4 Dec, 2020 08:42 AM3 minutes to read
By Colin Smith
Travel and quarantine restrictions mean international speedway competitors are likely to be a rarity in New Zealand this summer.
But one of the most successful US visitors in recent years is ready to line up at Mt Maunganui’s Baypark Speedway this Saturday night.
California racer Jonathan Allard has been a regular visitor to New Zealand since 2006 and has twice won the New Zealand Sprint Car Championship – in 2011 and 2016 – at the Baypark track.
Allard’s presence in New Zealand is easily explained. His wife is a Kiwi and after spending most summers racing in New Zealand for the past 15 years, they choose to stay as the Covid-19 pandemic began to develop.
“We decided not to go back to California this year, not knowing if we would be able to come back again,” Allard said.
“Races were being cancelled in California and it was getting hard to put a deal together up there.
“So we stayed in New Zealand. In some ways not being able to go back to California has turned into an opportunity and a blessing.”
That opportunity is a drive with one of New Zealand’s leading sprint car operations.
Having been an on-track rival to Matamata-based Daltons Racing, Allard becomes the fourth US racer to drive for the team.
He’s already made two appearances and has found form early to finish second in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Auckland’s Western Springs Speedway last Saturday night.
This Saturday night he’s part of another title quality sprint car grid as the build-up continues for the 2021 New Zealand Championship at Baypark Speedway over the January 8-9 weekend.
“Baypark is the track where I began my experience of New Zealand racing quite a few years ago now,” Allard said.
“We’ve had a bit of success there and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the Daltons family, the race fans and the track workers in the Bay of Plenty.”
Allard said second place in the NZ Grand Prix was a slightly delayed start to his NZ campaign.
“We had an issue with the car on the first night [at Western Springs] so it was good to run about 50 laps last weekend and get back into the flow.
“We’ve made a few changes in how we set up the car after doing the same thing for quite a few years. After the Grand Prix I feel the car has the speed and as I get back into a rhythm, we’ll be good.”
Baypark’s programme this Saturday night also includes the third and fourth races of the Barry Muir’s Furniture Gallery Super Saloon Car Series.
After a tightly fought opening round a fortnight ago, Chris Cowling leads with 44 points from brother and sister Scott and Caitlin Hayward tied on 43 and Ian Daniel with 42 points.
Midget cars, six shooters and this season’s first appearance of the saloon cars will complete the programme.