Waiwakaiho Speedway. The second season, 1951-52. By Dave Gifford. Home.
The second season of midget car racing at the
Waiwakaiho Speedway commenced on December 1st 1951. Several practices were held
prior to the opening night and several new cars and drivers made their first
appearances along with many of the old favorites from the previous season.
Jack Lambie was back with his number 1 car now powered with a Vauxhall J motor
which had replaced the original Rugby power plant which had been destroyed at
the end of the previous season. Gone too was the original chocolate and blue
colour scheme, replaced with a catching white, black, red and gold livery with
the familiar “Beedlebomb” emblazoned on the sides.
Bruce Boyd had only raced the number 4 Ford 10 powered car for a few meetings the previous season but had decided not to continue driving and had sold the car to well known local motor cyclist Bob George who repainted the car all red and christened it “Ten Bob”.
Making a debut was Lepperton butcher Jim Oliver who had formed a syndicate and purchased the ex Ron Weston number 28 which had been owned the previous season by Dave Waldie and driven by Harry Williams at Waiwakaiho. The car had been tidied up by panelbeater Theo Dodunski, repainted green and gold, renumbered 7 and bore the name “Snarler”. (Jim was a butcher—Editor)
George Amor was back for a second season with the number 10 car which was unchanged in appearance apart from the addition of twin carburetors and what appears to be an Anderson manifold. Two new cars from the Opunake area joined the lineup, number 11, built by Ralph Chadwick, and number 12 which would be raced by Keith Speechlay. Ralph Chadwick had crewed for Theo Dodunski the previous year and had accumulated a considerable amount of track time by competing in the novice races using Theo’s number 13 with reasonable success. His new number 11 was powered by an Essex motor but that would later be replaced by a Rugby power plant .Keith Speechlay's number 12 had been built by a small syndicate out the coast and was powered by a Jeep motor and had been named “The Thing” and finished with green and gold paintwork.
Theo Dodunski was ready to return to the fray with his Chrysler powered number 13 which was unchanged apart from a twin carburetor conversion. Wellington driver Fred Miles, who had towed his car up from the Capital several times the previous season was now registered with the Taranaki club and his number 15 would be a welcome addition to the Waiwakaiho line up. Also registered with the club were two more Wellington cars, the number 65, which would be driven by Bill Evans and a newcomer to the sport, Malcolm Campbell, with a new car number 51, The number 65 car had been raced at Waiwakaiho the previous year by Bill as number 37 and was the car that Bryant McIntosh had built at Palmerston North.
Practice day for start of 1951/52
Jack Lambie #1, Bob George #4, John Arthur in #68 and Johnny Callender at the back in his new #83. They all look pretty serious !
Number 19 driven by Jack Harwood and Jack Hinch during the 1950-51 season was
back but now Bob Kay would share the wheel with Jack Harwood while newcomer
Harry Pitt had purchased number 22, an ex Auckland car which had been seen
occasionally at Waiwakaiho the previous season. The 22 car had quite a bit of
history having been raced by Aucklander Max Hughes in Australia where he had won
the World Championship Derby in 1946 and Harry had bought the car off Bert
Browne who had it at his Stratford car wrecking business.
With midget car racing almost finished in the Palmerston North area the Manawatu trio of Fred Karlsson with number 30, Jim Guthrie with number 32 and Tom Masters with his number 34 were all registered to race at Waiwakaiho on a permanent basis, a move most welcomed by the club.
Opening Night. 1951-52.
The new season at Waiwakaiho got off to a roaring the start with a large enthusiastic crowd and an excellent line up of cars and drivers. There were no visiting cars, this would be the first season that the club had sufficient numbers of it’s own registered competitors to run without outside support.
The official opening ceremony took place in front of the main grandstand and after several speeches the wife of Club President, John Arthur, cut the ribbon and the new season was declared to be under way as the cars performed their Grand Parade.
