The Covid›19 Level 4 lockdown has given two›time South Island champion street stock driver Benji Smaill, of Milton, the chance to catch a breath after a busy year.
He has spent the days finishing off a client’s new race car and reflecting on a season full of surprises as he prepares for the next season.
‘‘It’s been an awesome season.
‘‘Wherever I raced in the North Island or the South we were constant, and constancy pays off with good finishes and eventually a couple of titles,’’ he said.
Smaill, an engineer at Calder Stewart in Milton, was the South Island champion for the second time and also came home first in the New Zealand Street Stock Grand Prix held earlier this year in Nelson.
‘‘The 2020›21 season ran from last October to Easter, and this year the racing was hard work,’’ he said.
‘‘With long days on the road as we travelled many times north to Canterbury, Marlborough or Nelson or across the strait to the central North Island to race in Rotorua or Napier.
‘‘It was often a case of finishing early on the Friday and driving overnight to race meetings up north, racing on the Saturday night, and then as soon as it was all over, packing up and heading back home to Milton for work on Monday.
‘‘It has been a great season and everywhere we raced the fields were full of quality cars and drivers, so that made it so much more special to win the title again.’’
Smaill sometimes took his eldest son Benson (7) with him on the road trips.
‘‘He loved it. He knew it was a bus man’s holiday especially when we went from track to track on successive days, but it was great to have him there.’’
The highlight had been attending the recent Speedway New Zealand Awards where Smaill was awarded the overall New Zealand Speedway competitor of the year award, capping off a great year, he said.
‘‘Now because of the lockdown it’s given me the chance to spend extra time finishing off a fellow racer’s new race car, work on my own car and start to prepare for the coming season which will again involve racing at the national champions to be held in the top of the South Island.’’