Saturday, April 21, the last meeting of the 2017-18 season honours and celebrates the memory of Ron Spriggs, the Invercargill panelbeater whose vision and tenacity created Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway. Ron felt that as much as he enjoyed holidaying in Central Otago, the region lack family entertainment, namely a speedway. His search for a suitable location took him to council-owned marginal land off Cromwell’s Sandflat Road that offered a natural amphitheatre embankment. Eager for an attraction that would bring people to the newly developed Lake Dunstan and to a basically relocated Cromwell, the Council gave the thumbs up to Ron’s speedway proposal granting him a long term lease. With support from his partner Valerie and willing helpers, ‘Golden Central Speedway’, as Ron named it, was ready to host its first meeting over Christmas, 1980. Cars were backed up well into the Kawarau Gorge but unfortunately terrible weather meant a last minute postponement of that first meeting. Winds were so fierce, porta loos blew over – one with a man in it.
From the caretaker’s house he built beside the track, Ron ran the speedway for 11 years until terminal illness forced him from active involvement. He died in March, 1996 just days shy of his 54th birthday. For Ron's story be sure to buy the April 21 race programme.
As part of the Ron Spriggs Memorial Meeting a whole lot of 'passed their us-by date' cars will meet a steaming, crumpled end in the annual Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway Demolition Derby. This last car running tournament is a huge crowd pleaser, especially among young families. As for the drivers they seem to have a smashing time. For anyone prone to road rage entering an old dunga in this derby would seem to be a lifetime cure. Before they start biffing each other, cars competing in the demo derby have in fact gone through quite a process that includes chaining or welding shut doors, removing all glass and accessories, fitting a four or five point harness seat belt and installing a substantial roll bar.
Another exciting draw-card at the Ron Spriggs Memorial Meeting is the rare appearance of a field of TQ Midgets. Powered by 762 to 917cc motors these pocket rockets guarantee fast, furious wheel to wheel action. With no wings to keep them stuck to the mud, TQ's are real fliers.
Before the track becomes littered with body panels and auto parts there's proper, fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping, mud-kicking speedway entertainment with all classes racing ... winged demon Sprintcars, methanol gulping Super Saloons, speedy Saloons, surprisingly fast V6 powered open wheeler Six Shooters, racy Productions and 1200cc Youth Ministocks driven with skill and gusto by 12 to 16 year olds.
Remember, too. Heavy Trax Hire Central Motor Speedway is 'The Fastest Family Show on Earth' where you can park on the natural amphitheatre to look down on track action from the comfort of your own vehicle. But to get a good spot be there for when the gates open at 2pm with racing starting at 4pm for a finish time that will get young speedway fans home to bed at a reasonable hour.