rd. Lee was blocking Stanaway and Wainman went round the outside followed by 16B into first and second. Mike Mac in the tank blocked Frankie as Ben had a run in with the Long and Stanaway cars. That is when it all started to go wrong for the Brits as Frankie ground to a halt on turn 3 & 4 with Fuel Pump problems meaning it was now 4 on 3 in favour of the Hawkeyes. 87B got a hit on the 217GB car which was repaid in full by Lee on the 84B car, which was returned with interest by the 2NZ car. Mike Mac then rode Hurdman up the wall holding him there for about a lap before pulling away allowing the 207GB to fall onto its side and another one out of the race. The reds went out and Hawkes Bay were also down a car as the Thomas Stanaway machine was spun out on the top bend. Lee and Chris Cowley tried valiantly for the rest of the race but it was not to be as flag dropped for Long followed by Jude, Cowley, Fairhurst and MacLachlan.
It was a valiant effort by the British Lions who again received a standing ovation but Hawkes Bay got the luck at the start of the race and drove extremely well through the weekend to take the 2016 Superstock Teams Champs. The Lions can be extremely proud of their efforts, second is no mean feat, and if they can keep a core of this team together for next year who knows what 2017 could bring. The Gisborne Giants recovered to beat Wellington and take 3rd place overall.
So once again it just goes to thank the drivers who put their bodies on the line to entertain us. Pete Falding, who did a sterling job as manager over the weekend, with some excellent tactics. Guy Parker for once again bringing the whole thing together , which is no easy task. The guys who loaned their cars, not knowing what condition they would be returned in, the sponsors who provided money and services to make this possible and the crews and travelling fans that gave massive support throughout the weekend. Hopefully see some of you in September otherwise heres to 2017 and the boys going one better.