Healthy fields are prevalent...
Healthy fields are prevalent in many divisions at racetracks in New Zealand. Spectators turn out in large numbers to support major racing events.
Racing is a type of universal language. Cars may look different, procedures may not be the same, but the sense of competition runs through any race contest worldwide.
New Zealand dirt track racing may not have the longevity of other regions of the world. In some ways, that's better because the sport caught on at a time when developments from throughout the world could be flawlessly implemented. The other countries eliminated the bugs to allow New Zealand racing to be exciting from the start.
For the most part, speedway racing in New Zealand falls under the close scrutiny of the sanctioning body known as Speedway New Zealand. This group, comparable in some ways to NASCAR in the United States, sets the rules and regulations for competitors at member tracks. Outlaw tracks not sanctioned by the group may do things differently, but the best known guidelines come from the sanction.
As any nation's racing, there have been publications and books devoted solely to the history, development, and state of the sport. We will cover just a few of the classes offered, giving a sample of the racing.
Laurie Maber carries the checkered...
Laurie Maber carries the checkered flag after a Streetstock win at Waikaraka Park near Auckland.
classes in New Zealand bear some resemblance to those seen in the states, especially in the open-wheel ranks. Some of the popular "full-bodied" classes include Stockcar, Standard Stockcar, Saloon Car, Modified, and Streetstock. Young racers join in with Youth Mini Stocks. There are regional classes such as Limited Saloons, Production Saloons, and Mini Stocks (which are expected to become youth-only in 2005). Open-wheel racing in Sprint and Midget divisions has always been popular, and motorcycle racing-in some cases utilizing sidecars-continues to thrill. New Zealand sidecar racing draws a tremendous television audience in Asia.
Like most sanctioning bodies with an eye on the future of the sport, Speedway New Zealand has put an emphasis on safety. Helmets must meet a detailed list of certification, depending upon the helmet's manufacturing origin. Helmets that do not offer temple protection have been banned from competition, even if approved in other countries. All drivers are required to have their surnames on both sides of their helmets.
A safety rule not seen in the U.S. falls under the classification, "Goggles and Face Shields." A section of this rule deals with dentures and advises all drivers to remove them before competition. Immediately following is similar advice for those with body and facial piercings.
Super Saloons Lance Jennings...
Super Saloons Lance Jennings (96) and Kevin Moore (11) slide through the corner at Waikaraka.
Nylon jackets have been banned for competitors and pit crews. All drivers must wear full-length, long-sleeve Proban/Nomex blend (or material with the same rating) with close-fitting fronts, cuffs, and ankles. Two-piece suits must be attached together by zippers or by other approved means. Gloves, neck braces, and neck collars are required, and balaclavas are optional. Officials must approve the use of a head restraint system.
With respect to safety harnesses, a specification in large type in the rule book is quite clear: "If a driver unclips his seatbelt during a competition, he is deemed to have retired from the race and cannot resume racing."
Arm restraints are mandatory for open-wheel classes and Modifieds. A minimum of five belts is required with lap and shoulder belts 75 mm wide and the sub belt 45 mm wide. All must be attached to a quick-release mechanism. The date of manufacture of the belts is noted on the driver's information sheet that is kept with the sanction. For open-wheel classes, belts must be replaced no more than two years after the date of manufacture. Most classes can run a set of belts for up to five years. The vehicle inspector has the right to require an earlier change in equipment.
Member tracks of Speedway New Zealand have guidelines to follow before getting an operating license, which must be renewed each year. The license restricts the promoter or owner from subleasing the facility for any racing-related action.