The first event of the evening was the New Plymouth Handicap with three six lap heats and only the first and second cars progressing to the final. All eyes were on the gleaming “Black Bullet” # 91 car of Sherlock Holmes as the cars circled the track waiting for the starters flag to fall in heat one. Shock had been most impressive at practice and had recorded times faster than Roly Crowthers track record and much was expected of him. Also in the first heat was Roy Low with the # 99 car now powered by a Ford V8/60 but it was Jim Guthrie in # 32 who stole a march on his more fancied rivals to take the first win of the season ahead of Shock Holmes and Bob George in # 4. Heat two resulted in a win for the popular Fred Karlsson in # 30 who came through from the rear of the field to defeat Theo Dodunski in # 13 while newcomer Johnny Callender, who had shown up well at practice at the wheel of the # 83 car, finished third. Also in the race was Ron Thompson of Eltham who had built a new car # 8 which was a fitted with a Ford 8 engine, it was never seen again after the opening night. Ralph Chadwick got his debut night off to the best possible start in his new # 11 car by taking the chequered flag in the third heat from fellow first timers Tom Holden in # 98 and Rex Parker in the ex Laurie Mowat # 57.
Before the running of the New Plymouth Handicap final Fred Karlsson and Shock Holmes squared off for a thee lap match race and after a spirited tussle Shock was able to prevail and claim his first race win with the # 91 car.
The New Plymouth Handicap final was won by Fred Karlsson, who was the backmarker for the event, from the Opunake duo of Theo Dodunski and Ralph Chadwick.
This is "ribbon cutting" before start of first race for season. George Amor in 10, John Arthur beside centre car and Roy Low on right.
A race for four selected drivers of
about equal ability was next on the programme and it was to provide a victory
for Johnny Callender who drove well to keep Bob George and John Arthur in the
After the interval the Taranaki Handicap was the next event on the card and it was now that the fireworks started. In heat one Fred Karlsson and Shock Holmes were to face each other again and both were determined to get the upper hand. Midway through the race their cars touched and the impact was hard enough to send Fred through the safety fence sending the boards flying and inflicting a considerable amount of damage to the front end of the # 30 car. Shock went on to win the opening heat from second place finisher Bob George and the third placed Theo Dodunski. The new # 12 car, built at Opunake, was handled on the opening night by Jack Mildenhall and he gave a creditable display of driving to win the second heat from Johnny Callender while Tom Masters picked up his first placing of the night by finishing third in his # 34 car. Newcomer Bob Kay was sharing the driving of the # 19 car with Jack Harwood and he, like many of the new drivers on the night, produced a splendid drive to take the heat win from Rex Parker in # 57 and Jack Lambie in # 1.
A Match race between the Taranaki Champion Roy Low in his V8 powered car and Putaruru veteran Ken Rogerson, in # 50, produced a fine win for the local hero while a special race for Opunake built cars resulted in victory for Theo Dodunski who came home ahead of Jack Lambie and Ralph Chadwick.
There was more drama in the final of the Taranaki Handicap final and again Sherlock Holmes managed to get himself involved in the mayhem. Front marker Bob Kay in # 19 appeared to drift wide coming out of a turn and when he moved to get back to the inside of the track he came right across the front of Sherlock’s # 91 and contact was unavoidable. Bob Kay and the # 19 slammed heavily into the safety fence where the wrecked car burst into flames causing considerable anxiety for spectators and officials alike. Bob was taken to the local hospital for a check up but was released in time to join the after meeting function at the Kawaroa Tearooms. The final was restarted and Bob George made the most of a favorable handicap to win the race from Shock Holmes and Johnny Callender. The final event of the night, the Feature race, was run without too much trouble and George Amor who hadn’t figured so far in the night’s proceedings stepped up the pace to record a fine win in the # 10 car from Jack Lambie in # 1 and Roy Low in # 99 and brought a splendid night’s racing to a close.
