The New Zealand Sprintcar Grand Prix was held at X Factor Cars Riverside Speedway in Invercargill, the world’s southernmost speedway track last weekend.
21 cars signed in at the flat quarter mile clay oval situated beside Oreti River near the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island.
So far south is the track the requirement and cost of lights is negated by midsummer late sunsets at 9:30pm and beyond. This meant the race meeting started at 3pm under hot dry conditions which made for a dusty slick track.
In hot laps Daniel Anderson had engine problems and left the track before heat racing started with the intention of repairing or replacing his motor in time for the Sprintcar National Championship schedule to be held at Central Motor Speedway in Cromwell in three days’ time.
In the opening heat race Christchurch registered driver Brent Gaudion had pole position alongside Jamie McDonald and took the initial lead over the Auckland driver. The pair establishing a lead over the 13-car ﬁeld.
Several laps into the race McDonald was able to make a pass for the first and distance himself from the rest of the ﬁeld.
The big mover in this race was Rodney Wood who started near the rear and ﬁnished second in the 15 lap race. Third home was Gaudion ahead of Steve Duff Jnr. of Christchurch and Nelson’s Sam O’Callaghan in 5th.
South Island stand out and former National Champion Jamie Duff was ﬁrst to the ﬁrst corner in the second heat but was soon passed by Matthew Anderson however the race was soon halted as Kyle Shearing, Stuart Rose and Ross McKinnel found themselves stationery and entangled in Turns 3 and 4.
When the race resumed for a second time Daniel McKinnel looped his car around to bring out the caution once more. Upon resumption Duff reclaimed the lead as the cars left long trails of dust behind them as Jason Scott passed several cars round the outside and set his sights on leader Duff.
All the while 17-year-old Californian Michael ‘Buddy’ Kofoid, having won fourmeetings in a row in his previous five outings in New Zealand, began to make his way through the ﬁeld until Ross McKinnel spun on the slickening track.
Soon after the race resumed Scott found a fast line around the top of the track and moved into the lead as Duff pulled his car inﬁeld. Kofoid now in fourth, with a few laps remaining, ran his car through the gripless mid-tract line and sliced his Sprintcar between two cars to move into second place where he would ﬁnish behind Scott with Matthew Anderson, Jamie Larsen, and Wood ﬁnishing in the top ﬁve.
The third and ﬁnal heat saw the cars grid up only to be stopped on the track as a wheel nut found on the track by astute track staff was re-torque to the left rear of Daniel McKinnel.
With no traﬃc in front of him Kofoid instantly pulled out to a substantial lead over Larsen in the initial laps and by the races conclusion ﬁnished half a straightaway a head of former National Champion and twice third place Grand Prix finisher Larsen who was followed across the line by Jason Pryde, Steve Duff Jnr. and Palmerston North’s Tony Uhlenberg.
When heat race points were tallied Kofoid had earned pole alongside Larsen with Wood, MacDonald Steve Duff Jnr. and Cromwell’s Jason Scott occupying the ﬁrst three rows for the 37th running of the New Zealand Sprintcar Grand Prix.
In ﬁne form Kofoid once again led at the start and pulled away from the field meanwhile behind the leaders Pryde had contact with another car and lost several positions. On the restart McDonald bet Wood into the ﬁrst turn to claim third spot and soon passed Larsen on the outside just as Scott spun and Turn 3 and 4.
Alicia McLauchlan while small in stature has a heavy right foot and put her Nelson based car up into fourth place ahead of Steve Duff Jnr. who took the position back as the lead cars began to distance themselves. A struggling Jamie Duff drifted further away from the leaders and uncharacteristically found himself trying not to be lapped by a ﬂying Kofoid who had lapped up top to seventh place in his ﬁrst time racing at the venue.
Lap traﬃc was dealt with without hesitation by Kofoid who seemed to lose little momentum as he effortlessly worked his way through lapped cars as those chasing needed more time. A net gain to Kofoid overall.
Opposition that was too much to overcome and by races end Kofoid had managed to win by a very impressive six second margin over Larsen who had passed defending Grand Prix champ McDonald for second with only a handful of laps remaining. Woold, McLauchlan , Uhlenberg, Jamie Duff, Nigel Colvin, Paddy North and Pryde also finishing in the top 10.
When Kofoid was asked about the event said: “This track shaped up a lot better throughout the night. At ﬁrst in hot laps I didn’t feel very good myself, also the track didn’t seem like it was going to be that racy but it’s shaped up to be pretty good”
“Once it slicked off and the top moved up it was fast. We were good in traﬃc and that’s how I found the rubber [mid track] in one and two which kind of played into my cards a little bit,” he said.
“Five in a row is insane I don’t think I’ve ever done three in a row!”
As attentions turn to the National Championship in Cromwell the young winner said “I know we have great speed and I think we can carry that into Cromwell… actually that’s where we got our ﬁrst win. I’m just looking forward to it.”
If you missed the action the full nights racing can be found on www.speedshifttv.com