2, meetings 4 to 6 1950-51.
By Dave Gifford
to Taranaki Speedways
So far the
first season of racing at Waiwakaiho had been a great success, the crowds had
been excellent and so had the racing but there were one or two areas that were
causing concern for the Club officials and these were addressed about this time.
The main cause for concern was a discrepancy between the estimated crowd
numbers and the gate takings. Whether this discrepancy was real or not is not
clear but the club acted swiftly and replaced the hired gatekeepers with their
own members who would now be responsible for all the gate takings.
The second problem the club had to contend with was a rumour that was going around which suggested that the drivers were being paid large sums of money for racing at Waiwakaiho every Saturday night. Of course if they had been getting the money it would have been thoroughly deserved for they were putting on a superb show each week but in actual fact all the drivers were paid very little for their efforts. All the competitors were paid five pounds a night for racing and the visitors from Auckland and the Manawatu were paid a small travel allowance, barely enough to cover their expenses. The Club went to some lengths to make this clear to the public, presumably because so much of the material used in the construction of the speedway had been donated by local businesses and it might not have looked too good if it was thought that the competitors were getting rich at their expense.
Another excellent crowd packed into the Waiwakaiho Showgrounds to witness the fourth night of midget car action and the evening got off to a flying start when Manawatu driver Brian Milne in car #46 lowered the one lap record to 21-4/5 seconds during time trials but his claim on the record was short lived as Dave Holmes clipped a further 2/5 of a second off the new mark with a storming lap in car #57.
The 6 Lap Fitzroy Handicap was the first event of the night once the time trials had been completed and was run in the usual manner of three heats and a final. The first heat provided a win for the Palmerston North driver Fred Miles who brought home the #15 car ahead of the popular Theo Dodunski in #13 and John Arthur in #68. (Shown in photo at right)
Coming off a 40 yard handicap in heat two proved to be no obstacle for Frank Collis in #23 who won from Roy Low in #99 and Fielding driver Jim Ramsay who was probably driving Bert Browne’s #60 car. The third heat was won by Tom Masters in #34 who had started from the 20 yard mark and driven a fine race to stay ahead of the back marker Fred Karlsson in #30 and Gordon Morris in #47. The first major spill of the night came during the running of the final when Tom Masters slammed the #34 car into the safety fence on what was becoming a rather notorious River End corner which resulted in a badly bent car and more work for the fence repair gang.
A series of three lap match races were held with the winner taking on a new challenger after each race. The first match up saw Les Eagles in #45 score a fine win over John Arthur in #68 and he then took on Theo Dodunski in # 13 who proved to too good on this occasion. In the final race Theo tried hard to keep ahead of the final challenger Brian Milne in #46 but to no avail and the Manawatu veteran was a worthy winner of an interesting series.
Tom Masters was showing no ill effects of his earlier crash when he drove a borrowed a car to victory in the first heat of the Te Henui handicap, the next event on the programme, holding off Theo Dodunski and Brian Milne in the process. The second heat provided a win for Jim Guthrie in #32 who was continuing to make steady progress and in this race he held off Sherlock Holmes in car #57 and George Amor who was having a rather quiet night with the #10 car. Jack Hinch booked a place in the final when he drove the #19 car to first place in heat three relegating Frank Collis and Aucklander Ron Sutherland in car #31 to the minor places.
Ron was a seasoned veteran of the midget car scene in Auckland but like many of the northern drivers probably found the slickness of Waiwakaiho a bit of a handful. See his car on page 10.
Jack Hinch made the most of his limit starting position in the final of the Te Henui handicap final to race away and win from Jim Guthrie who had started from the twenty yard mark and the third place finisher Sherlock Holmes who had started the race forty yards behind.
A six lap scratch race for selected drivers saw Sherlock Holmes lower the track record by two seconds when he demonstrated his outstanding ability by winning ahead of Frank Collis and Gordon Morris and in the consolation race Ron Sutherland was triumphant over Fred Karlsson and George Amor. The six lap novice handicap race was won by Harry Williams in car #28 from Bert Browne #60 and Jack Burkett in #44.
