With the arrival of American professional dirt-track driver Bobby Pierce, who made the trup to New Zealand for three rounds of the Burger King Pro Dirt Super Saloon Series, competition was set to be stiff.
The first of the 19-year-old’s rounds — and the third round of the seven-round series, held at Waikaraka Park on November 26 — was the first time he’d driven a Super Saloon. But with years of experience in the somewhat similar ‘Late Model’ class, it was an experience he was looking forward to.
Having previously won many American titles, including winning ‘The World 100’ held at the Eldora Speedway in Ohio, USA, his stats are pretty good with 24 wins from 68 starts, and 154 career feature wins.
The first meeting for him at Waikaraka Park didn't quite go as planned when the suspension broke in the car that he’d borrowed from local driver Ben Harding. But he certainly came back from that when he started at 12 on the grid for the feature and finished second.
The next round was held at Meeanee speedway on December 2. The weather forecast wasn't looking great, and after several cars went out to try and pack down the track to no avail, the rain came again and the meeting was cancelled.
Next stop on the schedule was at Robertson Holden International Speedway in Palmerston North on December 3. This is a very fast track where it’s not uncommon for cars to be three abreast, so it always creates a great spectacle for the crowds. The young American didn't have it all his own way having to battle hard amongst the locals.
By the time the feature race rolled around, Bobby had a good handle on the car, and managed to score pole position next to Dan Corrin, with ‘NZ number one’ Mark Osborne behind. A bad start saw him drop back to seventh within a few laps as Osborne took the lead and was charging hard.
Bobby showed the skill that’s gained him a worldwide fan base, picking off the local drivers one by one, passing each of them on the outside. Most watching were sure that he wouldn't be able to catch Osborne, but that’s exactly what he did, again passing on the outside, and he just kept pulling away — a sight many will never forget, and likely the best piece of Super Saloon driving witnessed on New Zealand soil.
Osborne came in a close second, helping with his championship points standing, while Chris Cowling came home third.
Of course, for the crowd, the racing isn’t all about who won, but about watching the action. And there was plenty of it, as you can see from this wild three-wheel action by Mark Pitcher.
If you’re keen to check out the Burger King Pro Dirt Super Saloon Series, round six takes place at Robertson Holden International Speedway on February 5, followed by round seven at Huntly Placemakers Speedway on February 18, and the final at Wellington Family Speedway on March 18. Find out all the date and time information for the remainder of the series at bkprodirtseries.nz.