Central Motor Speedway is set to roar this Sunday, in a race meeting to honour the speedway’s founder, Ron Spriggs.
There’ll be plenty of heart-stopping action from experienced drivers, locals and some exciting new talent.
Ron Spriggs showed us the power of what one person can achieve with vision, passion and tenacity.
In the 1970s, planning was underway for the Clyde Dam, Ron and his partner Valerie had been looking for some family fun in the area.
A passionate speedway advocate and race driver, Ron decided Central Otago needed a speedway. In Cromwell, he found a natural amphitheatre that he could see was ideal for a speedway track, plus room for a house.
Ron named his dream track ‘Golden Central Speedway’. Ron and Valerie funded the track themselves, a move that almost broke them financially.
The opening race meet in December 1980 was quite an event – for all the wrong reasons.
With cars backed up well into the Kawarau Gorge, all coming to the new speedway, a howling gale began to blow.
The winds were so strong they created dust storms and blew over the portaloos, including one with a man still inside.
Not the ideal opening Ron had planned.
Ron’s partner Valerie shared some very fond memories of the family time at the track during a 2018 interview.
She particularly remembered the great camaraderie that developed between drivers and volunteers, something that is still a feature today.
She recalled goats brought in to keep the grass down around the track, and sleepless nights moving water sprinklers around, so the track was watered enough for racing.
There was no bank to deposit gate takings, so money was tied to someone’s leg for safekeeping at night.
Ron drove his famous ‘Kertisy Kar’, a Boss Hogg topless, white Plymouth Savoy, back and forward between Invercargill and Cromwell to promote the track.
It wasn’t just about racing, each meeting was a show. At one, a Volkswagon car was dropped from a helicopter into the middle of the track causing a huge thud. The crowd roared with excitement.
At another, a pink Peugeot 404 drove through a burning bus.
Ron ran Golden Central Speedway for 11 years before he became ill. Sadly, he attended his very last speedway meet in Cromwell at the Christmas/New Year meeting of 1995/1996, and passed away in March of 1996. This Sunday, Ron’s Memorial Race will showcase his tenacity and passion for racing. New drivers like 13-year-old Meah Sommerville will carry on his family ethos, while more experienced drivers will provide an exciting show with all the thrills and spills that is speedway.