It had been another great night of action and thrills and the fans went away well satisfied. The new drivers had all acquitted themselves well and the more established drivers had good cause to be looking over their shoulders, it was going to be a tough season for all.
Ralph Chadwick ready for action at left. Ken Rogerson in #50.
Second meeting, 1951-52
A cold night and threatening skies did little to deter a large crowd from being present at the second nights racing at the Waiwakaiho oval on the 8th of December. Those hardy souls that braved the elements would witness another night of top class action on a track that produced fast times and spectacular racing throughout the evening.
Wellington drivers Fred Miles # 15, Malcolm Campbell # 51 and Bill Evans with his # 65 car made their first appearance of the season having missed the opening meeting and Fred Karlsson had been able to repair the damage to the # 30 car, which had resulted from his excursion through the fence on opening night, to take his place in the lineup. Not so fortunate were the Harwood and Kay team from Inglewood whose badly damaged # 19 still required many more man hours of repair work before it would be race worthy again while John Arthur was suffering from a bout of flu and his place in the # 68 car would be taken by Barry Wiseman who had driven the previous season in novice races and proven himself to be a most capable driver.
Theo Dodunski # 13 scored the first win of the night in the opening heat of the Egmont Handicap by coming through the field from the back mark of 70 yards ahead of Jack Lambie # 1 and Bob George in # 4. Heat two developed into a tight contest between Roy Low in # 99 who had started off the 80 yard mark and Fred Karlsson in # 30 who had a handicap of 70 yards. It was Roy who eventually triumphed though as he began to get accustomed to the power of the new V8/60 motor under the bonnet of his car. Ken Rogerson made every post a winner in heat three when he scraped home ahead of the back marker Sherlock Holmes in # 91 to set the field for the final while Ralph Chadwick in # 11 finished a creditable third. The final proved to be something of an anti climax as the three back markers got in each others way allowing Ken Rogerson to record his second win of the night, this time in a new track record time of 2 min 9 1/5 seconds, while Fred Karlsson and Jack Lambie secured the minor placings.
In the first match race of the evening Johnny Callender in # 83 and Bill Evans in # 65 fought tooth and nail over the three lap duration which resulted in a win for the # 83 driver while in the second match race Barry Wiseman brought the # 68 car home ahead of Tom Masters in # 34. Bill Evans took on and defeated Fred Miles # 15 in a third and final match race later in the evening.
Sherlock Holmes gave a glimpse of what was to come when he hurled the “Black Bullet” around the track in a special attempt on the one lap track record set by his brother Dave the previous season. His time of 21 seconds not only broke the old record but he also equaled the time for V8 cars set by Roly Crowther at Easter. From this point on there would be no discrimination between the different types of motors and from now on there would be just one set of track records.
George Amor # 10 put his name on the score sheet for the first time in the meeting by winning the opening heat of the Paritutu Handicap from Keith Speechlay, who had taken over the driving duties of # 12 from Jack Mildenhall, and Jack Lambie who finished third. Heat two was made up of all first year drivers and Bob George proved to be the best winning from Harry Pitt # 22 and Tom Holden in his # 98. Sherlock Holmes registered another win in the third heat and Ralph Chadwick # 11 pipped Theo Dodunski for second place to book a place in the final. Another fine drive by Sherlock in the final secured the victory while the Opunake duo of Keith Speechlay and Ralph Chadwick filled the second and third spots.
A consolation race over six laps and a selected drivers race were deleted from the programme and replaced with a Four Square Handicap of three heats and a final all run over six laps. This new format would make it possible for a driver to take part in seven races a night without counting match races, an excellent format for both the spectators and the competitors alike.
Theo Dodunski posted another win in the first heat and Jack Lambie secured second place ahead of Barry Wiseman to move through to the final while in heat two it was Roy Low’s turn to carve his way to the front as Johnny Callender held off Fred Karlsson for the other final spot. Keith Speechlay’s debut was getting better with every race and in heat three he held off the flying Sherlock Holmes to advance to his second final of the night. Rex Parker grabbed third in # 57. The final produced the best race of the night as the back markers threw caution to the wind in their efforts to get to the front and when the dust settled it was Roy Low who emerged victorious from Johnny Callender and Sherlock Holmes.
