Tuesday, 19 November 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Well-deserved and fitting farewell for speedway track

After 28 years, the Mercury Bay Speedway Club’s lease of their track at the Whitianga Airport is coming to an end at the end of this month. Last weekend, the club - with the help of past members and an influx of visiting race cars and supporters - gave the track a well-deserved and fitting farewell.

The club has produced a number of drivers over the years who have gone on to achieve success on the highly competitive national speedway stage.

Mercury Bay resident and former New Zealand Saloon car champion, 67-year-old Phil Towgood, returned to his home track last weekend to complete a final few laps after several years in retirement. While initially a bit rusty behind the wheel, he proved class is permanent while piloting his former championship winning car around the track in impressive style. 

More than 40 race cars and vintage stockcars turned out for what the main organiser of the weekend, Ant Smith, said was an opportunity for past and present Mercury Bay Speedway Club members and the wider speedway community to have a final drive on a track that many had raced on over a long period of time. “There were no trophies and no prize money on offer, it was all about having a fun couple of days,” says Ant. “I can’t thank all the volunteers and sponsors who were involved in the weekend enough for their behind the scenes work that went into preparing the track and helping out over the two days of racing.

“In particular, our appreciation goes out to Coast 2 Coast Building Services, Whitianga Butchery and Coastal Campers for every done they’ve done and given us to help make the weekend a success.”

Ant’s own contribution to the Mercury Bay Speedway Club over a long period of time shouldn’t be ignored either. With around 15 years of participation on both the local and national scene behind him, he will be looking to continue his racing on other tracks in the near future.  

One of the club’s big success stories is Bodie Abrahamson, who started out racing as a 12-year-old and has progressed through the ranks over the last 13 years to become one of the country’s top super saloon drivers. Bodie was on hand over the weekend to represent three generations of family racing at the club. His mother, Lisa, was a foundation member of the club and his late grandfather, Clive Moyle (Lisa’s father), was also actively involved for many years. Bodie raced with the number 39 on his super saloon during the weekend in memory of his grandfather.   

Another club stalwart who left the track last weekend with a wee tear in the eye was Greg Barnett. Greg was one of those who originally marked out the track and played an active part in its opening in 1991.        

While talks with the Thames-Coromandel District Council and several other parties continue about the future of speedway in Mercury Bay, current Mercury Bay Speedway Club president Rob Davis says the club will go into recess for at least a year. “It’s definitely the end of an era, but we’ll work hard to retain a speedway presence in the area moving forward,” says Rob. “Ideally, we would like to see a purpose-built motorsport park built to cater for not only speedway, but other forms of racing such as motorbikes and go-karts as well. Key to that of course is getting help and support from the likes of TCDC, but just as importantly we would like to hear from those speedway enthusiasts who are willing and keen to help take the sport into the future.

Competitor numbers in our club have dropped off in recent years along with active committee members, which haven’t helped our cause, but we won’t give up our push for a new speedway track anytime soon.”

Let’s hope it’s not too long before another speedway venue in Mercury Bay is up and running. No question it’s a great family sport that has been enjoyed by many locals over many years.

Pictured: Some of those who attended the last race meeting at the Mercury Bay Speedway Club’s track at the Whitianga Airport. From left to right - Greg Barnett, Ant Smith, Bodioe Abrahamason, Lisa Abrahamson and Phil Towgood.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.