Stock Car Racing was introduced to New Zealand late in 1954 as a result of what NZ speedway riders, racing in the UK at the time, had witnessed when the sport made its debut at Harringay Speedway in April 1954 and subsequently at many other speedway and greyhound racing tracks.
The popularity of the sport in NZ ebbed and flowed in the early years, until its successful introduction at Palmerston North by promoter Ray New in 1963, who was trying to reverse the dwindling crowds attending speedway meetings. He had learned a lot in the UK where he raced for two seasons under the name of Steve Storm. This success seems to have been the turning point for stock car racing in NZ and the sport spread to the provincial towns of North Island.
As time went on, more tracks were opened and in 1974 the Woodford Glen track at Christchurch began running the same type of cars and to the same rules as the various North Island tracks, all under the ACU Speedway Control Board. Stock car racing became a true NZ National sport and it has continued to grow in popularity among drivers and spectators to the present day. Curiously, oval racing in NZ has the generic name of Speedway, a term probably that refers to tracks as Speedways as opposed to what we associate in the UK with motorbikes on shale.
As in the UK, the cars have evolved from 1930's V8's with armour added, costing NZ$50 in 1954, to purpose built Superstocks with full steel chassis and hi-tech engines and suspensions that can cost up to NZ$100,000 (£50,000) today. In the 1980's the concern over rising costs led to the introduction of standard stockcars that have become a National Class referred to as StockCars. It is a very popular formula with the same rules as for Superstocks but has technical restraints to keep costs in check: specific race tyres are not permitted, engines are limited to standard fittings and most hi-tech parts are either illegal or of no benefit. The cars weigh around the same, have a slower speed than the Supers but the action is just as entertaining and it is an excellent breeding ground for aspiring Superstock drivers.
The Superstock cars are built with heavy, deliberate contact in mind. Purpose built chassis, solid front and rear bumpers, solid nerf rails with both back wheels protected and 240 cubic inch V8 engines producing 400+ bhp. They have a variety of hybrid mechanical equipment and a range of imported race parts to produce a car with a maximum weight of 1500 kgs and minimum weight of 1400 kgs. They are capable of speeds approaching 150 kph. There is a high standard of safety demanded by the rulebook but with full blooded contact permitted and expected under racing conditions, it is not for the faint-hearted. It is no coincidence that Superstocks and Stockcars have been one of NZ's most popular sporting entertainments for over 50 years.
For many years there has been a driver exchange agreement between the UK and NZ and drivers from the UK have competed in NZ Championship events and NZ drivers have represented their country in the UK. Fans will remember appreciating the skills of Peter Rees, Scotty Miers and Scott Joblin on the UK ovals.
WORLD 240'S INVITATION CHAMPIONSHIP
This is one of NZ's top Championships and an event that has seen a consistently strong challenge from UK F1 drivers with considerable success, despite deliberate 'team' tactics by NZ drivers in an effort to ensure the title remains on home soil.
In 1987, 501 Chris Elwell was the first UK driver to bring the World 240 title back across the world. 53 John Lund almost repeated that achievement in 1988 finishing second and a year later he had the Championship in his grasp only to be taken out big-time by Kiwi Dave Evans on the last lap. It became clear that if UK drivers were ever to emulate Chris Elwell, help would be needed from fellow UK drivers to combat the team tactics deployed by the Kiwis.
515 Frankie Wainman Jnr would be the first to acknowledge the vital assistance he received from fellow UK drivers when the Union Jack flew high and proud in 1997, 2000 and again in 2009 as, racing under the number 55r, he won the World 240 Championship in the face of determined, forceful opposition from the best superstock car drivers in NZ. In so doing he became the first driver ever to win three World 240 titles. His car for the 2009 campaign was built in the UK to conform to NZ rules and regulations and shipped to the other side of the world.
My model of this car is pictured below:
SUPERSTOCK TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP
This is said to be the most popular event in NZ stock car racing. There is a set of rules that governs the event but watching dvd's of the action and reading reports you can be forgiven for thinking it is literally no holds barred: full blooded contact, team tactics thrown wide open, blocking, nerfing, side swipes, stoppages, fires, extensive car damage, cars playing hares and hounds and all played out to the deafening vocal and horn blaring reactions of a 15,000 capacity crowd. It's hard to believe that this action stems from two teams of four cars. Think of mixing the action from a UK F1 World Final with that from a 2L Saloon Stock Car World Championship and throw in some Banger Destruction Derby antics for good measure and you will come close to what a Superstock Team Race serves up.
