Anniversary meet at Oreti Park

The Oreti Park Speedway will hold a 40th anniversary meeting on Saturday night and on the track will be a very special competitor.

In 1974 the Oreti Park Speedway in Invercargill was born when it held its first ever meeting, and competing that day was a teenager from Christchurch by the name of Craig Blackett.

Forty years on a now 58-year-old Blackett will return to the track to again compete in the anniversary meeting.

"I was talking to my friend Fraser Gillespie. He collects programmes and he said to me I was in it and I'd have to come to the 40th, so it's all go."

He remembered when word filtered north in the early 1970s that Invercargill was putting together a track.

"At Ruapuna there was the news going around that Invercargill were starting a speedway track. Because in those days there was really only Ruapuna which had a speedway track in the South Island. I think there was one in Dunedin for a wee while but when Oreti Park started all of us [from Christchurch] went there because they didn't have many riders in Invercargill, there was only three or four riders. It took a long time before they had good riders down there."

Blackett said while he's slowed down a little in the past 40 years the progress of the Oreti Park Speedway complex and the hometown riders has been impressive compared to when he first lined up.

"It was the very early days and all they had was a wooden fence and open pits, that was about it really. It's come along way."

Blackett has been a regular visitor to Oreti Park since that first meeting and will yet again hop in his van this morning and travel the 460 kilometres from Christchurch to Invercargill.

"I know the road from Christchurch to Invercargill like the back of my hand, it hasn't got any shorter," he joked.

"I've been down dozens and dozens of times. When I was fitter, younger and keener I used to jump in the van and do all the meetings [at Oreti Park]," he said.

Blackett expects he will be the only one lining up tomorrow night from those that took to the Oreti Park track for the first time in 1974.

"Some of them have passed away and the others have got steel hips and steel knees and no hair. I would say I'll be the only one."

Oreti Park Speedway's 40th anniversary celebrations start tonight at the Ascot Park Hotel with a dine and dance.

Tomorrow night there will be a display of classic bikes as well as racing.

Fairfax Media