Driving force on world stage

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Matthew Williamson was back on familiar territory on Sunday.

The Oamaru driver had his first appearance on his home track, for the Oamaru Harness Racing Club’s winter meeting, since returning from the World Driving Championships in Sweden.

It was a successful stint in the international competition for Williamson, who finished sixth out of 12 drivers. The series, a five-day championship made up solely of trotting races, was won by Rick Ebbinge, of Holland.

Williamson said he was happy with his result, and the overall experience of the trip.

“It was the best drivers from each country, so if you have run mid-pack against them, you have done all right.”

One major difference was racing with a different breed of horse – cold-bloods.

“They were like driving a mini-clydesdale, they ran about 20 seconds slower than normal trotters.

“I happened to win one of those races, which was good.

“It felt a bit like kid-cart racing.

The Swedish racing rules also differed to New Zealand’s.

“You couldn’t push out and there were no passing lanes, so that was a bit frustrating if you were stuck behind someone.

“You had to make your moves pretty early.

“Another thing was that you could only whip the horse five times in the last 500 metres of a race – the first few times out there it found like you weren’t trying.”

A lot of the horses were raced without shoes, Williamson said.

“Every horse was pre-warmed before their race, 90% would take back shoes off and some even took front shoes as well.

“They reckon it can take a couple of seconds off.”

Outside of the racing, the trip could not have been better, he said.

“I loved it, it was awesome to meet all the people and see some different racing.”

“They looked after us really well, we were wined and dined.”

A highlight of the trip was attending the Elitloppet race meeting in Sweden.

“It was a similar sized crowd to Cup Day at Addington, but they are very focused on the horses.

“They were an educated crowd, they all have the knowledge of every horse racing that day.

couldn’t name a horse.”

Williamson said he would “100%” have another crack at the series, and maybe take more of the family with him.