Speedway: Champion unavailable but good saloon line-up

The new national champion will not be present at the New Zealand saloon grand prix which starts at Beachlands Speedway tonight.

Blenheim's Rob Flood won the New Zealand saloon car championships in Cromwell last weekend but, due to work commitments, is unable to front for the grand prix races at Beachlands over the next two nights.

Despite Flood not racing, competition should still be healthy, with the drivers who finished immediately behind him - Steve Cowling and Brent McClymont, both from Bay Park in Mt Maunganui - lining up and in with a big chance of victory.

McClymont has been on the podium all six times the grand prix has been staged, including two victories.

Also lining up will be golf caddie Steve Williams, in his Ford Mustang. Williams finished fifth in Cromwell. A crash scuttled his chances of getting into the top placings.

Top local hopes are Mark Newall and Reon McPherson.

There are 31 drivers lining up and they have been split up into three groups for qualifying tonight.

The groups have three races of 15 laps each with the top six in each group going through to tomorrow night's final.

A repechage race will take place early in tomorrow night's card. The first two drivers in this race will be the final qualifiers for the final.

The racing at the speedway starts at 7pm on both nights.

The grand prix follows on from the national streetstock championships held at Beachlands last month, in what is shaping up as a good year for the club.

Beachlands Speedway vice-president Matt Stewart said the club had acquired the hosting rights for the events a couple of years ago and had worked hard in the intervening period to make it successful.

Good weather had helped at the streetstock championships last month and more was forecast over the next couple of days.

The water tanker had been busy hosing down the track to keep any dust problems at bay.

Crowds of about 5000 had attended the streetstock championships, Stewart said, and he hoped for a similar number over the next couple of days.