The final event of the night, the Ten Lap Feature, was run without any major incidents. John Arthur's deputizing driver, Barry Wiseman took the honours from the consistently fast Fred Karlsson while Roy Low produced another splendid drive from the back mark to take third place bringing the curtain down on the best nights racing ever seen at Waiwakaiho.
Both Shock Holmes and Roy Low had put in brilliant performances, Fred Karlsson, Johnny Callender and Theo Dodunski all had their moments and the minor placings had been shared out pretty well amongst all the other drivers as the handicappers played their part in making the racing a wonderful spectacle. And it was only the second meeting of the season!
For the thousands of Sherlock Holmes fans present at the third meeting it was a black night indeed, with their hero sidelined before the racing had even begun. Unfortunately, the crankshaft in the # 91 car cried enough during the Grand Parade and had broken in two, thus robbing the meeting of one of it’s most colourful stars. Still, there plenty of other cars and drivers eager to entertain the large vocal crowd with some more close racing, spills and thrills on the fast Waiwakaiho oval.
Racing got under way with the three six lap heats of the Okato Handicap and in the opening heat Tom Masters continued his steady progress by bringing the # 34 car home ahead of Ralph Chadwick in # 11 and Jack Lambie in # 1 while in heat two it was Tom Holden who registered his first win with # 98 from Johnny Callender in # 83 and Jim Guthrie in # 32.
Fred Miles (in #15 at right) started from the limit mark in the third heat and drove well in the # 15 car to take the win from hard charging back marker Roy Low in # 99 and Ken Rogerson in his Chevy powered # 50 thus deciding the line up for the final. The handicappers must have missed Fred Miles’ effort in the third heat as they placed him once more on the limit mark and he promptly responded with another fine win while the back markers struggled to find the gaps to get through the pack. Tom Masters took the second spot while Roy Low found the going a bit too tough from the back mark and had to settle for third in what was a very fast race.
Next on the programme came the heats of the Oakura Handicap which produced more close racing, fast times and tight finishes. Theo Dodunski wheeled his # 13 car from the back mark of seventy yards to take the chequered flag in the opening heat with a splendid drive while Jim Guthrie and Bob George, in # 4, filled the minor places. In heat two Tom Holden followed up his maiden win of earlier in the night with another victory over Tom Masters and Ken Rogerson and equaled Sherlock Holmes’ six lap track record time in the process.
Fred Miles pushed the handicappers patience to the limit by claiming another win in heat three, his third of the night, while Roy Low had to settle for second place, after a spirited drive from a hundred yards behind, and Johnny Callender took the third spot. Roy Low took off the gloves in the final and came blasting through the field to put the # 99 car in the winners circle for the first time that night and Tom Holden continued his fruitful night with second place ahead of Tom Masters. Rex Parker and the # 57 car had missed the earlier heats, as he had forgotten to bring the battery for the midget and had to go home to get it, which gives some idea of the professional standards of the speedway fraternity in those far off days! However he made amends by claiming a fine win in the opening heat of the Omata Handicap finishing ahead of Ken Rogerson and George Amor who had been, somewhat surprisingly, absent from the placings at this meeting. In the second heat Fred Karlsson, in # 30, scored his first win of the night and transferred to the final along with runner up Roy Low while the third heat qualifiers were Keith Speechlay in # 12 and Theo Dodunski who finished fist and second respectively.
