Central's speedway hits the high notes

Jan 31, 2023

Cromwell was filled to capacity this weekend, as people arrived from all over New Zealand to see the top local and international sprintcar drivers battle it out at the NZ Sprintcar Grand Prix. The night hit more than one high note.

Fans at the track and watching the live-stream across the world were treated to an amazing performance of the New Zealand National Anthem by 15-year-old Cromwell College student Grace Tiko. Grace brought the entire crowd to its feet with her voice soaring above the arena. Social media buzzed with accolades: it was a fitting start to an unmissable night.

From the moment the Green Flag dropped, drama ensued on track. Defending champion Jamie Larsen suffered mechanical issues and a disappointing end to his campaign. Cromwell’s ‘Slammin’ Sam’ O’Callaghan showed dramatic speed and skill right from the first heat, as he continuously challenged US driver Jonathon Allard. 

Young guns Josh ‘Young Buck’ Buchanan and Jayden Dodge showed just what our next generation of champions have in store for us, as they thrilled in Heat Two with their battle for placings.

Rodney Wood of Bay Park had predicted a Wood 1 and 2 on the podium at the end of the night, with son Cole. Rodney held full control throughout Heat 3, until he spun in turn two and relinquished the lead. Son Cole scored third placing in Heat Six.

American Jonathon Allard showed his class throughout the heats. As commentator Daryl Shuttleworth succinctly put it: “totally destroying the competition and ultimately banking himself a front row start in the 25-lap feature final”.

The scene was set; only 22 cars had made it through. As they lined up, the huge crowd rose to its feet, all eager to see who would be crowned NZ Sprintcar Grand Prix champion for 2023.

Comentator Daryl Shuttleworth describes the exciting start: “The green flag dropped and it was just a cloud of dust and the sound of horse-power filling the arena. When the dust settled, it was Allard who led the feature with McDonald and Duff in hot pursuit.”

Almost halfway through the final, the real excitement began. Cromwell’s Nigel Colvin rolled in the infamous turn two, just in front of Allard. Allard hit the rolled car and ended his chances of the win.

Cromwell driver Whetu Taewa was the next to spin out, further decreasing the field.

With only seven laps remaining, Daryl began to describe it as a ‘race of attrition’. Christchurch’s Matt Honeywell was the next casualty, and of the 22 cars that had made the final, only 10 remained.

Finally taking the win were in 1st place Jamie MacDonald 71A, 2nd Jamie Duff 19C and 3rd Rodney Wood 51M. 

Central Speedway club president Andy Erskine says the event was a huge success, for the sport of speedway racing and for the community that came together to make it happen.

Main image (Central Motor Speedway): Grace Tiko performed the NZ National Anthem for the crowd, with even American driver Jonathon Allard feeling the emotion of the moment. 

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