Riverside Speedway 12-03-2016
Phillips Goes Back To Back In Southland Saloons
Southland's Lloyd Phillips was smiling from ear to ear when the chequered flag dropped on the final of the Southland Saloon Championship held at Riverside Speedway in Invercargill. Phillips is one of these competitors who puts his heart and soul into his racing, and he admits this season has been one of those seasons where he could have quiet happily given it all away after committing to a major rebuild of the car during the off season and a hectic race plan which saw the team travel from one end of the country to the other to race against New Zealand's best.
Phillips and his brother Craig have certainly tasted some glory, but it has been one of those years where if something can go wrong it will go wrong for them and the end result being the race budget well and truly exceeded, but as Lloyd says "that's just racing, isn't it?"
In the last couple of meetings at Riverside Speedway Phillips has suffered extensive damage to his Hypermac Corvette, he says "I'm on about my third complete body for the season", so heading into the Southland Championship to defend his title Phillips had no expectation except to do his best.
In heat one it was Cromwell's Peter Schouten who fired an early warning shot to his fellow competitors, easily cruising away with the race win by over half a track from fellow Cromwell driver Graham Williamson in second and Ewan Shearing from Riverside impressive in third.
Heat two saw Schouten start further back in the pack, but he showed his intentions early, making some important passes to build on his points lead from race one.
A tangle up with Shearing midway through the race saw the race stopped for almost twenty minutes as the two cars were untangled putting Shearing out and despite Schouten being able to restart it was from the rear of the field.
As heat two got underway again it was Craig Phillips who got the jump and despite the efforts of Lloyd Phillips doing everything in his power to pass his younger brother Craig was just too strong and bagged himself some valuable points to carry through to the final.
Lloyd Phillips settled for second while Ivan Murdoch of Cromwell claimed third.
Heading into the final race there was a four way points tie, both the Phillips boys, Williamson and Murdoch were all first equal with just this race to run, Murdoch was to start from the second row of the field giving him a slight advantage on his rivals.
As the race started it was Cromwell's Phil Burgess who got off to a handy start, holding off Murdoch in second who was trying desperately to sneak by and build a lead, Lloyd Phillips moved through to third while Craig Phillips and Williamson worked the way through the field.
Craig Phillips was the first to make a mistake, spinning to the infield but managed to get back on track and fight from the rear of the field, this eased the pressure for Williamson who was now just a couple of car lengths from the front runners and looking threatening.
Up front Burgess was driving the wheels off his Mustang despite Murdoch's attempts to take the lead, Phillips was still third but was now all over Murdoch's rear bumper, Williamson spun while trying to find a way through putting an end to his hopes of a podium finish.
With two laps to run it looked like it was going to be Murdoch's championship but Phillips knew he had to pull something out of the bag to retain his title and he decided to go high, right up to the wall he went and not only did he slip past Murdoch but he also snatched the race lead from Burgess.
The local crowed erupted as Phillips took the victory from Burgess and Murdoch in third, cementing his back to back championship in the process. Murdoch was a well deserved second overall, while Craig Phillips came home strongly to claim third.
In the Saloon feature Craig Phillips managed to get one over his brother Lloyd with a race win, Lloyd came home second just holding off Schouten.
The Production Saloons shared the feature billing with the X Factor Cars South Pacific Challenge, a big field of productions from as far away as Christchurch took to the track and turned on some of the most entertaining racing of the afternoon.
In race one no one could match the pace of Christchurch's Scott Woodhouse, he drove off from the front row of the grid to a commanding lead mid way through the race.
The real battle was happening further back where Southland's Luke Oliver was in a full on battle with Christchurch's Nik Fraser who looked to be the fastest man on track. The young Southlander managed to hold Fraser off and claim second, Fraser third but maximum points went the way of Woodhouse.
In race two it was Southland's Jesse Stevens who started up front and drove a clean, fast race despite coming under a tonne of pressure from Oliver who was looking to add to his second place points haul in race one.
Oliver looked for ways around Stevens but just couldn't get the move made, once again settling for second, with Fraser once again third, but Stevens taking the race win.
The third race was the last chance for the drivers to claim points and decide grid positions to carry through to the "winner takes all" final.
This time it was Fraser who dominated, finally getting up the front of the pack and drove away to an impressive victory.
Reigning Southland Champ Tam Clements claimed second while defending South Pacific Champion Dave Horton came home third. Oliver unfortunately finished the race on the infield after being the points leader heading into race three.
Fraser had done enough to put his Honda Prelude on pole for the final, lining up beside Horton who was desperate to retain his crown.
It was always going to be an epic battle between the two Hondas but as the race went on and Horton did everything he could to pressure Fraser, Fraser showed his class, slowly but surely extending his lead to take a comfortable win and claim the South Pacific Production Saloon Challenge. Horton drove well to take second, while Woodhouse was third.
In support classes Zane Tuhura took two wins while Jacob Garrick took a race win in Youth Saloons, a small field of Stockcars handed Aaron Borthwick two wins, while Logan McNamara won race three.
Modified Sprints was entertaining but George Phillips continued his red hot form winning two of the three races, Jason McMullin also tasted victory, but the talking points of the grade were the solid performances of both Tim Wilson and Koby Morrison who both took placings throughout the day and are starting to look threatening heading into the last two meetings of the season.