The fence repair crew might have thought they were going to get through the night without too much trouble at this point, but if they did they were in for a rude awakening. The field were on their fourth lap of the race and were tightly bunched as they charged into the river bend when Keith Speechlay’s # 12 car slammed into the fence with terrific force, sending the car high into the air and the fence boards in all directions. He emerged unscathed and was more worried about the fact that he’d lost his radiator cap in the crash than anything else The race was restarted after the damage to the fence was repaired and was won by Fred Karlsson who used all his experience to hold off Roy Low in his more powerful car and Putaruru driver Ken Rogerson to take a brilliant win and clip nearly a second off the track record while doing so.
In the novice race Bill Evans was the winner in car # 65 from Jim Oliver in # 7 and Fred Karlsson’s mechanic, Tas Algy, who drove the # 30 car. There was just one match race which saw Jack Lambie defeat John Arthur.
Eleven cars were still in running order and able to face the starter for the final event, the ten lap Feature Race, and Roy Low capped off a pretty good night’s racing to work his way cleverly through from the rear of the field to take the win ahead of Jack Lambie and Fred Miles, who also had much to celebrate that night. Once again it had been an excellent night’s racing on a track that had produced fast times and close racing. Much credit must go to the handicappers who's efforts made sure that all the competitors shared in the placing’s and put on a thrilling display for the public in doing so.
Third meeting 1951-52
A large crowd headed for the Showgrounds on the 29th of December 1951, the numbers no doubt swelled by holiday makers enjoying the Christmas break in an age when the whole country virtually shut down for two weeks. This meeting would also be the last of 1951, hard to believe that it had been barely eleven months since the club had held it’s very first meeting and it was a credit to all concerned that the speedway, in it’s first year, had flourished as it had.
Two favorites were welcomed back at this meeting. Sherlock Holmes and his crew had burnt the midnight oil to get # 91 back on the track after breaking a crankshaft and the Inglewood boys had # 19 back in action after the horrific crash on opening night had necessitated a complete rebuild of the car. Their problems didn’t end there either as Jack Harwood slammed the car into the fence on the Wednesday practice night creating more work for the long suffering crew but they made it for the meeting.
The Four Square Handicap heats were the first events on the programme and provided some fast close racing. Johnny Callender, driving the # 83 car, saluted the chequered flag in heat one holding off Ken Rogerson in # 50 and George Amor in # 10 in the process while heat two saw Jim Guthrie in # 32 get home ahead of Harry Pitt in # 22 and Tom Holden in # 98. The handicappers still hadn’t woken up to Fred Miles, he carried on his winning ways of the previous week by putting the # 15 car in the winners circle from the twenty yard mark while Roy Low from a hundred and twenty yards back had to settle for second in # 99 and Keith Speechlay in # 12 finished third. The Final provided yet another win for Wellington driver Fred Miles while the best that back marker Roy Low could manage was third, just behind the second placed Jim Guthrie.
Next on the card came the heats for the Christmas Handicap. The first heat was won by the backmarker Sherlock Holmes in # 91 who carved his way through the field in fine style to relegate Theo Dodunski in # 13 and George Amor to the minor places and in heat two Barry Wiseman at the wheel of John Arthurs # 68 came home ahead of Johnny Callender and Bill Evans in # 65. Heat three and it was the turn of Jim Guthrie to continue his fine run of form when he won from Jack Harwood and Roy Low who was unable to find a way through the tightly packed cars ahead of him.
The Final got under way in orderly fashion but the fireworks were not long in coming. The ill fated # 19, “Hoodoodit”, with Jack Harwood at the wheel, clattered into the safety fence at high speed and bounced along the boards for more than a hundred yards before careering onto the infield with a totally wrecked front end. The race was eventually won by Barry Wiseman who drove a steady race and withstood the challenges of Jim Guthrie and Theo Dodunski who filled the minor places.