The Championship normally takes place annually at the beginning of February. Team GB - The British Lions first competed in the Teams Championship in 2009 finishing in an amazing 3rd place and to demonstrate this was no fluke, they returned in 2010 and finished 2nd with Tom Harris being crowned 'Entertainer of the Team Weekend'. In 2011 The British Lions finished 5th and this year 2012 they finished 3rd; simply outstanding results against the more experienced NZ teams. It just confirms how adaptable and skilful UK stock car drivers are when they compete away from the BriSCA ovals. Adaptability that has seen 84 Tom Harris, more used to racing all out for a win, being hailed as a highly rated blocker. Over the last four years Team GB has been superbly represented by Frankie Wainman Jnr (Captain), Tom Harris, Mick Harris, Mark Taylor, Stu Smith Jnr, Craig Finnikin, Matt Newson and Daniel Wainman.
(FOR SUBSEQUENT CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS SCROLL TO END OF PAGE.)
Pictured below are the Team GB cars in 2009. My thanks to Colin Casserley, top stock car photographer, for allowing me to use these pictures. See more of his photographs at www.stoxphotos.com:
Car 00 Mick Harris, car 01 Frankie Wainman Jnr, car 02 Tom Harris, car 03 Stu Smith Jnr and car 04 Mark Taylor.
Below is a publicity poster for the GB Lions
For those who are unfamiliar with the Team Racing format, here is a brief run down. Some of the information has been obtained from members of the Macgors New Zealand Speedway website.
12 teams compete over two days. After a public draw, the teams are split into three groups of four. Within each group teams race twice on day one, with the points scored in each race added together. The four highest points scoring teams go through to day two as the top tier to compete in a semi final and a final for the Superstock Teams Championship title, while the teams that finished fifth to eighth form the second tier on day two and the remaining four teams are eliminated. On day two, the top scoring losing semi finalist from tier one takes on the highest scoring team from tier two for third and fourth places, and the other teams compete for fifth to eighth places based on points scored.
There are four cars in each team with a fifth car as reserve and the points allocated are 100 for the win, 40 for 2nd, 25 for 3rd, 20 for 4th and 10 for 5th.
Team races take place over 12 laps including the semi finals and the final is run over 15 laps. Any run-offs between teams on equal points is decided over 15 laps.
Each team has a Team Manager who talks tactics with his team of drivers. Some drivers are nominated as runners who go all out for the win and others are blockers, usually in the stronger cars known as 'Tanks', who try to protect the runners by blocking and taking out the opposition cars. Tactics are understandably kept confidential but in most races these plans have to be quickly adapted to the changing face of the race. Drivers use race stoppages to look around and assess how the team is faring and the more experienced drivers are able to do this instinctively. Runners can become blockers and vice versa. Once a car completes the required race distance and receives the chequered flag, the remaining places are decided from transponder data and lap charts that record the number of laps completed by each car in the race. With so many points allocated to the winner, every effort is made by teams to get a driver over the line in first place.
The eight cars, four from each team, line up in twos in closed formation. A coin is tossed to see which team has pole position and the other three cars from that team take outside row 2, inside row 3 and outside row 4, with their rivals in the alternate starting positions. It is a clutch start when the green flag is waved.
The action has to be seen to be believed. Those who have been lucky enough to witness the racing live in NZ or via Speedbox on the web will undoubtedly confirm it is must see stock car racing that takes entertainment to another level with unbelievable hits, lightening driver reactions and tactical awareness under extreme pressure. For The British Lions to take on more experienced NZ teams at this variation of stock car racing and come away with success while winning legions of fans among the Kiwi spectators is a real credit to the depth of quality among drivers of F1 stock car racing in the UK. For those home supporters who travel to NZ to support the team it must give them immense pride.
Congratulations to all the UK drivers who have represented Team GB on their success to date: success that has made them real contenders for the Championship Title in the coming years. Credit must also go to Team Manager, Tony Maclanachan, a New Zealander whose vast experience of the Superstock Teams Championship is a vital ingredient of the team's achievements, and also to the many sponsors, organisers and supporters who all play an essential role.
