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Invasion of the title snatchers

Excitement has built to fever pitch in Gisborne Speedway Club’s production saloon fraternity as they prepare to drive their way to the podium in the Professional Fleet Maintenance national championships this weekend.

A field of 42 cars and drivers from all over the country will be in Gisborne for the two-night championships at Eastland Group Raceway.

“The club’s really looking forward to hosting only the second-ever New Zealand titles for this class,” said club president Neil Gooch.

“It’s an awesome field. We are thrilled to have so many cars coming here.”

The line-up includes 15 cars from the South Island.

The first national production saloon car championships were held in Invercargill last year.

“Gisborne drivers have got the home advantage and they have the speed to be real contenders for the title,” Gooch said.

“There are five or six of them who could stand on top of the podium, and we may even see all three podium spots filled by Gisborne drivers.”

The home track’s leading contenders include Crystal Peach (10G), Fraser Wright (44G), Anton McKay (17G), Lloyd Stuart (34G) and Dave Gooch (7G).

“It will be a challenge. There are some good cars and drivers coming from out of town,” Dave Gooch said.

“All any of us can do is drive to our best and hope for the best. Hopefully one of us can pull it off.”

They will have to work for it. Current 1NZ Shaun Weron from Rotorua, 2NZ Asha Clements from Invercargill and 3NZ Matt Sherlock from Christchurch have all entered.

Qualifying tomorrow night will be over a series of three heats to decide the top 20 line-up for Saturday night.

Non-qualifiers will compete in a consolation series on Saturday night.

“I think it will be tremendous racing — entertaining and full on,” Neil Gooch said.

The support programme tomorrow night features streetstocks, youth ministocks and sidechairs.

“We have some visiting drivers and riders expected.”

On Saturday night, the support programme comprises stockcars, saloons, including in-form Gisborne brothers Daniel and Ethan Cook, sidecars and youth ministocks.

Neil Gooch said the track preparation stepped up this week and had gone well.

“Clyde McGrory and the boys have prepared a nice, even track, with inside and outside driving lanes to give everyone a fair crack at it.”

Drivers and their supporters began arriving in the city today.

“We are holding a meet and greet at the track from 6pm tonight.

“Cars will be scrutineered at the track from 1pm to 3.30pm tomorrow.

Gates open at 5pm tomorrow night and the first race is at 7pm; likewise Saturday night.

There will be a grand parade of the 42 cars from around 6.40pm.

LOCALS ONLY: That’s the ultimate aim of Gisborne Speedway Club drivers as they chase glory — perhaps even a podium clean sweep — at the New Zealand Production Saloon Champs at Eastland Group Raceway tomorrow and Saturday night. Among the hometown line-up is Matt Schultz (pictured). Picture by Liam Clayton