Ralph Chadwick in # 11 put himself amongst the night’s winning drivers by leading the field home in the opening heat of the Fitzroy Handicap ahead of Tom Masters in # 34 and Theo Dodunski. In the second heat John Arthur was back behind the wheel of # 68 and drove a fine race to finish ahead of Sherlock Holmes and the ever consistent Jim Guthrie while in the third heat Roy Low swept through from the rear of the field to win from Bob George in # 4 and a rather out of sorts Fred Karlsson in # 30 who was having a rather quiet night. The Final had the crowd on it’s toes as the favourite, Sherlock Holmes, turned on a dazzling display to weave his way to the front for a popular win in a very fast time from Bob George and Tom Masters.
There had been two match races, one between Tom Holden and Keith Speechlay which lost it’s appeal when the # 12 car failed to finish and the second race was between the winner Ralph Chadwick and Keith Speechlay who at least was able to finish this time.
Earlier in the night Roy Low had hurled the # 99 V8/60 around the track in a successful attempt on the one lap record posting a time of twenty and two fifths seconds with a superb drive.
As all the cars were wheeled out and placed on their marks for the final event of the evening, the Ten Lap Feature, the spectators would have been unaware that they were about to see one of the very best races ever to be run on the Showgrounds oval. Sitting on the back marks were Sherlock Holmes in # 91 and alongside his arch rival Roy low in # 99 and in front of them more than a dozen very determined drivers who were not about to make things easy for any one. From the drop of the flag Sherlock tore into the pack, taking chances when they came and passing slower drivers by simply out driving them on the turns while Roy drove a very calculated race setting cars up and waiting for the straights to pass. Their driving styles were as different as their characters, Sherlock was a pretty extrovert sort who was quite happy to throw caution to the wind while Roy was of a quieter more serious nature who rarely took unnecessary risks on the track. This race was a graphic example of their styles but as the laps wound down they were both clear of the field and headed for the chequered flag with Sherlock just getting the victory by inches, just a tenth or two outside the track record.
As the strains of a popular song of the day “ So Long It’s Been Good to Know You” blared out from the PA speakers the well satisfied crowds made their way home to count off the days until another Speedway Saturday Night!
Fifth meeting 1951-52
A crowd of over six thousand made their way to the Waiwakaiho Showgrounds on the 12th of January to the witness the fifth meeting of the season which was run in perfect conditions and on a very fast track. There were many highlights during the course of the meeting including a spectacular drive through burning timber walls by Theo Dodunski in his # 13 car and several track records were equalled or broken as the local favourites put on a top show for the spectators present.
Racing got under way with the running of the heats for the New Year Handicap run over six laps. Bob George in # 4 started his night in the best possible manner by putting the little Ford 10 powered racer in the winners circle ahead of Tom Masters in # 34 and the back marker Sherlock Holmes in the “Black Bullet” # 91 in Heat one while in the second heat it was Manawatu favourite Fred Karlsson in # 30 who claimed first place from Johnny Callender in # 83 and Bill Evans in # 65. Roy Low in # 99 gave a dazzling display from 110 yards behind in the third heat to take out the race from first year drivers Ralph Chadwick in # 11 and Rex Parker in # 57. The final of the New Year Handicap was a close fought race which was eventually won with a superb drive by Johnny Callender who had started from a handicap mark of 20 yards, the same starting position as the second place getter Ralph Chadwick while the back marker Roy Low could only manage a third place, such was the pace set by the front runners.
Tom Masters (below in 34) and Johnny Callender squared in the first match race of the evening which was run over just three laps and it was the Manawatu driver Masters who had enough guile to stay ahead of the rapidly improving local man to take the chequered flag.
Roy Low rolled the # 99 V8/60 on to the track at this point in the proceedings for a special attempt on the Ten Lap Record which was held locally by George Amor while the National Record had been set at the Olympic Stadium by Beau Thornton back in 1950 when he was at the wheel of the # 91 car now driven by Sherlock Holmes. The powerful V8 was right on song as the local star blasted over the distance in a near faultless performance to take the record with a time of 3 minutes 31 and 2/5 seconds which reduced the National time by 1 and 1/5 seconds.
