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Locals out to rule sidecar nationals

THE New Zealand speedway sidecars title will be decided at Eastland Group Raceway this weekend and Gisborne has some major contenders.

The Stubbs Contractors-sponsored event has attracted 30 combinations from Invercargill to Auckland.

“It's going to be an amazing couple of nights of racing,” said Gisborne Speedway Club president Clyde McGrory.

“It's the biggest field they've had for a long time for the New Zealand championship — the biggest we've seen here for years.

“In the past two or three meetings at the track we've had some of the riders practising and they've turned on some amazing racing.”

There will be five qualifying rounds of six races each tomorrow night to cater for the 30-strong field.

Sixteen combinations will qualify for the finals on Saturday night to be decided by points over five races.

Defending champions David Gannon and Daryl Pearce from Kihikihi (1NZ) will be in the line-up.

McGrory rates the local and Gisborne-linked combos highly.

“The TAB have some odds on it and the chances of the title coming to Gisborne are pretty good.”

Palmerston North-contracted Gisborne man Rob Miller (8P) and Clive Ireland (56G) are the hometown's main hopes.

Ireland said he and swinger Chris Symon were looking forward to the champs.

“Chris and I feel pretty confident we can get through qualifying to make the finals, especially on our home track.”

The pair have been racing well.

“We've won all but two of our races so far this season and in the two we didn't win, we finished second,” Ireland said. “So roll on tomorrow night.”

While Miller and swinger “Red” George have a Palmerston North P on their bike, they are a G at heart.

“We're both still a bit bruised after a crash last weekend at Meeanee. We were very lucky not to have been seriously hurt,” Miller said.

As it was, they had to buy new helmets.

“The bike suffered some damage, too, but that's all fixed. The sidecar community came together to help us and we really appreciate it.

“Red and I feel good about these championships despite what happened last weekend.

“We've raced well this season and have taken podium spots just about everywhere we've been.”

Miller said they had been consistent so far this season.

“I think that will help us tomorrow night.”

“Callum Innes and Jason Rees (22G) have been racing very well,” McGrory said. “Stuart Priest and Kerwin Arnaboldi (52G) cannot be discounted either.”

The support programme on both nights includes the final two rounds of the AutoTech and Geuze Contracting Eastland TQ Masters Championship.

Gisborne's Dylan MacGregor (5G) leads that series, which has a prize pool of $10,000.

“Dylan's right on the button to take that championship, with his cousin Ryan (74G) in equal-second place,” said McGrory.

“We expect 16 cars for the final rounds this weekend.”

The Golden Oldies stockcars will be back this weekend.

“All of them are classic stockcars, about a dozen of them, from different parts of the North Island.”

The saloons will run again.

“The Cook boys will be back in action. Ethan (1NZ) took out the third round of the V8 series at Waikaraka Park in Auckland last weekend so he's flying,” McGrory said.

“Production saloons and youth ministocks will be in action, too.”

Gates open at 5pm tomorrow night and the first race is at 6pm.

GIZZY HARD: Gisborne Speedway Club will have three combinations racing this weekend in a quest to make the podium of the New Zealand sidecar championships at Eastland Group raceway. From left are Callum Innes (22G — driver Jason Rees of Hawke's Bay is absent), Rebecca Ireland (Gisborne Speedway Club sidecar representative), Clive Ireland and Chris Symon (56G), and Kerwin Arnaboldi and Stuart Priest (52G). Gisborne's Rob Miller and Red George (8P) will be serious contenders too. Miller won the 2007-2008 crown with father Deane at Auckland's Rosebank track. The last time the nationals were held in Gisborne — in 2008 — local combo Toby Lardelli and Michael Bond successfully defended the title in a home track trifecta. Les Plummer and Kervin Demanser were second and brothers Sefton and Clinton Truuts third. Picture by Liam Clayton