In just his fourth Midget drive, Aaron Hodgson has won the North Island Midget Championship, adding his name to a list of feature winners in the famed Midget car ranks.
Hodgson arrived at Western Spring Speedway as a relative newcomer with a handful of top-level Midget races under his belt. Only last year he finishing third in the highly-competitive Formula 2 championship.
Western Springs Speedway held their second night of competition with the marquee events being the North Island Sprintcar and Midget Championships.
The Midget class had four Heat races in which drivers would accumulate points with the top 16 transferring directly to the 30-lap title event with the balance given a final shot at making the big race via a nine-lap Semi-Main.
Heat race wins went to BSL Racing drivers Hayden Williams from grid three and Hodgson from grid two, veteran privateer and three-time North Island champ Shayne Alach from grid fourt with Youth Speed 17-year-old Brett Jnr. Morris from grid two.
On the back foot and needing to make the top four to transfer to the main race after an issue earlier in the night, Guptill carved through the field and won with Harper Leonard Racing’s Breyton Davison and independents Ben Cometti and Brad Hollier also making the title race.
Michael Kendall, a 13-time North Island podium placer in this event, retired at the mid-way point of the B-Main having been unable to fix the engine issues that plagued him in his heat races.
The feature race line-up saw defending champ Alach on pole alongside Hodgson with Williams and Pocahontas, Illinois’ Zach Daum, making his fifth visit down to Western Springs and his first hit out of the Southern Hemisphere season in his now familiar Green Way Racing mount.
Grids beyond were earned by Morris, Kumeu driver Brock Maskovich, Sprintcar-come-midget-pilot Ryan O’Connor; returning by way of HLR, 17-year-old Max Guilford, 2011-’12 North Island champ Michael Brunt and Stratford Speedway stalwart Duane Hickman in 10th.
Hodgson was the first car into Pine Tree Bend as Alach, briefly second, feed his car across the smooth ever blackening mid-track up to the thin strip of damp cushion a car length off the wall. Sharp from a 40-plus race season in the USA, Daum turned his car below Alach and passed him on the low line followed through by Maskovich into third the following lap.
Williams, Morris and Guilford all passed Alach before the early race caution for a spun Hollier. As the field formed up two-wide for the restart, Hodgson once again judged his start to perfection though found Daum alongside him soon after until Hodgson’s momentum gave enough of an advantage for Daum to concede and regroup.
By this time Maskovich and Williams had tracked the foreigner down with Williams passing Daum quickly leaving Maskovich to enter into a sliding duel with the 2019 POWRi Midget Series second place finisher. The pair exchanging positions until Daum spun in the slick bringing out the caution and the end of a nicely developing battle.
With 20 laps remaining Hodgson now lined up beside opening night winner Williams and once again entered the back straight ahead of all rivals.
Morris passed Maskovich for third and opened up a gap. O’Connor had climbed to fifth and set about chasing the Magnum Motors car of Maskovich with Alach close behind in sixth.
With five laps to go the leaders encountered lap traffic having their own battles. This looked like when Williams’s superior experience would come into effect.
Williams’s car side-by-side with Hodgson with a lapped car only inches ahead. Williams slid low and Hodgson went high, making contact with the lapper and spinning him out, fortunate not to become entangled and stop.
Now lined up single file with a few laps to go the restart order was Hodgson, Williams, Morris, Maskovich, O’Connor, Alach, Peter Hunnibell and Guptill eighth from grid 17.
Hodgson committed high and Williams slid low. Williams pulling up short leaving the rookie a lane then gathered up his momentum and sent it all the way out to the cushion the following lap forcing Hodgson to patiently turn his car below the screaming Esslinger of Williams and drive underneath.
Maskovich regained third from Morris as the front par looked to be in a slide-job battle ’till the end but the show was spoilt by a yellow flag period for an upside down Jayden Worthington.
Upon resumption with less than five laps remaining Hodgson held off Williams with great coverage of the preferred line and fist-pumped his way underneath the chequered flag to win his first Midget car Feature race.
When asked about the slide-job attempts by Williams Hodgson said; “He drove and raced real clean with me, gave me plenty of room even in the slide-jobs.”
With the prospect of Midget test team selection mentioned the young driver said; “That would be pretty cool as a rookie. We’ll keep pushing and hopefully get somewhere.”
Williams had a game plan and a good car but said caught the yellow flag at the wrong time but said of the race “Full credit to Aaron. It was a hell of a race from my cockpit.”
Maskovich third, Morris fourth, Hunnibell fifth, Guptill sixth, O’Connor seventh, Alach eighth, Daum ninth and James Cossey rounding out the top 10.
In other results Wellington’s Stephen Taylor took home the North Island Sprintcar Title. Two-time and current 1NZ in TQ’s Jeremy Webb, up from Christchurch getting a look at the Auckland competition before the January National Title race parked in victory lane. Mitch Osborne took home the Formula 2 Midget Feature race in a convincing flag to flag performance.
Next week the Porter Hire International Sprintcar Series starts at Western Springs on 7th December, mid-week on 12th Thursday at Baypark Speedway and the series final back at Western Springs on the 14th. Look for a series preview later this week.
Catch all the action from this meeting on demand and the next Western Springs Speedway meeting on www.speedshifttv.com
CLICK HERE for the full results