Popular driver George Amor in # 10 was the next race winner when he won the opening heat of the prestigious Four Square Handicap from steady as a rock Bob George and Jack Harwood in the # 19 car and in heat two Johnny Callender continued his fine form to win from Tom Masters and Ralph Chadwick who was also having a fair night. Heat three and it was a barnstorming charge from the back which carried Sherlock Holmes across the line in a record equaling time to take first place from Theo Dodunski in # 13 and Bill Evans. The Final, however, proved to be yet another win for Johnny Callender who was having a most successful night while second went to Tom Masters and the hard charging Shock Holmes managed to get up to take the third spot.
Ken Rogerson, who hauled his Chevy powered # 50 down from Putaruru each week, defeated the Opunake flyer, Theo Dodunski in the second match race of the evening run over three laps.
Theo also performed the spectacular wall of fire stunt in his # 13 car much to the delight of the spectators, and when all the burning remnants of the walls were finally extinguished racing continued with the heats for the Bell Block Handicap. Ralph Chadwick added to his already growing reputation by winning the first heat from part time driver Ken Fahey who was at the wheel of John Arthurs # 68. There were only two finishers.
There was no doubt about it, this was Johnny Callenders night to star. (see photo right with crew)
He won the second heat in the fastest time ever recorded over six laps at the Waiwakaiho oval, however one of the three stop watches used to record the times failed to function so it could not be claimed as a track record. Shock Holmes could do nothing about reeling in the flying # 83 and settled for second place ahead of Tom Masters. Heat three was probably the toughest and after a mighty scrap George Amor emerged from the dust to take the flag ahead of his good mate Roy Low and the always fast Fred Karlsson. The Final certainly had as good a line up as anyone could wish for and would prove to be the most exiting race of the night. George Amor made his way to the front early in the race and managed to open a slight gap as the back markers dealt with the traffic and while Shock Holmes was in his element in these conditions Roy Low and Fred Karlsson adopted a slightly more cautious approach and were slower to work their way through the field. When the flag fell it was for George who had hung on grimly to his lead from Sherlock and Johnny Callender in what had been a superb race. Georges time for the race was also under the track record.
Laurie Mowat, who had previously owned the #57 car now driven by Rex Parker, won the novice race from Bruce McKenzie in # 4 and Harry Mayenerg and then it was time for the Feature Race.
It had been a relatively accident free night to this point but that was about to change. The ill fated # 19 “ Hoodoodit” was in trouble again, spinning on the road bend and being struck heavily by George Amor sending cars in all directions as the drivers tried to avoid the accident. There was no real harm done and the restarted race was won by Ralph Chadwick while Roy Low and Fred Karlsson finished second and third respectively to bring the curtain down on another wonderful night of midget car racing.
There had been a number of highlights and a number of very good performances, Roy Low’s Ten Lap Record, Theo and the wall of fire, but the undoubted star of the night was the good natured Johnny Callender who had shown that he would become a major player in the mighty midgets at the wonderful Waiwakaiho Speedway.
Sixth meeting 1951-52
A resurfaced track greeted the competitors at the Waiwakaiho Speedway for the sixth meeting of the season which was held before an excellent crowd on a fine summers night. The resurfacing had been undertaken to try and lessen the alarming tyre wear which was taking place on the cars of the faster competitors. This was a major problem as 12 inch tyres were not readily available in the early fifties and worn tyres had to be sent to Auckland for re-treading and as nobody ever had a spare wheel or tyre it might mean missing a meeting while waiting for them to be returned. The track took a few races to settle in but by the end of the night was producing some quite respectable times. Incidentally, the watering of the track would begin early on Saturday mornings and it was carried out by a small tanker truck which would make countless journeys from the track to the nearby Fertilizer Works where a large water tank was located and the whole day would be spent getting the track in shape for the meeting.
