Like father, like son: Jarred Fletcher wins the NZ Saloon Car Championship in 2023, 32 years after his father

Cambridge racer Jarred Fletcher mastered the conditions at his home circuit to win the New Zealand Limousine Championship. Photo / Included

Almost 32 years to the day after that father drove to New Zealand’s title win at the original Baypark, Cambridge racing driver Jarred Fletcher won the 2023 NZ Saloon Car Championship at Baypark Speedway on Saturday night.

Fletcher, 29, is a third-generation racer who continues the success of his father Geoff – a two-time New Zealand Champion – and grandfather John, having grown up around the family’s racing efforts.

“We work so hard in the shed, Dad and I and all the boys, and it’s paying off,†says Fletcher.

“Well, it’s great to finally have to stop chasing him. Dad got it a few times and I’ve always wanted it since I was a kid growing up.†‌

In a hard-fought 25-lap final, Fletcher led all the way in his Pro-X Corvette but was under pressure from former champion and top qualifier Ethan Cook.

Fletcher dictated the numerous restarts in an incident-filled race, and as track conditions shifted in favor of more conventional torsion bar designs, Fletcher’s knowledge of the home track and patient racing craft proved a crucial factor.

“This car doesn’t have as much horsepower as some of the other guys are saying, but it has low torque. So it was nice to slowly restart, then step up and it would drive away,” says Fletcher.

On the way to the track on Saturday, the father and son had discussed how the overnight rain since qualifying could affect track conditions. The surface remained smooth until late evening when some ruts developed.

“Turn two did pretty badly and was in a bad spot. When you came into the turn, they hooked your right rear end just as it was loaded, and it snapped the front end,” says Fletcher.

Trent Amrein, Jarred Fletcher and George Phillips celebrate their podium finish in the New Zealand Saloon Car Championship.
Trent Amrein, Jarred Fletcher and George Phillips celebrate their podium finish in the New Zealand Saloon Car Championship.

“Once it stopped jerking out of the ruts, you could just right it up and drive.â€

The race ended in a five-lap sprint after a multiple-car pile-up, with Fletcher controlling the restart ahead of Cook, Southland’s George Phillips and Baypark racer Trent Amrein, who engaged in what was sometimes a three-way battle for the podium.

Phillips slipped past Amrein on the penultimate lap and Cook challenged him until the last lap when he ran too far and dropped five places. Amrein used his podium chance to finish ahead of Christchurch racer Ashton Osborne.

After enjoying the slick track and scoring four heat race wins, Phillips said he was surprised at how the ruts developed later in the night.

“There were definitely more ruts than my last heat race when there weren’t any. They got bigger and bigger as the race progressed and it was very difficult to hold on to the car,” said Phillips, who is again runner-up in the national title.

Southland's George Phillips (2NZ) battles Tauranga's Trent Amrein for podium spots.  Photo / Included
Southland’s George Phillips (2NZ) battles Tauranga’s Trent Amrein for podium spots. Photo / Included

“Baypark is a great track to race. It’s fast and there are two lanes, but unfortunately I don’t think there were two lanes for the feature. But I would like to come back here in the future.â€‌

Defending champion Chris Cowling dominated Friday night, winning three heats. After finishing second in his penultimate run, his car didn’t shift out of reverse when he returned to the pits.

Cowling missed his fifth heat while a spare gearbox was fitted. Starting ninth, he climbed up to fourth place but was involved in a collision towards the end of the race and finished seventh.

International golf caddy Steve Williams ended his long speedway career in eighth place at the course where he had won both National Saloon and Super Saloon titles.

The next meeting at Baypark Speedway is February 11th.


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