Bell Block Speedway

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By   CLARK   STREET.   1950.

      The latest addition to New Zealand's ever-increasing string of speedway tracks is at Bell Block, New Plymouth. Already it has laid claim to fame because of the amazing, almost fantastic, speed of construction.
    The promoter, Mr R. Laurent, a former grass-track rider and mechanic, got the idea when tuning an old Harley Davidson, and after getting specifications from the A.C.U. set to work with a number of friends.
     They started immediately and after the first working bee, a local contractor. Mr. George Amor, offered to bulldoze the ploughed ground off the track. As soon as this work was completed, the local boys began hurtling round the course on their test laps.
    This means that after only two days work, the riders had started practicing. Surely this is an achievement enjoyed by none of the other tracks in New Zealand.   Once the surface was level, the track gained a further distinction by having Mrs. Laurent do a lap - and she covered the distance in 35 seconds. Considering that the fastest time at the first practice was 104 4-5sec, (for four laps) Mrs Laurent's effort was pretty good.

Track Very Difficult  

      The boys however, still found the track difficult at this stage, crashing on the corners and clogging their machine with dirt. They carried on undeterred, and one in particular "7-9" Prestney by name, rode his Harley Davidson round and round until it caught fire. Everyone present was sure he did at least 50 laps without stopping.
     "On the first trail day, the boys rode like demons," writes my correspondent. "One would have thought the first prize to be 100 pounds, and judging from that day we are sure that there are some up and coming track riders."
      Mentioned particularly were Johnny Callender, Don Hine, Rex George, Joe George, M. Smith, Butch Wilson, Shotgun Fields, and "7-9" Prestney.

"Bloody Battle" Site.

      The "Taranaki Herald" reporting the trial remarked on the fact that the Speedway is on the site of a bloody battle in the first Taranaki war against the Maoris in 1860. "The bodies of the Maoris were laid in a common grave near the battle ground - the same ground which now sees other battles which, if just as serious, are less costly," states the report.
     Judging by all these reports, New Plymouth will soon have a Speedway as good as any in the Dominion. Apart from the usual attractions at a Speedway, it is reported that there will be a swimming pool installed, with football and hockey fields in the center of the track. If the boys get tired of riding, they will apparently be able to miss a race or two and have a swim, or a quick game of football.
     No doubt next season the name of Bell Block will feature in the Silver Gauntlet series, and perhaps the Golden Helmet fixtures. Lets hope they have good luck and lots of success.

Webmaster note. The track was only used for a few motor cycle and midget races before the Waiwakaiho track was built in New Plymouth and Bell Block was not needed.

Results of the sixteen races at the trial meeting were:-
J.George (Ariel) 1, M.Smith (Douglas) 2, T.Prestney (Harley-Davidson) 3: 1.48.5;

B.Fields (Matchless) 1, K.Wilson (A.J.S.) 2, D.Hine (Triumph) 3: 1.44.8;
R.George (A.J.S.) 1, R.Dicky (Triumph) 2, J.Callender (A.J.S.) 3: 1.47;
J.George (Ariel) 1, B.Fields (Matchless) 2, M.Smith (Douglas) 2, T.Prestney (Harley-Davidson) 3: 1.46.5;
M.Smith (Douglas) 1, J.George (Ariel) 2, R.Dicky (Triumph) 3: 1.48.5;
K.Wilson (A.J.S.) 1, D.Hine (Triumph) 2, B.Fields (Matchless) 3: 1.46.8;
J.Callender (A.J.S) 1, B.Burges (Douglas) 2, T.Prestney (Harley-Davidson) 3: 1.52.5;
R.Dickey (Triumph 1, R.George (A.J.S.) 2, J.George (Ariel) 3: 1.47.5;
B.Fields (Matchless) 1, D.Hine (Triumph) 2, M.Smith (Douglas) 3: 1.47.5;
K.Wilson (A.J.S.) 1, R.Dickey (Triumph) 2, J.George (Ariel) 3: 1.48.2;
R.George (A.J.S.) 1, D.Hine (Triumph) 2, R.Crockett (B.S.A) 3: 1.46.6;
K.Wilson (A.J.S.) 1, J.George (Ariel) 2, M.Smith (Douglas) 3: 1.49;
B.Fields (Matchless) 1, D.Hine (Triumph) 2, R.Crockett (B.S.A) 3: 1.48.6;
D.Hine (Triumph) 1, J.George (Ariel) 2; 1.46.6;
B.Fields (Matchless) 1, J.George (A.J.S.) 2, D.Hine (Triumph) 3: 1.49.

Return to home page    Below is a June 1950 newspaper clipping. Above is local driver Jack Burket in his midget #44 at Bell Block.    TOP