Open-wheeler motor racing doesn’t get much better than that served up on summer evenings at Auckland’s Springs Speedway
Only a fool or a blinkered circuit racing purist might argue. Followers of the racing on the clay-surfaced quarter-mile oval at Western Springs include diehard speedway fans, family groups and some of New Zealand’s top circuit racers.
On a typical night you might see such circuit racing luminaries as Ken Smith or Toyota Racing Series champion, Daniel Gaunt, trackside; when he’s in town, A1GP team Kiwi driver Jonny Reid will be there.
The racing at the Springs is a fine show, some of the hardest cut-and-thrust racing you’ll find anywhere.
And racing doesn’t get any batter than the racing in last Saturday night’s Midget Car Feature race – period.
The Feature eventually went to Brad Mosen in the Mopar/Auto Trader Midget; but it was a hard-fought win.
After a colossal, see-sawing battle with Shayne Alach, Mosen won the final dash to the line by 0.194 of a second.
Speedway races, especially longer ones like the 25-lap Midget Car Feature, tend to be stop/start affairs with spins and rollovers triggering multiple yellow flag caution periods.
But just like the Sprint Car Feature race in the second meeting of the new season, last Saturday’s Midget Feature ran flag-to-flag, without a stoppage.
Former champion Graham Standring started from pole with Alach beside him. Mosen was on grid three with Michael Kendall outside him.
Standring grabbed the lead immediately, with Alach breathing down his neck, and soon zipping past.
Mosen closed in on Standring’s orange Video Ezy car and passed him on the way out of Town Bend.
He closed on Alach in Pine Tree Bend, edging under the hard-driven #11, but Alach held on.
Mosen kept the pressure on, the two Midgets never more than a few millimetres apart.
The flamboyant Alach was hurling the #11 into the corners as he strove to stay in front – his commitment into Pine Tree Bend was awe-inspiring.
He’s a busy driver, his arms working the wheel as he corrects the power slide and floors the throttle, easing off the lock on the brief sprints down the straights.
As they threaded their way through lapped traffic, Mosen looked this way and that for Alach to leave a gap, but somehow the #11 stayed ahead until Mosen found the gap in Town Bend.
Alach got a little out of shape as the fired-up Mosen swept past, but quickly recovered and went on the attack, slipping back in front in Pine Tree Bend.
Alach put a lapped car between them and gained a momentary advantage; then Mosen turned the tables, using lapped traffic to get past Alach who promptly regained the lead with a mirror movement.
Mosen had a little moment but hung on to the car, and on the countdown to the chequer they lunged and parried. Alach led into Town Bend for the final time, but Mosen got the better drive off the corner and nipped past to take the win.
It was a sensational race, probably the best so far this season, and a testimony to the skill and bravery of two very fine drivers.
It had held the audience spellbound and drew strong applause.
Lance Beale finished third after a fine drive. Then came Kendall, Scott Buckley and Michael Pickens, who had won the opening two Feature races of the Western Springs season.
Pickens had started Saturday’s race towards the back of the pack after a rough-and-tumble qualifying heat. He made up around nine places, but in a race that ran without stoppages, that may have been as much as he could do – such is the pace at the sharp end of the Western Springs Midget Car field.
The depth of the quality of racing at the Springs was reinforced by an exciting TQ Midget Feature race where Hayden Williams got the better of a fraught battle with Steve Harker.
Reigning champion Ryan O’Connor was out early after flipping in Town Bend, and at the restart, Williams and Harker began their battle for the lead, swapping places all race long till Williams took the win after a late-race restart.
His winning margin was even closer than the Midget Car Feature – he crossed the line 0.180 of a second ahead of Harker.
Zahn Turner was third, ahead of Ross Linklater, Shane O’Connor and Ross Holtom.
Nick James won the F2 Midget Car Feature by a relatively comfortable five-tenths of a second from Lance Fox. Chris Gwilliam was third.