Some of the fastest, closest and most exciting racing seen on Central Otago clay rewarded big spectator crowds at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway’s traditionally popular Christmas (Sat, Dec 29, 2018) and New Year’s Day (Tues, Jan 1, 2019) meetings.
Just hours after flying into Queenstown from San Francisco via Sydney, Buddy Kofoid, the just-turned-17 US sprintcar super star who had his first sprintcar win at only 13, was a crowd pleaser from the moment he floored the go-fast pedal of his borrowed sprintcar. This is something that can be counted on when he again scorches the Central Motor Speedway clay on Saturday, January 19 at the earlier start time of 4pm.
It’s easy to picture Buddy as some sort of muscle-bound American jock, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Slimmer that David Bowie ever was during his ‘Thin White Duke’ period, quietly spoken with a warm, friendly smile, it’s hard to equate that Buddy with the fearless, calculating pilot of snarling sprintcar No. 8 hunting down and spitting out some of the South’s most experienced drivers.
Duffman and Slammin’ Sam
Genuine with his compliments about the standard of sprintcar driving at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway, before the green flag a mechanical fault unfortunately forced Buddy out of the Dec 29 feature race of round 4 of the $100,000 Hydraulink 2018-19 Sprintcar War of the Wings. A possible bonus for Buddy was having a centre field view of the fast and furious duel for first between NZ young guns 28-year-old Jamie ‘The Duffman’ Duff and 24-year-old ‘t’ driver ‘Slammin’ Sam O’Callaghan. Phillip Mills, owner of the sprintcar that Jamie’s dad, Steve Duff Snr, used to race, said he’d never seen Jamie drive more skilfully on the track NZ sprintcar doyen A.J. Batt described as having the reputation as too tough to tame.
AJ Batt, who shared announcing duties with Mike Sentch, also informed trackside fans that defending title holder Jamie was with 18 wins the most winningest Wow driver of all time. After Saturday, make that 19. Jamie tops the leader board after round 4 on 412 points, followed by Luke Keegan, 372 points and in third with 336 points, 18-year-old Connor Rangi. Sam O’Callaghan is fourth (299 pts) followed by another young gun ‘t’ driver Jayden Dodge (295 pts) and then with 280 points,’t’ driver Daniel Anderson who regularly competes in the States and organised bringing Buddy to New Zealand. Sixth place overall is not bad for Daniel considering that on several occasions during Saturday night he became a ‘chariot of fire’ needing to zoom into the mid-field for the crash crew to extinguish flames from oil dripping onto the hot exhaust.
Starting under a sunny Central Otago sky with the temperature only dropping to around 23 degrees by the end of the evening, Dec 29 was a speedway show thathad it all… variety with seven classes racing … drama that started in the sprintcar time trial when an incident flipped Matt Honeywell out for the night after coming to the meeting fifth on points. Another early exit was production driver Geoff Friend who performed his second ever roll over. Dec 29 was also day 1 of the Southern Saloon Series where in front of his home crowd Graham Williamson got the opportunity to capitalise on grid position 1 and a track magnificently maintained throughout the meeting by Peter McKenzie and his team to get the checkered flag about half a lap in front of the second place getter.
A new year, a new track record
New Year’s Day spectators at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway knew they were in for a meeting to remember when in sprintcars heat 1, Jamie ‘The Duffman’ Duff (19c) did more the win the race, the Christchurch flyer proved that as fast a Buddy is, he was faster by setting a new track record of just 13.41 seconds.
Leapfrogging to the 20 lap sprintcar race feature race, the crowd was on tender hooks with anticipation. The Duffman in the pole position with Buddy alongside him. The green flag and then confusion. The hoped for duel was kyboshed when officials sent Jamie to the back of the 17 car pack. Buddy then demonstrated what racing twice a week during the US season can produce when by lap five was threading his way through the pack and by the time he took the checkered flag was lapping lapped cars. Meanwhile, a clearly disappointed Duffman was up to 7th by lap 10, eventually finishing a creditable 5th. Not to take anything away from Buddy’s fantastic performance, after the race Jamie admitted he needs to find another 10% to foot it with Buddy here at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway in the Civil Construction 2019 NZ Sprintcar Title on Friday, Feb 1 and Saturday, Feb 2, adding a reminder that at one time or another Buddy has beaten every top class US sprintcar driver.
Reviewing other classes racing on Jan 1, all put on a great show with the six-shooters having a fair old crashfest while Graham William’s run to winning the Southern Saloon Series sadly came to an abrupt end when a whoopsie at turn three forced him out with steering damage. The 1000cc motorcycle engined Modified Sprints (also called Southern Modified Sprints) zipped around the Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway sounding like a swarm of angry hornets and showing that it doesn’t take a huge budget to go almost as fast as their big brother sprintcars. At the end of both meetings, 1st Verdon McHaffie (74c), 2nd Brent Hayston (24d) and 3rd, Daryl Scott (8t).
Remember to diary January 19 as the next speedway meeting at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway with the earlier start time of 4pm. Buddy will be there!