A week after winning his maiden New Zealand Midget Champion Auckland’s Peter Hunnibell return to Western Springs sporting prized NZ1 on the tail of his midget .First race as the NZ1 fittingly was the Barry Butterworth Classic
After watching Speedway for over 50 years I must admit that I get great excitement and pleasure when I see the underdog get up and take the spoils. To win a National Title is tough, fitness and commitment and the ability to stay focused when other around you are self destructing is in itself an achievement.
The 30 lap New Zealand Title is a race that all teams desperately want to win and the desire to carry the Countries premier racing number sends the adrenalin sky high.
New Zealand’s top three , the defending Champion Brad Mosen, Hayden Williams and 6 times Champion and current Australian Champion Michael Pickens shared the top three positions and the expectations of a massive battle between these three superb racers would fade as the laps ran out and totally different story line would start to emerge.
Peter Hunnibell in #39 was starting out of position 12 and like many other would have been reserved as the 20 car field approached the starter.
Like many races the front runners got away clean but an early stoppage was not an indication of how this Title race would span out .The first casualty was James Earl when he spun and collected McCutcheon and ending his Title ambition. For most of the early laps the Mosen,William and Pickens duel starting to show what the fans had come to see close fast and aggressive confrontation between New Zealand’s best three.
Mosen was the early leader before Williams played his cards early taking the lead position by laps together with Drummond found the six times Champ quickly back in 5th position. two. Pickens had some early moments and a coming .By lap four Pickens had regained 3rd.Soon after Pickens and Mosen tangle and by lap 6 Pickens had secured second over Mosen with Williams in his frame.
Pickens and Mosen continued to dispute second behind Williams. Drummond was now entering the battle and tries to use the pole line to get underneath Mosen and Picken .Pickens and Mosen continue to argue over the spot and pair come together .A bang here and a bang there before Pickens once again locks in second
As the Championship Features reached the halfway point Hunnibell still sits back in the pack out of trouble as the top three starts to gap the field .It is not long before lapped traffic starts to present a separate challenge and Leyton Kendall sits in their path. Even laps from home and track has started to widen
Williams leading for most of the race has a big moment on lap 24 with a wheel stand and Pickens tries to take advantage but Williams recovers and continues to lead. With the laps running out Williams had the chance to close out the Championship but the drama starts to unfold when the top three approach Lucas Scott who is about to go a lap down .Williams and Pickens clear Scott when Mosen wheel stands the #NZ1 and rolls the Esslinger four times and collects #3NZ Dave Kerr. Both Kerr and Mosen are out and in 2016 there will be no back to back Championship glory for 2015 Champion
From here on the Championship takes an unbelievable turn. Williams leads Pickens on the restart three from home. Williams is wide ,Pickens underneath ,Championship winning move that goes wrong and the pair collide , both spins into the incoming traffic, somehow Williams keeps the #27 going while Pickens car is damaged and what he figure was a winning move takes home out of the race and no 7th Title this year . ..#65 and #36 and #87 are also infield bound and out of the race
Another restart and Williams get a reprieve. Championship is starring him in the face and I can image his heart rate pumping up .Again Williams takes the lead and with 2 laps left and the Title looking like it will be Williams maiden Championship when Brunt tries a sneaky slider on the #27, the unbelievable happens when Williams rolls and Hunnibell takes advantage and moves up a position.
Brunt avoids a penalty and will lead off the restart from Maxwell Hunnibell and Scott…Maxwell takes the lead on the final restart from Brunt then Hunnibell plays a late hand and passes Brunt and chase after Maxwell. With an unexpected Championship win at stake Hannibal see the way past Maxwell but Maxwell with his own eyes firmly targeting the win heads to the bottom and in his efforts to re pass Hunnibell collects the #39a but Hunnibell would not be denied and stays on the track and finishes as the unexpected but super proud New Zealand Midget Speedcar Champion
They crossed the line in order Hunnibell #39a, Maxwell#81, Lucas Scott#23a, Jared Wade #85, Michael Brunt #9a .There was more surprises to come Dyane Maxwell was excluded as his #81 was declared 5 kgs under weight at the scales moving Lucas Scott #23a into second and moving Jared Wade #85 into third .
The podium New Zealand Midget Championship 2016
Peter Hunnibell NZ1 Lucas Scott NZ2 Jared Wade NZ3 Congratulation from all Speedway fans .
The exhilaration experienced by Peter Hunnibell as he entered the final two laps would have been at fever pitch and the image clearly focused in his mind of the NZ1 plate would have been the spur that was needed to make the final pass into New Zealand Midget Speedcar Racing history .No matter what happened during those 30 laps the skill and determination needed to get though all that carnage and to be able launch that last successful pass will remain a memory that Peter Hunnibell ,his team and family will never forget.
Speaking on his historic Championship win Peter had this to say “
“Still hasn’t quite sunk in that we took home #1 last night. Was great to have Brad Mosen and Jonathan Allard there to congratulate us on the infield. We’d like to thank our team – Dad, Mum and Dylan, Carl and Jen, Johnny, Stu and Family, Ian and Liz, Adam, Khan and everyone else who has put in hours and persisted through after a rough start to the season. To our amazing sponsors Lubricants NZ, Narellan Pools Auckland, Allstar Plumbing Ltd, RMC valves, Appco, Autolab and Harris Race Car Parts Lt “
3o lap midget feature grids 27 Hayden Williams Racing 1nz Brad Mosen Racing (top qualifier) 1aus Michael Pickens Racing 9 Micheal Brunt 25 Scott Buckley Racing 87 Leon Burgess Racing 36 Ben Drummond Racing 22 James earl 95s Duane Hickman 81 Dayne Maxwell 33 James Cossey 39 Peter Hunnibell 23 Lucas Scott 85 Jared wade 3nz Dave Kerr 99 Taylor Clarke 96 Chris Mccutcheon 13 Ricky McGough 18 Leyton Kendall 21 Zahn Turner
20 started only 6 crossed the finishing line
Talking Speedway would like to thank Peter Hunnibell and Western Springs Speedway for the use of the photographs.