Enthusiasm

Electric crowds as Teams Champs carnage takes to the track

Whanganui Warriors fans came out in force, hoping to see their team take home the trophy.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Whanganui Warriors fans came out in force, hoping to see their team take home the trophy.

This event was canceled after Stephen Penn, a pilot for the Manawatū Mustangs, was killed in a crash at 6:15 p.m. Sunday. Updated April 25 at 10:31 a.m.

To say it’s a contact sport is an understatement. By any means necessary, these runners compete to be the first to cross the line.

It doesn’t matter if it’s crashing into a wall or shunt from behind, the crowd is there for it all.

Thing arrived at Robertson Prestige International Speedway on Saturday evening as SuperStock Teams Champs competitors prepared for their parade lap around the track.

In a show of regional pride, bordering on tribalism, stockcars were tied together behind trucks as supporters donned their badges ready for their audience.

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Travis Winiata, 11, of Rongotea rides with the Palmerston North Panthers during the opening ceremony lap of honor.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Travis Winiata, 11, of Rongotea rides with the Palmerston North Panthers during the opening ceremony lap of honor.

As Dixie horns (used by the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee car) blared in the pits, teams entered the track one by one under the stadium’s new entrance bridge.

With flags flying and team colors visible to all, they showed the crowd that they were there to win. And the crowd reacted with frenzy.

A proud young boy from his area was 11-year-old Travis Winiata. Hailing from Rongotea, he was in support of the Palmerston North Panthers, standing on the side of their stockcar as he made his rounds.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been here on the track, but we come every year,” he said.

“It gets really loud there, but it’s great to watch the crowd.”

Crowds of passionate fans dressed up in support, including a group of young Whanganui Warriors fans dressed as Spider-man.

Spud Mathers from Gisborne shows us the passion of a man who lives and breathes Speedway.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Spud Mathers from Gisborne shows us the passion of a man who lives and breathes Speedway.

One of the most passionate supporters was Spud Mathers; a mainstay in the circles of Gisborne Speedway.

“If you want to find me anywhere, you’ll hear me here because I’ll be the one shouting ‘Go the Giants’ all weekend.”

Back in Gisborne, Mathers was heavily involved in sport.

He drives the starter car at Awapuni Speedway in Gisborne and worked as a local regional representative for the sport.

“We’ve been coming for five years and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Absolutely not.”

Pit crews in the stadium concourse as they make final changes and adjustments to their cars ahead of the parade lap.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Pit crews in the stadium concourse as they make final changes and adjustments to their cars ahead of the parade lap.

The crowd at Teams Champs was a hotbed of gasoline-headed enthusiasm.

Amateur racers, mechanics, body specialists and car enthusiasts cheered as qualifying began. Every crash, every crash, every scrape along the barrier was cheered, making the atmosphere almost gladiator.

Even when chunks of mud and gravel sprayed the faces of those who dared to sit in the front row, their enthusiasm was undeterred.

Among them were families to enjoy the evening. Peacefully huddled together in the middle rows, Tracy Batley and her daughter Mia were a picture of calm amid the chaos.

Teams Champs newcomer Tracy Batley and her daughter Mia are back in Manawatū on vacation from Australia.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Teams Champs newcomer Tracy Batley and her daughter Mia are back in Manawatū on vacation from Australia.

“It’s amazing. We’re having a great weekend so far,” Batley said.

Visiting from Australia for a month-long trip, Speedway was one of the many things they did to familiarize themselves with the Manawatū.

“I’ve never been to anything like this. I’ve been to the Speedway at Ipswich near Brisbane but it’s totally different with the teams so we’re not sure what to expect.