The running of the final event of the night, the ten lap feature race, brought the crowd to its feet when Dave Holmes, up to his old tricks again, up-ended the #57 car on the back straight fortunately without involving any other cars but badly damaging his own. The race was eventually won by Jack Hinch who capped off his best nights racing in fine style with the minor placings going to Jim Guthrie and Fred Karlsson.
Another fine night of racing was over with just about every driver having a top three finish such was the closeness of the racing which made the Taranaki Championships to be held the following week a wide open event.
Lex Wilson of Fielding raced Rugby powered #39 at early Waiwakaiho meetings then retired in Feb. 1951 after his last meeting in Palmerston North where he won the NZ 30 lap Championship. He also held the NZ 1 lap record for many years with a time of 19.4 seconds set at Palmerston North. He sold the car to Bert Browne who raced it for the balance of the 1951 season at Waiwakaiho then the car went to Auckland and was raced by Peter Pellew.
Waiwakaiho Meeting Five
An estimated crowd of 10,000 people made their way to the Waiwakaiho Showgrounds
for the running of the fifth meeting, a staggering figure when one considers the
population of the region at that time and the reason they turned out in such
numbers was that this would be the night of the inaugural Taranaki Midget Car
Championships with titles to be decided over four, six and eight laps. However,
all was not as promising as it appeared on the surface because on this night the
Manawatu Midget Car Drivers club were staging the New Zealand Thirty Lap
Championships at the Palmerston North Showgrounds thus depleting both venues of
cars and drivers.
Two Auckland drivers traveled down for the meeting and both would make their Waiwakaiho debuts. Beau Thornton with car 91 was one of Western Springs very best performers and would certainly be a test for the local stars while the other Aucklander, Snow Ruffles, was an accomplished driver who had won the New Zealand Ten Lap Junior Championship at Olympic Stadium the season before driving Beau Thornton's #91 although it is not known which car he drove on his debut at Waiwakaiho. Also in the line up was Jack Burkett from Wanganui who would be the only member of the Manawatu Club to contest the Taranaki Championships.
Missing from the line-up, somewhat surprisingly, was Bert Brown who had taken his cars south to run at the Palmerston North meeting which would have no doubt disappointed his supporters as his form had been steadily improving since the season began.
Three champions in 1951/52.
#10 is George Amor, Taranaki 10 lap champ. #99 is Row Lowe as 6 lap champ and
#91 is Sherlock Holmes as 8 lap champ. Note the odd angle of the right front
wheel on #91. Shock had just had a major shunt and the wheel was just placed in
position for the photo! The tail is very bent as well.
The Four Lap Championship was decided over two heats with only the first and second placed drivers from the heats progressing to a four car final. In the opening heat Roy Low in #99 had a comfortable win over George Amor in #10 and Jack Lambie in #1 while in the second heat Theo Dodunski brought home the #13 car ahead of Dave Holmes in #57 and Jack Hinch in #19. In the final Roy Low took an early lead and although Theo Dodunski tried everything he knew to close the gap it was to no avail and he had to settle for second on this occasion with George Amor finishing in third.
The Six Lap Championship would be decided over the same format as the Four Lap with only four cars lining up to face the starter for the title. Roy Low was once again a heat winner, this time coming home ahead of Jack Hinch and John Arthur #68 in the opener while Theo Dodunski’s form continued in the second heat which enabled him to take the top spot from George Amor. The final saw Roy Low once again take an early lead and he was never seriously threatened while a good scrap developed for the minor placings before Theo Dodunski prevailed over Jack Hinch to take second.
All the eligible cars still running lined up for the Eight Lap Championship and once again, showing brilliant form, Roy Low worked the #99 car through the field to take the victory and while plenty of passing went on for the minor placings, it was Theo Dodunski who emerged from the dust in the runner up spot from John Arthur who finished a creditable third.
