A speedway meeting in Cromwell turned into a "smash palace" with 11 sprintcars wiped out of racing and a "heart-stopping" sidecar crash leaving two men in hospital.
The Central Motor Speedway hosted a huge crowd for a night of racing yesterday, including the feature 25-lap Sprintcar Race in the 10-round War of the Wings series.
Spectator Ross Lindsay, of Cromwell, said one of the many "spectacular" crashes involved two sidecars and was "one of the most miraculous escapes from injury" he had seen.
"The passenger [swinger] of the leading sidecar came off and was left sprawled on the track. The second sidecar tried to take evasive action but it literally gathered up the prone passenger carrying him into the wall," Lindsay said.
"The impact was so great that it tore the front wheel off the sidecar. The three men appeared to be pinned under the wreckage. It was a horrific accident that miraculously did not result in serious injuries."
Rescue crews, including St John Ambulance put tarpaulins on the track fencing to stop onlookers peering down at the medics assisting the men, he said.
"I am sure I wasn't alone in thinking a worst-case scenario. I'm also sure I wasn't the only one of the big crowd to breathe a huge sigh of relief when the track announcer reported that injuries were apparently not serious."
St John Ambulance spokesman Ian Henderson said two men were transported to Dunstan Hospital with moderate to serious injuries.
Race promoter Jo Gaudion said two of the injured men were from Invercargill and the most seriously injured man was from Australia.
The main War of the Wings event also featured crashes that resulted in the field of 18 starters being reduced to just seven to cross the finish line.
"It was quite an eventful night," Gaudion said. "The sidecar crash delayed the race meeting by an hour then the sprintcars took 50 minutes to do 20 laps because there were so many crashes."
Racing did not finish until just before midnight, she said.
"Obviously, when things go wrong, they go wrong big time.
"Having that delay, we have to apologise to the crowd but good on them for sticking it out so long."
Central Motor Speedway's Jason Scott came home first to take over the lead in the series from Christchurch's Ray Baughan who was taken out of the race after his car was written off.
The NZ Sprintcar Champs will be hosted at the course on January 10 and 11.
- © Fairfax NZ News