Would Michael ‘Buddy’ Kofoid, the just-turned-17 sprintcar star from the USA light up the clay of Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway at the Saturday, December 29 Did he ever! And who knows what the outcome may have been had Buddy’s engine not developed a worrying rattle that during the warm up laps for the 25 lap feature race of round 4 of the $100,000 2018-19 Hydraulink Sprintcar War of the Wings (Wow) saw him pull out from third on the grid into the mid-field. Not that one of the biggest spectator crowds old timers say they could remember would have been disappointed at the fast and furious race dual for first and second between New Zealand young guns Jamie Duff and Sam O’Callaghan.
Perhaps it was knowing Buddy was standing in the midfield watching every move they made, a long-time friend of Jamie’s dad, Steve Duff Snr, 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 was the most winningest Wow driver of all time.
What should be taken into account when evaluating Buddy’s performance on Saturday, December 29 was his spending December 28 in a plane flying from San Francisco to Sydney and then into Queenstown. No wonder that after the sprintcar time trial he reported finding the track to be a very different shape to those Stateside and the surface to be rough and tacky. He also felt the setup of his borrowed sprintcar was too tight. Not that these issues stopped him taking a runaway win in Heat 3 and pointy end finishes in other heats.
As young as he is in years, starting racing sprintcars at 13 and currently competing two or three times a week, Buddy in fact has a lot more experience than many other drivers he’ll come up against on Tuesday, January 1 and other build up races before competing in the Civil Construction 2019 NZ Sprintcar Title at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway.
Starting under a sunny Central Otago sky with the temperature only dropping to around 23 degrees by the end of the evening, this was a speedway show that had 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 that he said left him feeling a bit sore and in desperate need of a soothing, hops based drink.
The bogey corner would have to be turn two which being just below the VIP area gave guests a ringside view. Although there was a fair degree of carnage, injuries were confined to race cars.
Saturday night 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 good turnout of some nine fire spitting super saloons put on a great show as did the visiting Modified Sprints aptly described by Mike Sentch at ‘pocket rockets’. These and the six-shooters provided the cleanest racing with just a few spins. Unusually for the youth ministocks there was a bit of argy bargy in what is a non-contact class. Because they are built so tough there is little or no give in a shunt which can be a startling experience for a young driver being restrained by the harness.
New Year’s Day it’s speedway action all over again at Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway with the final day of the Southern Saloon Series and all supporting classes competing in the New Year’s Day Champs raced using a GP format.