IVAN THE GREAT
Super saloons, those flame belching beasts of speedway, were the main attraction at Queenstown Roofing Central Motor Speedway, but last Saturday night belonged to 32-year-old Cromwell saloon driver Ivan Murdoch who capped off an eventful start to the year by winning the 2015 Central Otago Saloon Championship.
The first big event in Ivan's year was the premature but safe arrival of son Finn, a brother to three year old Amelia. This was followed by wife Kylie returning home from hospital to pretty much immediately "pack him off" to Blenheim as one of four Cromwell contracted drivers competing in the 2015 New Zealand Saloon Champs. With dad Graham as his crew and a race car old enough to have had a previous life as a super saloon, there's no doubt many would have seen 7t as just making up the numbers among the country's best, most expensive saloons and top rated drivers.
Perhaps it was having a brand new son to impress, but whatever the reason Ivan drove the race meeting of his life, qualifying a highly creditable fourth for the decider feature race which he finished 17th followed by fellow Cromwell contracted driver Peter 'Dutchy' Schouten in 18th. To put this in perspective, Ivan's now rated 17th among the legions of saloon drivers competing on North and South Island speedway circuits. To follow up by winning the 2015 Central Otago Saloon Championship is the icing on the cake for this born and bred Cromwellian who after go-karts spent a number of years successfully competing in speedway productions before moving to saloons in 2013. Second place in the championship went to 'over 60' Russell Erskine and third, Cromwell BP's Peter Leyser. Russell is father of Central Motor Speedway president Andy Erskine who was a former owner of Ivan's race car.
Shane's the Man
As a town Cromwell was well represented in the Elf Super Cup super saloons with local Shane McIntyre crossing the line a very close second in the hotly contested 25 lap feature race. The next Cromwell local was Daryl Ainsley in fourth. With early rounds rained off late last year, the six round Elf Super Cup started all over again on Friday night with round one in Invercargill and round two in Cromwell. Round three is in Dunedin on February 21, followed by Christchurch, March 14, Nelson, March 21 and the final in Blenheim on March 22.
After two rounds Cromwell contracted drivers are 1st (Ray Stewart), 4th (Shane McIntyre), 6th (Daryl Ainsley), 10th (Mike Verdoner) and 12th (Paul Wright). The Elf Super Cup Facebook page rates the hard charging Ray Stewart as driver of the night. Although the front row shuffle put Ray at the head of the pack he elected to start last, collecting points for every car he passed. A strategy that obviously paid off. In Invercargill, Cromwell local Paul Wright was rated driver of the night.
Under a beautiful Central Otago sky and enjoying balmy temperatures, Saturday's big crowd definitely got their money's worth with only a few crash-caused stoppages. A credit to drivers in all classes for contributing to putting on such a great show. Here's hoping for more of the same at Queenstown Roofing Central Motor Speedway on March 7.