Easy to remember address : www.macgor.co.nz
Oreti Park Toasts 40 Years
By Daryl Shuttleworth
This weekend marks a milestone in the history books for the worlds southern most speedway track, and the Oreti Park Speedway Club. The club was the vision of motorcycle enthusiasts Harry Robinson and Brian Mitchell back in the 1960's, the pair went on the search for a suitable piece of land which they found south of Teretonga, towards Oreti Beach, they had it surveyed, set a boundary and negotiated a lease with the council.
Over the next few years various members and speedway enthusiasts chipped in, donating time, money and materials to try and get the speedway up and running, the track surface was laid, it was tar seal covered in coke and cinders from the local Invercargill Gas Works, with this done it was time for Oreti Park Speedway to host its opening race meeting on April 14th 1974, a meeting featuring Solos, Sidecars, TQ's, Midgets and Super Modifieds.
One rider who rode at this opening event was Craig Blackett, he will also race in Classic Solo's this weekend.
It didn't take long for news to spread around the country and the world as to how good this track was, it was in 1975 that an international troupe of riders embarked on Oreti Park, names such as multiple World Champion Ivan Mauger, Barry Briggs, Ronnie Moore and Ole Olsen turned up to race and to this day it is possibly the biggest speedway event ever held in the South with a staggering 7000 fans in attendance.
Over the next few years the club hosted National Championships, and also kept running bikes and open wheelers, but with interest in the sport declining a decision was made to close the track, the final meeting being held in April 1985.
Thirteen years went by and the Oreti Park Speedway was sitting in state, lupins had over grown the track and surrounding areas, but a small group of speedway fans saw a vision for the track, a vision not too many people at that time had shared in, Paul Hayes, Tharran Rule and Jason Clark approached the Southland Motorcycle Club to see if they could have a go at resurrecting the track, and put a two year timeline in place to have it ride-able.
They then assembled a team consisting of themselves along with Jason Brown, Doug Fox, Aiden Thwaites and Joe Hughes who then became the driving force behind the rebirth of Oreti Park, the team along with others worked endlessly, never doubting their vision for the track, and on the 4th of March 2000 they were rewarded when they hosted their first meeting, there was no gate charge, there was prize money of $10,000.00 and a crowd off 2500 fans, Oreti Park Speedway was back with a vengeance.
Since the reopening the track has been known as The Russell Cunningham Properties Oreti Park Speedway, the club has hosted multiple New Zealand Titles, International riders, and been the drawcard event since 2006 for The Burt Munro Challenge.
This Saturday at 3pm there will be a grand parade featuring some of the cars and bikes that have added to the clubs rich history, this will be a great chance for speedway fans young and old to take a trip back in time and see how speedway has evolved over the years. This will be followed by some demonstration laps, then the 40th Anniversay meeting will kick off at 4pm with full fields of Sidecars, Solos, PeeWees, Junior Solos and 250cc Solos but the feature will be the Classic Solos and Sidecars.
In the Classic Solos there is a field of 20 bikes featuring riders from Oreti Parks early days such as Dave McKenzie and Graeme Burgess along with Jason Clark, Paul Hayes and Joe Hughes who were part of the driving force behind the resurection of the club. Classic Sidecars will feature Mark Hosie and Les Payne, Fraser and Johnny Gillespie, Meatball and Mark Barnes, Kevin McDonald and Lester Kissell and Aiden Thwaites and Daniel Gillett.
The weekend will also be celebrated by a meal and presentations on the Friday night. This is the final meeting for the 2013/14 season.
Where : Oreti Park
When : Saturday 8th March 2014 at 3pm