There are behind the scenes questions being asked about the shut-down of the New Zealand Super Saloon speedway championships on Saturday night, just before the finish of the meeting’s last race – the championship decider.
Racing was stopped a few minutes after 10pm, when the venues noise consent expires.
There were only six laps left in the final race when drivers were ordered to stop racing.
The final race was the culmination of two nights of racing with a field of 30 cars, the biggest field of cars in that class ever assembled anywhere in New Zealand.
There were people from Invercargill to Whangarei who came to town for the event, estimated at 10,000 over the two nights, and another large number watching on the livestream.
“If you went to the movies and they stopped it three minutes from the end you would feel cheated and want a refund. What happened Saturday night is no different,” says a customer on the night, Grant Webber.
Promoter Bernie Gillon didn’t want to comment when asked about it by SunLive. Mayor Greg Brownless says he is also waiting to hear from BVL about what happened.
“I’ve heard what happened and I think it’s very disappointing and I want to get to the bottom of how that happened,” says Greg.
“It was a very important race and it would be good to know why there was any risk of it not being completed. Looking forward, it would be interesting to hear it and how it could be avoided at all costs in the future.”
Bay Venues commercial manager Ervin McSweeney says it’s the promoter who stops the racing not BVL. Ervin wasn’t there on the night.
Bay Venues Ltd runs the venue. The speedway promoter is required to run the venue according to the city rules.
The city rules endeavouring to protect the environment around Baypark from the effects, in particular of noise.
“After a certain time, it’s those rules that oblige the promoter to finish the race when he did. They are the rules before the race meeting started, in fact they are the rules before the season even starts,” says Ervin.
“And they are the same rules that have been in place ever since I’ve worked here which is seven or eight years now.
“I think if they had finished the race, in this case, the promoter would have breached the terms of his contract. We can only enforce city rules by making it part of the licensee’s contract.”
Grant says the Saturday night meeting was late starting. Racing was advertised to start at 6pm, but the parade dragged on and there was no racing until shortly before 7pm.
Another customer Murray Guy says a crash near the end of the second to last race impacted the final race.
“A lot of the competitors recognised early on in the evening that they were putting at risk the final race. We recognised that,” says Murray. “Had it started at 6.30, which it generally does, clearly it would have finished on time.
“Immediately prior to the final race there was a stock car race and near the end of that stock car race a red light was incurred, a stoppage. They messed around, removed the cars - and carried on with that race and it was only three or four laps.”
The promoter should have called the stockcar race and brought on the Super Saloons, says Murray. The few minutes would have made a vital difference.
“They should have learned from past years that race meetings of this calibre have got to be completed because you have to have a result,” says Grant.
Competitors were offered the opportunity of finishing the race on the Sunday, but the drivers remaining in the race voted to let the final positions remain as the race was called.
“They needed every driver to agree. That’s a real show of sportsmanship on the drivers’ part,” says Grant.
“If the race had been run properly the only positions probably in doubt were second and third, they might have changed and third and fourth might have changed, the way it was going.
“The guy that won it, great that he won. The guy given third is a very experienced driver and he was breathing down the neck of second. There was a good chance in six laps that he could have taken him. They had the time to do it.”