||Last Updated: Mar 1st, 2015 - 10:07:45
The team at The Russell Cunningham Properties Oreti Park Speedway have reason to celebrate after what was an extremely difficult night as the club hosted the Xtreme Karts South Island Sidecar Championship in front of a packed house.
Overnight rain left the track greasy under the top surface and in the early practice rounds conditions proved dangerous with two combinations being involved in minor rollovers, leading to an intense session of wheel packing to dry the track out, delaying the start of the nights racing by almost an hour, but credit goes to the track crew who work hard to turn out a very quick track.
As the night went on the southern club had reason to celebrate with eight of its combinations qualfying for the ten spots available in the semi finals, then four teams making the five bike grand final.
The heats started with all the favorites collecting maximum points in the opening round, James Douglas and Ricky Pubben, Shaun Kerr and Robin Poole, Aiden Thwaites and Shane Twiss all of the Oreti Club along with reigning South Island Champion John Warwood and Laurie McMahon, Lionel Green and Shane Breech of Christchurch all dominating early, but the big upset came when local pairing Stan Ross and Chris Leeden upstaged some of the best combinations entered in the championship to bank maximum points early.
As the heats progressed Kerr and Poole, Green and Breech and Warwood and McMahon stamped their authority all going through the heats unbeaten, some combinations suffered mechanical issues, others fell off the pace, and new contenders started to find some form it was going to be a tight race home to book a spot in the semi finals.
Eight spots had been filled for the semi finals, Kerr and Poole, Green and Breech, Warwood and McMahon, Thwaites and Twiss, Ross and Leeden, Douglas and Pubben, Dallas Kelman and Chay McWilliam along with Erwin Tree and Nigel Cuckow all had direct entry by scoring the most points, this sent five bikes into the semi final repecharge with the top two finishers booking the last two spots in the semi finals.
Jason Riley and Nick Watson of Christchurch lined up beside Scott Ayto and Dylan Carnie, Jason Harpur and Mark George, Jason Kennedy and Myron Anderson and Craig McMaster and James Dawson, as the race got underway it was Ayto and Carnie who took first place honours into turn one, pushing hard to force a gap back to McMaster and Douglas who were being pressured by Harpur and George who spun to the infield putting paid to their championship chances allowing Ayto and Carnie and McMaster and Dawson to book semi final spots.
With the night starting to close in it was decided to push the semi finals through as quickly as possible, meaning those who had just made the semi finals via the repecharge, little time to make changes to their machines.
The top two from each semi final earnt direct entry to the grand final, in semi final one Douglas and Pubben struck the form they had early in the night winning but only just to McMaster and Dawson who snuck through from the repecharge, it also spelt the end of current champions Warwood and McMahon who failed to finish. As semi final two got underway there was controversy in the second corner when Ayto and Carnie tangled with Kelman and McWilliam causing a restart and putting Ayto and Carnie out, after the restart Kerr and Poole showed why they would be the combination to beat, the pair rode off to win the race by an entire straight lenght, with the battle for second being taken out by Tree and Cuckow who were riding a borrowed bike.
This gave us four of our grand finalist, all representing the local club, it also gave four riders who missed out in the semi finals one last chance to win the fifth spot on the gate in the final. In the repecharge for the final Christchurch pairing Green and Breech were too good for the rest of the competition despite being pressures by Thwaites and Twiss who placed second and a fast finishing Kelman and McWilliam third, meaning they would be the sole Canterbury team in the five bike final.
With daylight almost gone the finalists hit the track for the grand final of the Xtreme Karts South Island Sidecar Championships, the arena was a buzz with excitement and you could feel the atmosphere heating up as the tapes went up and the four lap final was underway, it was Douglas and Pubben who got a blinder of a start leading into the first corner with McMaster and Dawson second and Kerr and Poole hung out wide in third.
Kerr and Poole pushed hard down the back straight managing to slip into second but Douglas and Pubben had extended their lead out to three bike lenghts and held the lead for two laps until they made the slightest mistake in turn four giving Kerr and Poole the opportunity they were looking for and the pair took full advantage of it, slipping underneath them with just two laps to run. Kerr and Poole were never going to be hunted down despite Douglas and Pubben throwing everything they could at them to get the race lead back, it was Kerr and Pooles night as the chequered flag dropped and they were crowned South Island Champions for the second time followed by Douglas and Pubben and an outstanding ride from McMaster and Douglas claiming third after sneaking into the semi finals via the repecharge.
It certainly was Kerr and Pooles night, going through the event unbeaten, and claiming solid applause from the hearty Southland crowd.
By and with thanks to Daryl Shuttleworth -Shuttleworth Motorsport Media.
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