Part one of a two part story compiled by Mark Jenkinson

Part one of a two part story compiled by Mark Jenkinson

Excerpt from historical Club Newsletter
Aerial shot of the HB Karting ClubKartSport Hawke’s Bay, as it is now known has its origins in the now defunct Hastings Go Kart Club and the Napier Amateur Go Kart Club. Both these clubs were formed in 1959/1960. The Hastings club used paddocks and riverbanks until a permanent limestone track was formed on the corner of Maraekakaho and Irongate roads while the Napier club had a track opposite the Westshore Hotel, which they used until around 1964. The Hastings club raced at Maraekakaho Road until 1966 and then also went into recess until a meeting of interested people was called on the 10th of April 1967 at the Windsor Lodge (demolished to make way for Fantasyland/Splash Planet) and the Hawkes Bay Go Kart Club was formed with Mr WJ (Johnny) Harrison as President, Dr. Abernethy as patron and Alan Pithie as one of the committee members. Others present were members of the Lowe family and Garth Schlierike.

A site for a track was required so land was leased from the Hastings City Council beside the Hastings Drag Car Club and adjacent to the city dump. As the dump expanded pressure came onto the club to forgo its lease and with the demise of the Drag Car Club their area became available and with the club’s aim of building a sealed track, enquiries were started and designs and quotes were considered.

A supporters group was formed and a deep freeze was raffled off. The contract to build the sealed track was let in January 1969. The track was completed at a cost of $3222.80 and the grand opening was set down for the 19th April 1969. This was a two-day event with sponsors providing cups for the class winners and the club providing prizes from the entry fees for the other place getters. The club ran its first road race in Hastings on September the 9th 1968 which was the first Blossom Meeting, associated with the city’s Blossom Festival, and run annually ever since.

Blossom 2974 or 1975In June 1969 the clubs inaugural President Johnny Harrison passed away unexpectedly and a memorial race was run in his honour. This trophy and a similar memorial trophy to honour past President Ray Wilson are competed for each year and are the most sought after trophies in the Hawkes Bay Kart Club.

The club grew with its move to the sealed track as equipment became more sophisticated and far cheaper to run. The clean smooth surface giving equipment a longer life and the motors were far more reliable as they were not having to run on a mixture of air and limestone!

It was at this time another group of karters appeared in Hawkes Bay. They were all from Napier and as they were unable to secure a permanent home to compete on they called themselves the Napier Rovers and raced at the local track, they also raced at Waipawa and Palmerston North tracks. After many teething problems the Napier Rovers joined the Hawkes Bay Club but continued to wear their green and black overalls for many years to come…

In March 1970 members of the Hawkes Bay Club travelled to Otaki and challenged the Horowhenua and Manawatu Clubs for the Sheriffs Shield bringing the shield back to the Bay where it remained without challenge for many years and was won again by the club in 1980 and then lost narrowly to Manawatu in 1981.

The club continued to pay off its track with proceeds from race days and raffles and at the AGM in May 1970 the club had 12 months to pay $1500. In May 1971 the retiring President Mr Reg Wright and his wife were made Honorary Members of the club for their work and support in getting the club to where it was. The track was eventually paid off in October 1971 just prior to running the first major meeting- the North Island Championships. The next major meeting the Club ran was a round of the Wellington Provincial Gold Star Series which has been run annually since the 13th May 1972.

1980 North island Championship ProgrammePlanning was underway for the Napier Centennial Road Race held at Westshore on the 16th of March 1974 and the New Zealand Sprint Championships to be held at Easter in 1975. The club was also investigating the purchase or possibility of building a club house due to the number of major meetings it was running.

It eventually decided to build a “Bay Built” type shed and this was constructed with members laying the floor and foundations to keep the costs down. The club also made arrangements to ease the corner coming onto the straight with the Nationals in mind and the larger fields that were expected. There was also a discussion as to whether the track should be extended or the existing facilities improved. It was decided to concentrate on improving the facilities.

In 1974 Chris Scarrott was made a honorary member for his
services since the club’s inception.

The Centennial Road race was run at Westshore. It was a great success and another event planned despite little money being raised mainly due to the difficulties in stopping people getting in without paying!

The New Zealand Sprint Championships were held with the largest entry ever to that date of 243! The clubhouse had power and water connected from the council facilities nearby. Plans were drawn up for a concrete block toilet facility to be built adjacent to the Clubhouse. They are still standing today.

At The 1975 AGM outgoing President Dave Waugh was made a life member for his past services to the club and the club’s name was changed to Hawkes Bay Karting Club Incorporated.

Also in 1975 the club was allocated the North Island Sprint Championships for the second time and a date was set for the second Qantas Road race on the 17th January 1976. In June 1976 the club began work on the toilet and shower block and on its completion this gave the club full track, clubhouse and toilet facilities. The club continued to grow and progress and by 1977 the club had organised its first international meeting in conjunction with the Manawatu Club bringing a team from Australia to race at both venues.

Waipawa Go-Kart Club opens new high-speed trackIn September 1977 the club ran the first of the “two-day” Blossom meetings. This consisted of a road race on the Saturday being conducted in the Napier CBD and the sprint day being held at the track on the Sunday. The same format was used the following year and then the road race was shifted to the Thunderpark Drag Strip facility mainly because it was easier to control the crowd. It was getting difficult to find suitable streets for racing and road closures were hard to obtain from the council. This
arrangement was continued for many years until the drag strip closed and Blossom became a 2 day sprint meeting.

In October 1979 work started on the new pit area and the circuit was extended at the “hairpin”. Club members ably led by Peter Fraser with equipment from Fraser Shingle carrying out the work, the club then had the best pit facilities in NZ.

The club now entered an extremely busy time. Firstly Blossom 1980, then the New Zealand Sprint Championships at very short notice due to another club being unable to conduct the meeting. Four months later the club hosted the North Island Sprint Championships for the third time in ten years, a round of the Gold Star series in between these two meetings and then Blossom 1981.

We then became involved in the organization of our second international meeting this time in conjunction with the Auckland Club, two drivers from Australia and three from the USA attended. These meetings were a tremendous success and the forerunner to a similar meeting the following year.

The main reason the club ran so many major events in such a short time was the ability of the club to organize and run successful meetings and also testament to the high standard of the facilities.

The club looked forward to a further extension and resurfacing of the track and doubling the size of the clubhouse. While there were funds on hand the situation regarding the Hastings Rubbish Dump and our ability to retain the land was in doubt. It was decided not to proceed with further development unless a permanent lease could be negotiated.

Continued in the next post…