March 03, 2014

9-10/01/2014 & 17-18/01/2014

The start of 2014 would see the Vernon & Vazey / ENZED Sprintcar team journey to the far south, crossing the Cook Strait courtesy of PBT Couriers to compete at the New Zealand Championship title in Cromwell on the 10th & 11th of January as well as the Sprintcar Gold Cup the weekend following in Christchurch. Cromwell Speedway is unique in shape compared to other dirt ovals around New Zealand by its distinctive “egg” shape, with a very tight hairpin one end and a long open corner the other. It’s a fairly narrow track that Daniel has only run on once before 6 years ago.

“It’s going to be real tough to try and defend our 3NZ title here or better it, there’s a lot of top guys with a lot more track time here but we’ll hopefully get on top of things” – Daniel.

The championship format would be run a little different this year where rather than a format built upon qualifying, cars were designated groups that would vs. each other in a total of 24 heats with each driver competing in 6 from varying grid positions. Unfortunately Daniel’s group was the toughest, eventually each one finishing inside the top 10 of the championship which meant the team were always against fast cars making it difficult to get good points.

“We’ve got top drivers in our heats, some of the other guys have just one other quick car so it’s going to be difficult for all of us in our group over the weekend” – Daniel.

Early on in the heats Daniel went well, making a few positions here and there until eventually getting to grips with the track and running away with a heat win. Into the final heat and Daniel was looking good to sit in 4th position of the feature if he remained where he were but bad luck would strike when he hit a rut, tipping the car up onto two wheels and down into the wall ending that race. The crew got the car up and running in time for the main 30 lap event, the Vernon & Vazey / ENZED Sprintcar starting out of position 9. Light green and Daniel dropped a spot but would eventually make it up, the track virtually one lane for the top guys unless into the slower lapped traffic, the determination was there but Daniel would have to settle for 7th as laps ran out.

“The race went super-fast, we got held up behind cars we were trying to pass for position but the tracks just too hard to make a move on. Allard & I were the only ones to move forward, a couple of spots the rest of it was follow the leader which is a real shame but we’re happy with our efforts!” – Daniel.

A week later at the Sprintcar Gold Cup at Ruapuna, Christchurch Daniel would be the main one to beat and quickly came to grips with a track he had only run on once before many years ago. Heat 1 of 6, Daniel started out of position 3 and soon chased down the new 3NZ of Jamie McDonald but was unable to make a successful pass for the win, over the next few heats starting off grids, 10, 6 & 11 Daniel would finish 1st, 1st and 4th in that order putting on a fantastic show for the crowd.

“All I remember from last time down here is we struggled, it was only our 2nd season though and I didn’t like the track but that opinions definitely changed! We’ve just got everything perfect, the car feels like I can place it anywhere, it’s a lot of fun – the most fun racing ever I think.” – Daniel.

Heading into night two Daniel went equally as well except for his second to last heat where the track had lost quite a bit of grip and his highest point lead from Friday was lost by just 2 points heading into the feature.

“We’ve changed the car heading into the feature and it feels perfect, we’re really hoping for a win here tonight all going well” – Daniel.

As the cars lined up ready to take the green, the Vernon & Vazey / ENZED 78a Sprintcar pulled low and stopped, something was wrong. Daniel got a re-fire but the car wouldn’t take throttle nor run properly, with devastation on the team’s faces as he had to retire before the race even began. Another cruel reminder of the tough nature of the sport.

“I’m lost for words, everyone had been commenting on the speed we had all weekend but it’s never over till it’s over but I didn’t think it would be sitting on the in-field not having taken the green. It’s a real shame for the team, we journeyed all the way and it was looking perfect for us this weekend. We found out that our magneto had come loose in the motor, retarding the ignition and I had to pull in” – Daniel.

Check out a few photos of what the Vernon & Vazey / ENZED team got up on and off track during the South Island tour.

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