Marquet's keeping midget dream alive
Story by: PETE McNAE - Photo by: Barry Whitnall
Nick Marquet is probably as familiar with Wee Creek, Horseshoe Lake and the speed camera at Belfast as he is with turn one at Nelson speedway these days.
For the past three weekends, the Nelson midget class driver has been backwards and forwards to Canterbury's race tracks, building towards tomorrow's South Island championship at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park Speedway.
Marquet is looking forward to sticking close to home and welcoming a championship field of 10 onto his turf.
"We're a bit bloody sick of the drive, but there are so few cars supporting the class these days that you have to be prepared to travel or the South Island will be left out of the reckoning for any major meetings," he said.
Marquet has also learnt a lot about the Gaerte-Stealth he and his dad, Leigh, have run between them for many seasons.
Subtle changes to the car during meetings at Ruapuna and Woodford Glen have yielded pleasing results.
He has had a string of wins in club nights at Ruapuna and put some heavy hitters from the North Island in the shade at the Triple Crown promotion a fortnight ago.
"We had guys come up to us and basically say that we shouldn't be going as well as we do with a 15-year-old chassis and maybe 50 horsepower less than they have.
"While we had an average run in the feature races in the Triple Crown, we were qualifying really well against cars that run at the front of the field at the Springs [Auckland's Western Springs]."
The class is close to flatlining in the South Island, though, with the Barry Butterworth memorial series now a patchwork affair and some quick cars gathering dust in garages.
Marquet is determined to see the midgets through the low ebb.
"We had 10 cars last weekend in Christchurch and that was probably the strongest gathering of South Island cars we have had all season," he said.
"The racing was good, really good, and we had a huge amount of positive reports coming back to us after the class turned it on at the saloon meeting in Nelson.
"We are battling for numbers all the time but a field of 10 can still turn on close racing."
In the midgets' appearance at the national super saloon championships here last month the open wheelers almost stole the spotlight.
Marquet, Nevil Basalaj and Dave Kerr were spectacular as they charged through the field, running just two-tenths of a second off the track lap record, while the likes of Andrew Brown and Dudley White kept them honest in the reverse grid races, showing that they could race hard from the front of the pack.
While White's season is over after a crash at the Triple Crown meeting, the other four have entered tomorrow, alongside class stalwart Gavin Wilkie, who covers thousands of kilometres from his Dunedin base. A step up to a Gaerte-Stealth should place Wilkie among the contenders.
"Gav's like us. There's no big budget, but he's at every meeting and he runs as hard as he can," Marquet said.
"The car he is running now is a definite step forward." While the Marquet team, which races with the backing of Qwik Time Race Products, Dunsmuire Engineering (Chch), Entech, Discover New Zealand Motorhome Rentals, Hydraulink, Wynns and Richmond Glass, have had success with tyre and gearing changes in recent weeks on the Canterbury tracks, they are likely to favour the tried and true tomorrow.
"It's become really easy to drive, quite predictable and it will go well anywhere on the track, but Nelson requires a different approach.
"Between dad and myself, we have done a few laps here so he will dial up something that works and I will try to keep my head clear and stay clean and consistent.
"We haven't had a whole lot of success in the South Island championships, so it's one we are going to chase hard.
"I'd love to get a good result for dad, mostly. He puts in huge time and effort. Without all he does, I'm not out there at all."
Other promotions on tomorrow's programme include the closed club championships for superstocks, and best pairs racing for youth ministocks and production saloons.