A 'nail-biter' event
After a troubled season with his team’s new Spike Esslinger, former national Mini Sprint Champion David Kerr snatched the South Island Midget Car Championship from Ray Baughan’s grasp in a thrilling 25-lap final at the Powerbuilt Ruapuna Speedway last weekend. Former South Island champion Nevil Basalaj, the pre-race favourite, didn’t make the start of the final when his car struck engine problems in the second qualifying heat and wouldn’t fire up for the final. Several potential front-runners had dropped out through late season mechanical attrition and were non-starters, so the final appeared set to be fought out between Kerr and Baughan who lined up on the front row. Baughan made the better start and Kerr appeared initially to have trouble sticking with him as he fought to find a suitable racing line. Several times, Kerr seemed to be closing the gap to Baughan but would drop back again through a slight mistake. As they began to encounter lapped traffic in the race’s final quarter, Kerr began to close in and seemed to get a better run through the lapped cars. With two laps to run, Kerr blasted around the outside out of turn two and the two cars ran side by side, banging wheels as they jostled for position into turn three. Kerr took the lead, but by hugging the inside line Baughan fought back and the result was in doubt until the final corner when Kerr powered out of turn four to take the chequered flag. The win was a reward for Kerr’s team, who had leant their car to Michael Pickens for the Southern 50-lapper. Pickens’ run in that race – won by Shaun Insley – had been plagued by an engine timing problem caused by the need to hurriedly replace a cam belt. Third place in the South Island Championship went to veteran racer Barry Low.