General history of speedway in NZ. Thanks to author Alan Batt for permission to use this item. Home.
Speedway was first introduced to New Zealand on March 9, 1929 when the Kilbirnie
Speedway opened for business in Wellington. Just two weeks later the English
Park track opened in Christchurch, and then before that summer was through,
across the other side of the garden city the Monica Park Speedway opened. The
head to head battle between the two Christchurch tracks ended in November 1929
when the Monica Promoters bought out the interests of the English Park
Within a year tracks had opened at Western Springs, Auckland (November 30, 1929), Dunedin’s Speedway Royal (December 6, 1930) and Palmerston North (December 26, 1930). By the onset of World War Two, just Western Springs had survived, however Palmerston North did re-open in the late forties.
The post war boom saw the sport re-introduced to new tracks in Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, Hastings and New Plymouth. During the mid fifties the Stock Car game became the biggest player in town, and a number of other circuits sprouted up in numerous locations.
Initially speedway racing consisted of races for the Speedway bikes, with Midget car racing first appearing on the programme at Kilbirnie in 1936. The early fifties saw TQ’s and Sidecars coming into the fold before Stock cars started.
Super Modifieds and Saloon cars were the innovations of the sixties while the seventies saw the former class develop into Sprintcars in 1974. Just a few years later Modified Sportsman where introduced after starting at Rotorua as Super Stocks.
During the late 80’s Mini Sprints joined the programme at several tracks. Other off shoots of existing classes have seen a plethora of classes being introduced at the Speedway New Zealand tracks, while unlicensed and CTRA sanctioned tracks have another multitude of classes racing.
Editor--Another possible contender for "first speedway in New Zealand" is Henning's Speedway in Mangere, Auckland, which opened in 1928 and was a slightly banked dirt track of 2 miles length. See NZ Speedways for details of various tracks.
MIDGET CARS (sometimes called Speedcars)
Roscoe Turner introduced midgets to New Zealand when he brought a group of Americans to New Zealand to race at Western Springs in 1937. Two local drivers, G. Mathieson and G. Smith, were included in the racing. A.J. Roycroft was also heavily involved in the start of midget racing at the Springs.
Three Quarter Midgets (TQ's)
Johnny Missen built the first three quarter or TQ (small midgets powered by motor cycle engines up to 650cc) in 1950 and this type of car was raced from 1951 at Western Springs and in the crater of Mt. Albert in the 1950's.
Bikes with side cars began competing at the Aranui track in the late 1950's. One of the leading riders was Bobby Burns who later became the world land speed record holder in this type of machine.
Stock cars were introduced to the Western Springs crowd in 1956 but they soon transferred, under a separate association, to the Epsom Showground.
FATHER AND SON CHAMPIONS
Snow Morris was a national speedway champion in 1948 and 1951 and his son, Trevor, followed his lead by capturing titles between 1969 and 1976.
One of New Zealand's first speedway bike riders in the World Championships was G. Mardon who reached the final in 1953. There have been many others since who have ridden in qualifying rounds but the following three are the most successful.
Ronnie Moore was only 21 when he won the world title in 1954 - four years after he had first reached the final at Wimbledon. Moore won again in 1959 and was second in the championships of 1955, 1956 and 1960. A broken leg forced him to retire in 1963 but he came back to reach the final again in 1969.
Born in Christchurch in 1934, Barry Briggs made a record 17 consecutive appearances in world championship finals. He held the solo speedway title in 1957, 1958, 1964 and 1966 and won the British League title six times between 1965 and 1970.
Ivan Mauger followed Moore and Briggs to Britain and won the solo championship in three successive years, 1968-1970 and again in 1972. Mauger shared the pairs title with W. Andrews and Ronnie Moore in 1969 and 1970 and was twice world long track champion. Mauger, Moore and Briggs were awarded the MBE for their services to the sport. In all Ivan won nine world championships.
The Taranaki Historic Speedway Association was formed in 2002 with the aim of
recording the history and preserving the vehicles and records of speedway racing
in the province of Taranaki in New Zealand and the Waiwakaiho track in
The foundation committee was called together by Laurie Callender and included former speedway driver/riders Dave Gifford, Max Rutherford, Maurice Sattler, Wayne Paul and a more recent competitor Graeme Sutton. Other members of note include Joe Hicks, along with Bruce Ovenden, who rode for the Glasgow Tigers Of the above, all but Graeme were competitors on the Waiwakaiho Speedway, which was the first fully active speedway in this province and one of the first in New Zealand. It remained one of the only club run speedways until its close in 1969.
Speedway started in Taranaki in the 1950's and we are fortunate to have a member very keen on recording those early events.
You can read the first parts of Dave Gifford's History of Waiwakaiho Speedway here. The group is active in purchasing and restoring cars and bikes used on local or New Zealand speedways in the past and also gathering and storing other paraphernalia such as early speedway program's and books.
A regular newsletter is published and features stories of early competitors including overseas drivers and riders who visited this area. Club meetings are held with guest speakers who have included 9 times world champion Ivan Mauger, and Ian Hoskins, who along with his father Johnnie Hoskins, were very active in establishing early Australian and English motorcycle speedway. Johnnie in fact is credited with starting motorcycle speedway in Australia in February 1923, and shifting to England in 1927 to run the first speedway there, at High Beach in the Epping Forest.
To join our club and receive newsletters go here.
Go to NZ Speedways page for list of history of
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