Proceedings commenced with the running of the Okato Handicap over three heats of six laps and as was the practice of the time only the first two cars would progress to the Final. Back marker for the first heat was Roy Low who put in a spirited drive from 120 yards behind to finish second to Theo Dodunski who had started the # 13 car from the 40 yard mark and George Amor who came across the line in third. Sherlock Holmes may have started the second heat at the rear of the field but at the end of six laps the Black Bullet was hurled across the finish line out in front while second place went to Len Pitcher in # 47 and third went to J Bendall who drove the Harwood and Kay # 19. The third heat produced a bit of a surprise when Midhirst farmer Harry Pitt came home the winner in # 22 from Ken Rogerson in his Chevy powered # 50 and John Arthur was third in # 68. All eyes were glued on the back markers, Roy Low and Sherlock Holmes, as the starters flag waved and the field pounded into the road bend for the first lap of the Final but the first driver to make a move was the limit man Harry Pitt who scuttled away from the pack during the early laps of the race and established an early lead. The master at getting through the traffic, Shock soon had Harry Pitt in his sights though, and with supreme effort put his car over the line in first place while Roy Low filled third place.
A match race between Bob George in the # 4 car and Rex Parker in # 57 was a close fought contest which resulted in a win for Rex while in another match up Shock Holmes defeated Theo Dodunski over the three lap course.
The heats for the Omata Handicap followed and again it was the big guns coming to the fore. Roy Low couldn’t quite make up the ground in the first heat to head home Bob George but second place ahead of George Amor was enough to see him safely through to the Final and in heat two it was business as usual for Shock Holmes as he sped across the finish line ahead of Theo Dodunski and Johnny Callender, who was having a fairly quiet night with the # 83 car. In the third heat Jim Guthrie clicked and put the # 32 car in the winners circle and Keith Speechlay in # 12 and Fred Karlsson in # 30 filled the minor placings. It was Bob George’s turn to grin from ear to ear as he made the most of his limit starting mark and managed to keep the little Ford 10 powered car ahead of the pack to record a fine win in the Final. Sherlock Holmes had to be content with second place this time after another typical charge from the back and Jim Guthrie continued his steady progress by claiming third. The Four Square Handicap was next on the programme again over three six lap heats and a final. The first heat produced some close racing as all the starters were handicapped inside the 50 yard mark and when the dust settled Theo Dodunski was declared the victor while Fred Karlsson was more than happy with the second place which put him into the Final and Fred Miles in # 15 finished third.
Sherlock Holmes continued the roll by taking out the second heat from Johnny Callender and Keith Speechlay and in heat three it was his arch rival Roy Low who was victorious over Bill Evans in # 65 and George Amor who was just off his normal pace. The Final was a bit of an anticlimax though, as the # 91 Black Bullet of Sherlock Holmes failed to start due to water in the fuel. Never the less the remaining cars put on a terrific race which saw Fred Karlsson claim a popular win from Johnny Callender and Roy Low.
The novice race over six laps was won by Bruce McKenzie in # 4 while second place went to Malcolm Campbell in # 51 and third to Len Pitcher in # 47. The last event of the night, the Ten Lap Feature was next and all the cars still running were wheeled out under the lights. The spectacle was somewhat dimmed by the fact that the Holmes crew had not been able to repair the ailing # 91 but a superb race ensued to finish the night in style. Fred Miles worked his way into the lead in the early laps and stayed clear of the spinning cars that were common during the feature races while Roy Low battled his way through from the back of the field with grim determination.
As the cars neared the end of the race it appeared that Roy would bring the # 99 V8-60 to victory but Fred Miles had other ideas and with a supreme effort on the final bend he managed to keep Roy at bay to win the race by a scant three yards and Fred Karlsson came home third.
The meeting had been remarkably free of accidents, Fred Karlsson had run into a spinning John Arthur in one race and in another he had given the fence a fair clout without help from anyone else and that was about it. The fans had seen another slickly run night of thrills on the wonderful Waiwakaiho oval and would have plenty to talk about before their next Speedway Saturday Night. Return TOP