Ellesmere Speedway, Doyleston, Return to NZ Speedways. Home page.
Doyleston is around 20 miles south of
Christchurch near Lake Ellesmere. With thanks to Alan Batt for permission to use
extracts from his book
"The First 21 Years" and covers racing up to the 1990 season.
The first motor
racing in the district was in 1901 when a four mile car race was held by the
Athletic and Cycling club, but speedway as we know it started
in 1959, when the Aranui Speedway
became a victim of the urban sprawl and what had been a fine speedway
stadium, was torn down to make way for a housing development.
To prevent the sport from dying the Christchurch Speedway Association was formed, with the view of giving competitors the ultimate control over speedways destiny in the city. To keep the sport going, the Ellesmere Motor Club started up a Speedway at Osbourne Park, Doyleston. This ensured that not too many competitors lost interest, and it bought time for the Christchurch Speedway Association, who were feverishly hunting for a venue closer to the city.
Eventually construction began on a Speedway stadium at the Templeton Domain, now known as Ruapuna Park. This new track opened 16th of February 1963. Ellesmere closed down partly due to the opening of Ruapuna, but more so due to the unfair treatment by the 'Village elders' of the Doyleston district.
In 1969 some determined people started speedway again in the district under the banner of the The Rakaia River Bed Racing Ass. The first track was actually in the river bed of this mighty river. Later the Ellesmere Motor Racing Club became the organisation running speedway at various other venues in the area. To start with the vehicles used were 1930's Morris and Vauxhall road cars but soon Yankie Iron started to appear such as 1937 V8 coupes and saloons.
The first motor cycle to race there was a brave man on a Villiers two stroke. A farm paddock was used for the next track but the 300 gallon manure spreader used as a water truck did not quite match the speed of the dust production, so another move was made.
One track they used even had a 'dog leg' corner in the back straight! Four moves were made in the first six years with the fourth being to near Killinchy. the first track here included a dip in the pits bend. Racing was with Moto X bikes, Mini Rods, Heavy Rods and Saloons.
The Auto Cycle Union intervened and caused problems because the bikes "were not licensed to the Union" but this was soon sorted out. Although a three year lease was held on the land, the quarry next door moved too close, so another shift was needed. For a couple of seasons there was no local track so the competitors raced at Templeton until in 1979 a new track was built. This time it was to Hanmer Rd. Irwell. This track hosted the South Island Federation championships for Mini Rods, A Grade Saloons, Stock Cars and Mini Stocks. Later that season a fund raising meeting was held and one stunt put on was a supporter and local councillor, Grant Clausen, "blowing himself up" He was in a "long drop dunni" in the middle of the track and he was in the hole underneath! A suitable and spectacular explosion left the dunni well demolished, from which he steeped out un-harmed.
The next season saw Rally Cars, Midgets, TQ's Solo Bikes and Sprintcars all appear. But another shift was needed. After another major battle, a long term lease was signed on land near the golf course. The last event at the Irwell track featured a big demolition derby which brought a huge crowd and much needed money for the shift fund.
In August 1981 the new track was marked out and it was to feature lights so night racing could start. The Ellesmere Raceway opened on Sunday 24th 1983 and racing was organised by a three man "promotors" group. Although the racing was fairly good, the local Ellesmere County Council was still causing troubles.
Eventually the club had to resort to legal action to clear its name, and were helped by backing from the Police and Park committee, and several prominent local business owners.
The above brief history was taken in extracts from the Alan Batt book "The First 21 Years" and covers racing up to the 1990 season.
It is hoped to find more information (and photographs) on any racing since 1990. If you can help please contact the webmaster.
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