Despite the weather forecast, the rain didn’t arrive in Auckland last Saturday night, and national champion Michael Pickens celebrated by scoring a dominant win in the first Midget Car Feature race of the season at Auckland’s Springs Speedway.
Pickens, fresh from racing saloon cars and Midgets in America and starting from pole position, drove the Little Rippers Midget to a flag to flag win in his third start of the night.
In his first heat earlier in the night, Pickens – who had done no pre-season testing in the car – fought hard but unsuccessfully, to get past former champion Tony Fabish.
During the night, Pickens – who last season took virtually every Midget prize worth winning – set a new 12-lap record, and lapped three-hundredths of a second outside Auto Trader-backed Brad Mosen’s single lap record.
By his second heat, Pickens had the car truly hooked up and ran away from the opposition.
Ace driver Graham Standring, who had also posted a runaway win in a heat race, parked his Video Ezy Midget before the Midgets took the start for the Feature, which was shortened to meet the track’s 10.30pm curfew – he had been due to start outside Pickens on the front row.
By lap three, Pickens was moving away from the pack before a full-course yellow slowed the field.
Shayne Alach made a bid to get past Pickens at the re-start, but he bobbled a little in Pine Tree Bend, and Scott Buckley nipped past on the inside line and made the move stick in Town Bend. Shane Snookes hung on to fourth place.
Alach kept pushing hard to get past Buckley, but the Aggressor driver had his measure and went on to finish second, 1.142s behind Pickens.
Michael Kendall finished fifth behind Snookes, with Mosen sixth.
Earlier in the night, Lance Fox won the F2 Midget final, ahead of Jason Bunney and Russel Heenan.
Eighteen 860bhp Sprint cars on the Western Springs quarter-mile oval is an impressive sight and makes for spectacular racing.
There hardly seemed space for everyone once the Feature started, and indeed that proved to be the case with plenty of tangles.
Hans Boere and Greg Pickerill started from the front row. Pickerill charged around the outside line and took the lead at the start, only to get sideways in Turn 1 and flip.
At the re-start, American Ricky Logan caught and passed Boere in Pine Tree Bend and drove away.
The race went yellow again after rookie Daniel Eggleton flipped on the pit straight and several other cars got caught up in the ensuing mayhem.
At a re-start with seven laps to run, Logan again got the jump on Boere, and Kevin Hinchcliffe ran third before checking up in Pine Tree Bend and being overtaken by Allan Wakeling.
Logan had simply run away, and Wakeling began nibbling at Boere, getting past on the inside line on the way out of Town Bend.
Logan crossed the line first, but was later relegated to third, promoting Wakeling to the win, with Boere second.
Ossie Sokol was fourth, followed by Hinchcliffe and Dean Brindle.
Steve Harker won the TQ Midget Feature, from Ross Linklater and Chris Gwilliam. Hayden Williams, Zahn Turner and Ryan O’Connor filled the minor placings.
In mild and balmy weather, a good-sized crowd watched the racing – and a spectacular fireworks display closed the evening.
Speedway racing returns to the Spring this Saturday, November 10.
Meanwhile, at Baypark Speedway in Mount Maunganui, Skinny Colson won the Sprint Car Feature ahead of Colin Entwisle and Ben Finemore.