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Oreti Parks Final Salute To The Sarjeant
By Daryl Shuttleworth - Shuttleworth Motorsport Media
Photo Lionel Benjiman - Laben Photography
Photo - New Zealand Champion James Sarjeant in action at Oreti Park
Speedway fans will bid farewell to a champion this Saturday night at the Russell Cunningham Properties Oreti Park Speedway as 21 year James Sarjeant heads back to the United Kingdom to embark on a busy season at home.
Sarjeant came to New Zealand last year as a contracted rider to the Oreti Park Club, no one knew too much about him apart from the fact he was a good young talent, he had strung together some good results overseas and he was the perfect fit to the Southland Outlaws team to contest the National Solo League.
Yielding from Sheffield, Sarjeant started riding motorbikes at the age of nine after going to the speedway to support riders his fathers work had sponsored, but unlike Speedway here in New Zealand there is no PeeWee class to race in so he practiced on a training track situated behind the main track in his home town, Sarjeant said "he also remembers his Father taking him out into the woods just so he had somewhere to ride".
As Sarjeant progressed with his riding he moved into the Under 15's where he spent two and a half years, this is where his talent riding a solo bike become apparent finishing 2nd two years running and being selected to race in the National league at the tender age of just 15.
But it hasn't been all plain sailing for Sarjeant who admits being dropped from his club side in the UK is exactly what he needed to clean up his act, this made him more determined to succeed in a sport he was so passionate about and the rewards came last season when in the Elite UK League he finished 2nd with his Coventry Bees team and The National League also second with his Coventry Storm Team but his career highlight came in Christchurch in January when up against the country's best riders he took out the New Zealand Championship.
Sarjeant followed this up with a solid showing at the New Zealand Grand Prix in Auckland, just missing out to nine time National Champion Jason Bunyan for top honors, Sargent said "while i dont have any main rivals in New Zealand , Bunyan certainly is the most talented at the moment".
Sarjaent would love to return to New Zealand next season to defend his national title but says "i have a huge year back home first, then I'll look at it, I love it here and really want to say thanks to everyone at Oreti Park for the warm welcome and support, I've loved racing here, and also a special thanks to Derek Macrae and his family for having me and driving me around the country to race".
While Sarjeant may only have a few days left in the South before he heads back to the U.K next week he has one more box to tick as part of the Southland Outlaws, he would love to beat the Canterbury Comets this Saturday at Oreti Park, the Comets have wrapped up the National League with one round remaining but the Outlaws must win if they are to beat the Auckland Rhinos for second.
The Comets have a host of talent across the team with Bunyan, Dale Finch, Ryan Moss, Andy Aldridge and Cody Tocher all travelling south to take on the Outlaws but the locals prove difficult to beat on home soil and will be putting up a fight to avoid the wooden spoon.
This weekends meeting also doubles as the Southland Junior Solo Championships, in 125cc Hayden Brookland will be looking to add to his Southland title he won in Peewees last season but will be up against some very tough competition from fellow local rider Dylan Jade and Christchurch's Ben Whalley, while in the 200cc class Southlands hopes lay with Sam Taylor, Storm LeQuesne, Devlin Joseph and Cole McIntyre who take on the Canterbury trio of George Congreve, and Tom and George Harvey in what is one of the largest fields of 200cc bikes seen at Oreti Park for some time.
A full field of support classes will also feature including A and B grade solos, Solo Classics, Peewees and the Sidecars will have their last hit out before the South Island Championship in two weeks at Oreti Park. Racing starts 4pm.