In years gone by, it has been a rite of passage for many New Zealand Kids to watch mesmerised trackside, Hot dog on a stick in hand, while custom and hand built road cars race round an oval dirt track, in all or nothing, guts and glory type racing that is Dirt Track speedway.
New Zealanders have had a love affair with speedway of all kinds and Dirt Track racing at the Meremere Dirt Track racing club offers a fun, relatively safe, low cost opportunity for the whole family to get involved in a sport that is exciting, easy to become involved in and addictive according longstanding club member and committee member Calum Withers.
‘A lot of club member have been involved for years and years, they start as juniors and move through the different classes. There’s a huge satisfaction in racing something you have built or been involved with in some way’
Dirt Track Racing started at the Meremere track in 1972 when extra dirt from excavations to build the Meremere drag strip was used to create a dirt track on the other side of the hill.
This allowed the builders of the drag strip, Pukekohe Hot Rod Club to move their grass track racing activities from Pukekawa over the river to Meremere. The Meremere Dirt Track Club was formed in the winter of 1983 when members of the three clubs, Auckland Hot Rod Club, Western Districts Off-road Racing Club and the Waiuku Dirt Track Club who made up the bulk of the competitors involved, decided to form a new club solely focused on their sport and to take over the running of the event. Since then the club has grown and now runs a full season from October through to April with race days roughly every fortnight.
Historically there have been off roader classes and other classes, but today you will see mainly converted road cars, through to the top level Tube frame cars which have mostly in a past life been ex-stock cars.
“You can basically race anything from a Honda Civic through to Space Frame V8, it’s the kiwi psyche to drive anything with a motor in it!”
The club is on a mission this season to invite more youngsters into the sport. The Junior class involves kids from age 12 through to 16. They are allocated a mentor from the club who through years of their own experience passes on valuable handling, driving and racing skills that easily transpose from Dirt Track racing to the kids own driving experience on the roads in their later teen years.
“we find that a lot of the kids become really careful drivers because they have an outlet to do the skids and take more risks in a relatively safe environment.”
There is a very strong emphasis on safety, the Junior’s race in two classes in one of two restricted vehicles types. Either a vehicle with up to 1600cc or a production saloon up to 2L with a carburetted motor. The vehicles all have roll cages, window nets and drivers wear full helmets, neck braces and harnesses.
“Things happen because it’s on dirt but intentional hitting is not encouraged, it’s not demolition derby and more about skilful racing and having fun. The juniors live for the race days, and many move through and develop a lifelong passion”
Club drivers and those associated with the drivers have either built or been involved in some way with the cars, spending time in the weekend, after work, whenever time allows, fixing, cleaning, polishing. The social aspect is important too and club members are happy to organise rides in their cars on the track to give any potential members a taste of what they are getting into or let them see first-hand what it takes to get into racing whether it be for the thrill of it or competitively for the points handed out on race days.
‘We are more than happy to offer passenger rides from 11 years old, it really adds to the experience of visiting the track and there are not many places kids can go to enjoy this type of entertainment anymore.”
So, whether it be a family day out for something a little bit different, or a burgeoning interest in racing your own car or helping someone else realise their dream to race round a racetrack, hop on down to one of the race days at Meremere Dirt Track Racing Club and revel in the raw and real atmosphere that is Dirt Track Racing Passion.