amie McDonald was crowned New Zealand Sprint Car champion at Auckland’s Western Springs Speedway on Saturday night, extending a short but impressive climb to the top of the sport.
Following his 2005 rookie season,
Following his 2005 rookie season, when he finished third in the NZ Champs at Baypark, McDonald took second at Christchurch last season.
And not only has he climbed the podium at each of the three national titles he’s contested, the 24-year-old Auckland racer has also completed a treble, having won the North Island crown and NZ Grand Prix title in the 2004/2005 season.
At the Springs last weekend, McDonald topped a 24-car field and denied the ninth title aspirations of Kerry Jones and Allan Wakeling who shared the podium with him.
McDonald’s Bunce Motors J&J looked like a contender throughout the title night. Fourth fastest in time trials – and one of five drivers to qualify under the track record – McDonald progressed through the heat race stage before finishing second behind Hamilton’s Dean Brindle in the second of the dashes. That secured him the outside second row starting spot.
He took the lead away from fast qualifier Ricky Logan when the American slipped wide in Town Bend on lap 13 and stayed in front.
Logan was a threat until he hit the wall with seven laps remaining. After the final restart, McDonald stayed in front while long-time sparring partners Jones and Wakeling disputed the podium places.
Logan produced a strong title challenge, setting the big crowd buzzing in qualifying with the first official sub-12-second lap at the Springs. He topped the 24-car field with the 11.772-second lap while Dean Brindle dipped into the 11s as well with 11.960s and McDonald, Jones and Ossie Sokol also bettered the previous mark with laps in the 12.1-second range.
The contest really began with the dashes to decide starting spots in the 30-lap main. Logan won the first, from Jones, Wakeling and Sokol. Brindle led home McDonald, Kevin Hinchcliffe and Steve Duff in the second.
To that point McDonald hadn’t been entirely happy with his chassis set-up.
“Qualifying was only average,’’ he said. “We tightened the car right up for the final, and I couldn’t fault it. I decided to run a mid to lower groove but I could dive up to the cushion if I needed.’’
Brindle had confirmed his status as a pre-event favourite and after his powerful qualifying effort and dash win looked
the biggest threat to Logan’s speed. He led for three laps in the final until the rear axle snapped in two.
Logan’s mistake on lap 13 provided McDonald’s chance to seize the lead and stayed there through mid-race restarts. Then an incident among the lapped traffic proved Logan’s undoing.
Ron Salter got himself out of shape and on to the infield before popping out on to the pit straight alongside rookie Jeremy Halpin. That in turn shifted Halpin wide and into the path of Logan who was
running on a fast outside line. The car slammed the Town Bend concrete and Logan’s race was done.
The final seven laps saw Jones and Wakeling battling among themselves rather than looking a threat to McDonald.
A solid run throughout the night saw quiet achiever Kevin Hinchcliffe (Auckland) take fourth spot in the Team Salter car raced earlier in the season by USA Outlaw star Craig Dollansky.
Baypark drivers Skinny Colson and Colin Entwisle completed the top-six and after winning the B-Main, Greg Pickerill (Hamilton) made a run from grid 17 to seventh place.
Wanganui’s Peter Huijs, Christchurch racer Steve Duff and Aucklander Havard Daniels completed the top-10.
Apart from Brindle and Logan, the other notable casualty of the final was fifth-fastest qualifier Ossie Sokol. He was running sixth at halfway but hit the wall on a restart after contact from Skinny Colson.
The Sprint Car title action continues this weekend with Baypark Speedway hosting the New Zealand Grand Prix on Saturday night.