Southland Super Saloon Champs at RiversideBy Daryl Shuttleworth
Photos Debs Race
Taylor Secures Southland Super Title
Christchurch's Ritchie Taylor would have breathed a sigh of relief when the chequered flag dropped on the twenty lap final of the Southland Super Saloon title at The Rock FM Riverside Speedway in Invercargill on Saturday night.
Taylor endured multiple challenges after a number of restarts but was just too fast for the fifteen strong field made up of some of New Zealand's best Super Saloon drivers.
Heat one saw Taylor bank maximum points with a runaway victory over local hopefuls Campbell McManaway and Kerry Dixon who had an intense battle for second and third.
Heat two Taylor had to start from well in the pack but managed to salvage a respectable result with a solid fifth, that race was taken out by Ian Burson of Nelson, while Mark "Fluffy" Grocott who won the Elf Super Cup the previous night finished second and Christchurch's Josh Bolton third.
Going into heat three Taylor, Burson and Grocott were all tied for first place and eager to secure the best possible finish, to start the twenty lap "winner takes all" final from the best starting spot.
All three had grid draws towards the rear of the pack so every position they could make up was going to be valuable in the grand scheme of things.
It was Bolton though who battled through to take a well earnt race win over Christchurch pairing Gavin Hill in second and Jason Phillips third, this also elevated Boulton to pole for the feature, starting along side Taylor with both Burson and Grocott starting directly behind them on row two.
As the green flag dropped on the feature race it was Taylor on the outside who got the jump and pulled out a handy margin over Boulton who was in a four way battle with Burson, Grocott and Hill.
A spin by Ray Stewart of Cromwell bought out the first yellow flag of the race and condensed the field putting Taylor under pressure, but as the cars lined up to restart Invercargill's Owen Dixon and Cromwell's Daryl Ainsley spun causing another yellow just as the race got underway again.
When the cars were cleared we were underway and Taylor got the jump but this time Boulton went with him putting considerable pressure on the back of his fellow Cantabrian's rear bumper.
Before long Burson had cleared out from Grocott in fourth and it became a three car battle at the front of the pack, this played into Taylor's hands as Boulton and Burson slugged it out for second and third it allowed Taylor to once again build up a handy margin, but with just two laps to run another yellow flag bought the leader back to the pack.
As the green flag came down Taylor got a great jump on the field again, but Boulton, Burson and Grocott were ducking and weaving to try and find a way through to challenge Taylor, Boulton made slight inroads but Taylor could see the end in sight and claimed victory by a car length from Boulton and Burson in third to claim the Southland Super Saloon title.
It was also Southland Championship night for the Creativity Plus Production Saloons and a good field of cars from Invercargill, Dunedin and Cromwell went head to head to challenge for the title.
Heat one was dominated by Tam Clements of Invercargill, Clements started from pole and never looked like being caught, the real battle was happening behind him where Invercargill's Luke Oliver held off a fast finishing Whetu Taewa from Cromwell for second and third.
Heat two saw Jesse Stevens show his class, Stevens racing on his home track, used his local knowledge and chased the grip up high, he chased down Nikayla Livingstone to snatch the lead as the chequered flag dropped, Livingstone did all she could but had to settle for second with Dave Horton in his Honda Prelude third.
Going into the winner takes all final it was Oliver and Horton who shared the front row of the grid, but neither of them expected Clements to get the jump early and pass them both in turn one.
Clements built a handy lead and needed every bit of it as Horton got into a rhythm and started to eat into the lead but run out of laps to chase down Clements who claimed the Southland title on the week of his sixteenth birthday.
Horton settled for second with Oliver third.
In support classes Tony Jones was impressive with two wins, and Chris Sharp one, honors were shared in Saloons with Scott Helm, Graham Williamson and Clark Brown all claiming a win each.
Youth Saloons saw Jacob Garrick snatch a double and Emma Phillips take a win in heat three, Streetstock winners were Peter Knight, Paul Simon and Scott Ashton, while the Stockcars entertained with winners being Shanan Knight, Logan McNamara and Aaron Borthwick.