Last night should have been the 10th running of the ‘King of the Springs’ 40 Lapper and over the years we have seen some fantastic battles, controversial moments and masterful displays. But no race will stand out quite like the inaugural ‘King of the Springs’ event.
A strong American contingent of Dave Darland, Danny Stratton, Cory Kruseman, Brad Loyet, Scott Hatton and Brad Kuhn all lined up to take on all the top local drivers on what could politely be described as an incredibly slick race track.
But what transpired in the half hour after the green flag flew was something none of the race fans on the night could have predicted in their wildest dreams, with the win eventually going to Jimi Quin. That part was not surprising, Quin had shown talent but not had the right break, but the fact the Quin led home a four car field while 19 others sat on the infield watching, all largely with the same problem of a flat right rear tyre, makes this a race that will be talked about for years to come.
“Just in the last few weekends, I’ve have a lot of people come up out of the blue and say they remember that race I won,” says Quin looking back at the event.
The clues that each team would be bolting on their hardest right rear came fairly early on in the night, with Quin recalling massive tyre wear in the 12 lap heat races.
“I remember the race before the feature, we pretty much burnt a right rear tyre off in 10 or 12 laps”
While a 13th place starting spot didn’t rank Quin, a youngster at the time being only 23, much of a chance, particularly with such a strong American team to compete against. But the opportunity for the now Australian-based driver to run in the USA over the previous off-season left him with some invaluable experience.
“I’d been racing in the states throughout that year, so I’d been racing those guys a lot at the time. A lot of people probably didn’t think so, but I’d beaten them before, so I knew I could do it again sort of thing.
“I put a pretty hard tyre on and put a special groove into it that we put into it at the Hut Hundred (a 100 lap race held at Tri-State Speedway in the USA), Hoosier gave us a special groove that should be able to let a tyre go 100 laps. We put that in the tyre and I set the car up a little bit tight. It ended up being enough to win it.”
“It was just about a case of whoever could make it to the end was going to win it really with the track being so harsh on tyres.”
As the race got underway, the early running was dominated by the Kiwi’s with Shayne Alach moving into an early lead ahead of Michael Pickens, Brad Mosen and Graham Standring, then the first of the Americans in Dave Darland.
Even though they were running up front, even the notoriously spectacular Pickens was taking it easy in the early running for fears of making the finish.
“We tried to conserve our tyre pretty early on, we knew what the deal was,” reflects Pickens.
Alach would hold the lead for the opening 22 laps of the race, before he was rounded up by experienced American’s Darland and Danny Stratton. Only a lap later, Alach would join Carl Worboys, Graham Standring and Michael Brunt on the infield, all with the same deflating problem.
After that yellow flag, only four laps would be completed without a car dropping out, sometimes more. All of the favoured Kiwi drivers, the likes of Brad Mosen, Bryce Townsend, Nevil Basalaj, Lance Beale, Shaun Insley and even the then 1NZ Tony Fabish, all failed to finish. Pickens summed, the situation up fairly well.
“I remember blowing the tyre blowing and being pretty gutted, but at least we were sitting on the infield with pretty much everyone else.”
Meanwhile the American driver’s experience on slick tracks was coming to the fore and by lap 36 American drivers dominated the podium, with Darland leading Hatton and Kuhn. In fact four of the remaining seven drivers were flying the USA flag.
But such was the unpredictable nature of the race, that only two laps later, all three of the leading American drivers were out, all having blown out their right rear tyres.
Quin’s strategy meanwhile had well and truly paid off, with conservative running and a smart set up choice seeing him through the dramas many were facing.
“I think we started 10th or 12th or something so I remember (Tony) Fabish and Lance Beale dicing pretty rough and I thought if I can just let everyone blow tyres and sort of crash each other out, I should be in with a shot.
“I think one of the first cars to blow his tyre was on lap 20 or something like that maybe, so from then I knew that looking after your tyres would be pretty important, but I knew we’d be safe, because running a lot of slick tracks in the states, you know how much you can get out of your tyre on a certain track. So as much as it went bald, I knew we’d have enough tyre by the end of the race.”
But when the American drivers in front failed, Quin didn’t have it all his own way and needing to get past five times national champion Michael Kendall was going to be no easy feat. Quin was able to get the pass made and then claims it was all plain sailing from there, even going as far to say he didn’t hear any funny noises most drivers do on the verge of their first major victory.
“Not really, it was one of those things where it was if your tyre was going to go, it was going to go and you just hope and pray that it’s not. That was about it really.”
For Quin, along with the $10,000 prize money that accompanied victory, it was a breakthrough win at New Zealand’s premier speedway.“It’s been the only one date and probably the biggest of my career to date. We finally had a bit of luck go our way for once, that was what I felt like after I won it.”