||Last Updated: Jan 12th, 2016 - 11:18:37
Andrew Buchanan and Denny Cox were the in-form team and pair to beat when they ran through the qualifying rounds for the South Island Title at Moore Park.
Indications early on were that they would be hard to head off as they domination group one qualifying along with Southland’s Bradley Sharp and Lance Jeffcoate who also had a perfect score after three races. Fellow racers Aiden Thwaites and Shane Twiss only dropped one point when they met the Sharp combination. Buchanan did have a couple of runs directly after track maintenance on a smooth surface, but never the less they were dominated at the starts and were quick away leaving everybody else trying to play catch up.
The competition was reorganised due to the only spell of wet weather in Canterbury for some time and was run over one day. Even though the thirty entrants were split into two groups, they did not meet everybody in the qualifying in each group due to time constraints. Track conditions played a significant part as soft patches dug up and the grader was used on three occasions to improve the surface.
Group two was in the hands of the defending champions from Oreti Park Southland, Shaun Kerr and Robin Poole who picked up a perfect score from the three rides. Behind them again came another Southland team of Luke Thwaites and Neville Chalmers who’s only loss was to Kerr and Poole. The best from the home track was Greymouth’s Cory Lang and Gus Elliot whom Thwaites and Chalmers beat left both combinations on eight points.
Repercharge and quarter and semi-finals were run before the one off title race. It was here that both group qualifiers were mixed up and raced against competitors they had not previously met. After a good start to the season, Oreti’s Craig McMaster and James Dawson were a little off the early pace. While they started with a win, were beaten by Kerr and Poole, they had a DNF in their final heat due to picking up a bad vibration. This was later attributed to something they picked up off the track and had to fight through from the repercharge end of the competition.
This they duly did and made their way to the semis after coming home behind the Kerr and Poole combinations. Through too went Buchanan and Frasier and Johnny Gillespie, Aiden Thwaites and Sharp combination along with Lang and Luke Thwaites. Kerr and Poole worked hard for their quarter final win putting in a last turn pass to head off McMaster and Dawson. This was an excellent race and the best was to come in the first semi where Buchanan got away but Kerr had to work hard again for the second qualifying place to keep both #24 bikes, Sharp and Lang at bay. Aiden Thwaites held out McMaster as both these units made the final field from semi two.
The final was an outstanding race full of skill, desperation and drama. Buchanan and Cox had not been beaten at the starts all day and lined up on grid two. Kerr and Poole had what had been the most difficult gate, one, while it was Aiden Thwaites coming from three with McMaster on the outside from four. Kerr surprised everybody with a quick jump matching Buchanan so well that he had to fall in behind and battle for the second spot on track as he could not get down on the pole line. Kerr made a good break at this stage while Buchanan forced his way to secure second and then proceeded to chase.
Kerr and Poole went mid track on the start of the third lap and Buchanan and Cox closed the gap. Kerr was still mid track and a little too wide coming round the final two turns at the end of lap three when Buchanan changed lines and cut down tight through some of the well-worn and uneven surface. He made ground and came underneath Kerr who tried to come back down to protect what was his lead. Buchanan had got his nose in front and the rear collected Kerr’s front wheel with the resulting contact unseating Poole.
The race went red and Buchanan was excluded for barging. He protested and asked if he could run under protest. The answer was no and his bike was removed from the track. Quick thinking by his team had the protest lodged as the remaining field was nearly in the starters hands for the final rerun. The meeting was being recorded for Sky TV through the Pits Media team who had caught the action on camera. Discussion resulted in the footage being viewed by the officials of the day and decision made to hold a complete rerun with all competitors back in. Certainly nothing in it, all being a racing incident where the only deviation in either parties line was made after the contact had occurred as one unit was fighting for the race lead and the other trying to protect and recover his race line.
It was deemed as protested by Buchanan that he was in deed in front at the time of contact and a great gesture for the spectators to see a full field for the rerun.
The final rerun saw Buchanan and Cox make no mistake this time as they got away quick and cleanly. The Kerr Poole combination got caught rearing at the start and were last away. Thwaites battled it out with McMaster who was finding form in the latter part of the day and secured second place and held it to the finish behind Buchanan. Kerr and Poole recovered, put some immense pressure on Thwaites and Chalmers and managed to sneak through for third in the last racing lap.
Media: Warrick Korstanje January 2016
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