Although the fields had been small the spectators had been treated to some excellent racing and Roy Low’s performances had been outstanding each time he appeared on the track and he was a most worthy champion.
The Egmont Handicap was run over six laps with all the cars present facing the starter in a single race and this would be the first chance for the spectators to see Beau Thornton in action with the speedy #91 car. He turned on an excellent display, sweeping through the corners with effortless ease, coming home a deserved winner from Jack Burkett #44 and Snow Ruffles who also drove well on the unfamiliar track.
The Paritutu Handicap was also made an all in affair and Jack Burkett was rewarded for his efforts with a fine victory over Jack Lambie and John Arthur.
Waiwakaiho Sixth Meeting
The return of all the
Manawatu drivers to the Waiwakaiho Speedway after a week’s absence ensured
another fine turnout of spectators and promised much in the way of thrills,
spills and excitement. Making a welcome reappearance was Bob Leikis from
Auckland, who had competed on opening night, with his Jeep powered # 83.
The club had also made an effort to improve the facilities for the growing numbers of enthusiasts by constructing additional seating for another thousand spectators around the road bend end of the showground's.
Yet another Taranaki built midget car made it’s first appearance at this meeting which graphically illustrated the amount of interest the new sport was generating. The latest addition to the fleet had been built in Opunake by Bruce Boyd with some help from Theo Dodunski and Jack Lambie and carried the number 4. It was a neatly built car but the choice of a Ford 10 engine was, perhaps, a bit optimistic.
The first event of the meeting was the Egmont Handicap and Wellington driver Fred Miles in #15 got his night off to an excellent start by taking out the first heat from the steadily improving Harry Williams in Dave Waldie’s # 28 and Jack Hinch in # 19 who finished third. Heat two saw Bert Browne on the track for the first time at the wheel of his newly purchased # 39 but it was not to be a dream debut as Jack Burkett in # 44 and George Amor in # 10 finished in the top two spots to move on to the final where they would be joined by Theo Dodunski in # 13 who triumphed in heat three over the newly crowned Taranaki Champion Roy Low in his # 99. There was no doubt in anyone's’ mind that Roy Low was determined to show that his success the previous week was not a one night wonder and that he would be going all out to show that he could win races in any sort of company. Starting from the back of the field in the final of the Egmont Handicap he gave a skillful display of driving as he worked his way through the opposition to take a well earned win ahead of Harry Williams and Theo Dodunski.
The first heat of the Paritutu Handicap provided one of the night's best races when Fred Karlsson in car # 30 and Roy Low battled wheel to wheel for the lead throughout the race, the local star only gaining the upper hand in the final stages of the race much to the delight of the spectators. Heat two was won by Jim Guthrie in # 32 from Fred Miles who was having a good meeting and would be advancing to his second final of the night. Manawatu veteran Frank Collis was now at the wheel of the # 60 car vacated by Bert Browne and he brought his new drive home in second place behind Dave Holmes # 57 in the final heat. The final was won by Jim Guthrie from a favorable handicap although it must be said he drove a well judged race against some pretty tough opposition. The runner up on this occasion was Dave Holmes, who managed not to have an accident, and Fred Miles continuing his fine form finished third.
Bert Browne # 39 and Tom Masters # 34 squared off for the night’s match race series but Bert's new car refused to perform properly and the Manawatu driver was a comfortable winner. It was later discovered that a broken rear axle was responsible for the # 39 car’s poor showing.
The Four Selected Drivers race brought together Roy Low, Frank Collis, Bob Leikis and Jim Guthrie in what promised to be an interesting race. Unfortunately Roy struck mechanical problems which sidelined the flying #99 while Frank Collis went on to win from Jim Guthrie and Bob Leikis.
Bruce Boyd drove his new # 4 to second place in the novice race behind winner Fred Miles and ahead of the third place finisher Barry Wiseman who had been driving John Arthur's # 68 on a regular basis for a number of meetings. The consolation race was won by Fred Miles while John Arthur # 68 took second place ahead of Ralph Chadwick who was driving Theo Dodunski’s # 13.
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