Raising funds to help finance Team GB is vital to keep making the annual challenge possible and a way in which supporters can help is to purchase the Team GB merchandise either from the Team GB website or by bidding on the regular ebay auctions.
Below are pictures of the Team GB polo shirt for 2012 that I purchased from the website at www.teamgbracing.co.uk:
(N.B. I have had the results and driver names added to the original shirt)
While researching this feature, I exchanged emails with a fellow model maker in NZ who constructs amazing Superstock models that take up to six months to build. They are scratch-built with the chassis made from wood. The tyres are turned from MDF and the rims made out of steel. The wheel centres are pressed steel. The body is first made out of preserving wax that is carved to the correct shape. Then a silicone mould is made so that several bodies can be reproduced out of fibre glass. The models are 510mm (20 inches) long and 280mm (11 inches) wide. Each model is completed with stunning graphics.
Pictured below is one of these outstanding models:
Came across an excellent book by NZ author Greg Parsloe running to 226 pages covering a Speedway Review of NZ's 2010/2011 season. There is a report on each meeting during the season and plenty of excellent photographs. It provides the reader with a real insight into stock car racing in New Zealand. It is not cheap but worth looking at the first few pages, free of charge, on the Blurb.com website. The cover of the book is pictured below:
The Superstock Teams Championship took place at Palmerston North Speedway on 8th & 9th January.
13 teams took part in the qualifying races on the Friday night. Team GB Lions were represented by 00GB Murray Harrison, 01GB Frankie Wainman Jnr (driving a tank), 02GB Daniel Wainman, 03GB Ryan Harrison and 04GB Mark Taylor with Mark Woodhull as the reserve sixth driver. Team Manager was again the highly experienced Tony McClanachan.
RESULTS FOR 8TH JANUARY (each team raced twice)
Waikato Wanderers 130 Stratford Scrappers 65
Manawatu Mustangs 135 Rotorua Rebels 60
Baypark Busters 150 Auckland All Stars 45
GB Lions 125 Wanganui Warriors 40
Nelson Tigers 110 Canterbury Glen Eagles 85
Hawksbay Hawkeyes 125 Wellington Wildcats 40
Palmerston Panthers 165 Stratford Scrappers 30
Manawatu Mustangs 150 Waikato Wanderers 45
Baypark Busters 185 Rotorua Rebels 0
GB Lions 150 Auckland All Stars 45
Canterbury Glen Eagles 100 Wanganui Warriors 85
Hawksbay Hawkeyes 100 Nelson Tigers 85
Palmerston Panthers 170 Wellington Wildcats 25
TIER 1 TEAMS
Palmerston Panthers 335 pts
Baypark Busters 335 pts ( settled for 2nd place to avoid a potentially damaging run-off with the Panthers!)
Manawatu Mustangs 285 pts
GB Lions 275 pts
TIER 2 TEAMS
Hawksbay Hawkeyes 225 pts
Nelson Tigers 195 pts
Canterbury Glen Eagles 185 pts
Waikato Wanderers 175 pts
(rest of teams eliminated)
RESULTS FOR 9TH JANUARY
Palmerston Panthers 150 GB Lions 45
Manawatu Mustangs 125 Baypark Busters 70
Hawksbay Hawkeyes 135 Waikato Wanderers 60
Nelson Tigers 145 Canterbury Glen Eagles 50
RACE FOR 5TH & 6TH PLACES
Hawksbay Hawkeyes 130 GB Lions 65
RACE FOR 3RD & 4TH PLACES
Nelson Tigers 145 Baypark Busters 40
RACE FOR 1ST & 2ND PLACES
Palmerston Panthers 195 Manawatu Mustangs 0
So congratulations to multiple winners and defending champions Palmerston Panthers.
Well done also to Team GB Lions who finished 6th but acquitted themselves well and did GB proud. Their race against the eventual champions, Palmerston Panthers, was said to have been the best race of the two day meeting with plenty of action, huge hits, strategic racing, massive car damage for both teams and plenty of bumps and bruises for the drivers.
Team GB Lions will be back in 2014 for a renewed assault on the Superstock Teams Championship and fans can support their efforts by purchasing fund raising items via their website at teamgbracing.co.uk
Below is a pic of the 2013 Teams Championship programme including a page on the GB Lions team: