Wilson conquers dust storm to win title
With 22 cars, 23 consecutive laps of green flag racing and five drivers staking claims to the title, the 2008 New Zealand Sprint Car Championship at Baypark Speedway on January 5 had everything. Except a view.
The big field, lack of cautions and a dry-slick racing surface saw the big-wing monsters whip up a blinding storm of red dust in the big stadium, as Aucklander Carl Wilson raced to victory.
Wilson, 34, was the pole position starter in the 25-lap championship final, but didn’t take the lead until lap 14.
Following a lap two restart, the early pace was set by Hamilton’s Dean Brindle until he was passed by Salter Motorsport teammate Kerry Jones (Waiuku) on lap seven.
Jones then lost the lead on lap 13 when he nudged the lapped car of Napier racer Paul Donovan in Turn 1, and almost spun, losing momentum and allowing Brindle, Wilson and Greg Pickerill (Hamilton) ahead.
Wilson grabbed the lead from Brindle a lap later and had taken the white flag moments before Brindle, who in the meantime had spun and dropped back to fourth, stopped on the track with a broken front wing completely obscuring his vision.
That brought on the caution lights for the first time since lap two and set up a green-white-chequer finish in which Wilson made no mistake to secure his first major sprint car title.
Jones made a bold attempt to win his ninth national title and leapt from fourth to second ahead of Aucklander Philip Game and was almost in position to attempt a final turn pass on Wilson.
The slick and dusty track might have made visibility difficult for the fans but it created a race of mixed strategies that suited drivers who could run the top groove in the early laps – with Jones pre-eminent of those – but the low line became favourable from mid-race.
“I was prepared to run second or third at the start and be patient,’’ said Wilson.
“I knew the top (outside of the track) would be fast early on but it was going to go away and it would get better on the bottom. I could see they weren’t pulling away.’’
The title win was worth $9860 to Wilson, from the record total purse of $30,000.
Game started eighth and made his progress in the second half of the race to earn a podium finish in the year he celebrates 30 seasons of speedway racing.
Pickerill had climbed from grid 10 to challenge Wilson before the final caution, but he made contact with the leader and finished the race with his right front tyre going down.
“I just tapped him going into turn three. I went in a bit harder to get a run at him coming off and just touched him,’’ said Pickerill.
With the tyre going down, Pickerill slipped to fourth in the two-lap sprint decider.
New Plymouth’s Skinny Colson, with a borrowed engine under the bonnet after problems the previous night, raced from grid 13 to finish fifth ahead of US racer Ricky Logan.
Hamilton’s Tom Rusher was seventh and eight-time champion Allan Wakeling (Auckland), who started from grid three but slipped back in the pack, finished eighth ahead of James Dahm (Tokoroa) and Hans Boere (Auckland).
Brindle was the only retirement from the 22-car field until a four-car crash on the back straight moments after Wilson had taken the chequered flag that involved Ossie Sokol (Auckland), Ben Finemore (Tauranga), Lindsay Gilbert (Christchurch) and Laz Meszaros (Tokoroa).
The national title not only offered a record purse, but also saw a record field of 48 cars take part in the time trial qualifying.