Elf Cup at Riverside SpeedwayBy Daryl Shuttleworth - Shuttleworth Motorsport Media
Photos - Debra Race
Christchurch's Mark "Fluffy" Grocott showed an impressive display of driving to take victory in the latest round of the Elf Super Cup held in Invercargill at THe Rock FM Riverside Speedway. Heading into this round current NZ3 Ian Burson looked to be the man to beat with solid victories in both Cromwell and Nelson giving him a handy points advantage over a classy field of the South Islands top Super Saloon drivers.
The sixteen strong field was split into two groups for the heat racing, in heat one it was Josh Boulton of Christchurch who took advantage of a strong start to lead from green to chequered to bank maximum points from last seasons Elf Cup Champion Richie Taylor and Kane Lawson, and Grocott settling for fourth.
Heat one for group two was dominated by series leader Burson after he snatched the lead from Jason Phillips who started from pole. Phillips managed to hold off a hard charging Jackson Lovelady who showed an impressive display of how to drive a Super Saloon on three wheels, he was even more impressive later in the evening showing the big Southland crowd that he can also drive on two wheels in the pole shuffle.
Heat two for both groups was raced in reverse order of heat one, and group one bought the hearty crowd to their feet as hometown heros Owen Dixon and Campbell McManaway upstaged the visitors to place first and second respectively and book their place in the eight car pole shuffle, third place went to Taylor.
The second heat for group two started with a number of cars making contact in turn one, all cars involved got underway again but by this stage both Gavin Hill and Ray Stewart had cleared off to a handy lead, and the pairing would not be pulled back in as the race developed. Stewart managed to put enough pressure on Hill with two laps to run to take the race win, Hill claiming second and Kerry Dixon third in his Elf Super Cup debut.
The talking point of this race was Burson having to retire with a puncture, but his win in heat one still gave him enough points to climb into the pole shuffle.
The pole shuffle bought out the top eight placed cars going head to head in a two lap sprint to decide starting order for the twenty five lap feature.
First up was Burson and Grocott, a mouth watering battle that had the crowd buzzing, 2NZ V 3NZ, and nothing but a skim of paint separated the two the entire race but Grocott just managed to edge out his rival to face his next challenger Owen Dixon.
Once again Dixon bought the local crowd to their feet, fending off Grocott to ensure he would have to start well back in the grid for the feature.
Dixons celebration was short lived as McManaway put paid to him and then Lovelady to climb up the grid, Lovelady had a very lucky escape when battling with McManaway he got the Lovelady Mustang up on two wheels, to the point where a roll over was inevitable, but some how he landed it with no major damage.
McManaway was then eliminated by Stewart who would eventually claim third after Taylor beat him to the chequered flag, only leaving top points scorer Boulton to come.
Boulton got the early advantage in the two lap sprint but he just couldn't shake Taylor off and with half a lap to go Taylor got the line he wanted and sneaked past Boulton on the home straight to score a desreved pole position for the feature.
The twenty five lap feature started with Boulton getting a blinding start from the outside lane, McManaway followed him through to both battle it out in the opening laps with pole setter Taylor dropping back in the pack, but this was only short lived. Taylor managed to pick up a couple of spots to challenge McManaway for second, this allowed Boulton to stretch his lead to almost a straight length, and he looked to be in control as the laps counted down.
Taylor managed to slip past McManaway and now had the task of chasing Boulton, but the man to start watching was Grocott who was finding drive on the high line and passing the cars in front like they were standing still.
Grocott slipped passed McManaway and Taylor in quick succession to get up to second but with the laps counting down it would take a miracle to catch a flying Boulton.
Boulton now had to contend with lapped traffic and Grocott stayed on the high line leaving nothing but thin air between his car and the wall, within a lap Grocott was within striking distance of Boulton but when the last lap flag was presented it looked like Boultons race.
The pair were nose to tail on the back straight and they both had to contend with a lapped car in the form of Roger Nees, Nees did well and stayed on his race line meaning with one turn to go Boulton and Grocott had to split to either side of Nees to decide the race.
As the pair crossed the line it was Grocott who had just nudged ahead by the slenderest of margins to claim the round win from Boulton and a distant third Taylor.
As the podium winners pulled to the infield neither Grocott or Boulton had any idea who had got over the line first, but both drivers put on a breathtaking display of speed and skill to thrill the crowd, and both claim some much needed points as the Elf Cup heads off to do battle in Blenheim.
In support races Jason McMullin took his maiden victory in Modified Sprints, Jack Brown won Youth Saloons, Graham Williamson and Lloyd Phillips shared a win a piece in Saloons, Cromwells Whetu Taewa took two wins in Production Saloons and Paul Simon took two wins, and Megan Molloy one victory in Streetstocks.