Speedway group is racing into the future
To many it could be pie in the sky, but Dean Miller’s long-term goal is to see a dome covering Riverside Speedway at Sandy Point.
Miller, the track’s promoter, mentioned the dome when asked for his goals.
A covered-in track would allow racing in all weather conditions.
‘‘We’ve joked and laughed about the dome, but who knows what can happen in the future. It would be like the rugby stadium in Dunedin. If it did happen, we could race all year round.’’
The speedway season is from October to April, ending with the Demolition Derby.
Installing lights for night racing is another of Miller’s goals.
He is in his second season promoting Riverside and has a support team of five people.
‘‘For promotions we get together and have brainstorming sessions. Other times, we talk about what we can do better.’’
Riverside didn’t have a promotions officer when Miller was spoken to about the role by committee member Lloyd Phillips in 2015.
Phillips and other officials wanted to lift Riverside’s profile with fresh marketing and promotions, as well as upgrading facilities and equipment.
‘‘We’ve invested $100,000 in the last 18 months,’’ Miller says.
Some of the money has been spent on buying a grader, scales (to weigh cars), fencing, signage and extending the burnout pad.
‘‘It’s looking really good .. we’re setting it up for the next generation.’’
Discussions have also been held on improving toilet facilities and building new club rooms/kitchen and control tower, but they are long-term projects.
Riverside opened 40 years ago, has 150 members and its race days have increased this season from 12 to 15.
Officials are helped at meetings by 30 to 40 volunteers.
‘‘We’ve got business people on the committee with strong and good business heads,’’ Miller says.
‘‘We’ve seen a lot more families coming to our [race] meetings, new faces ... we’re there to put on a show.’’
The next meeting is on Saturday night when nine grades will be in action. After the last race, there is a fireworks display.
Miller reckons 60 to 80 cars from all over the country will be at Riverside for the New Zealand Streetstock title on January 19-20, while the first running of the NZ Production title is scheduled there on February 16-17.
Manawatu speedway great Peter Rees is organising a North Island team to compete in races for super stocks and stockcars at South Island meetings early next year, including Riverside on March 9.
Miller understands Rees has booked 56 spaces on inter-island ferries to transport the team’s vehicles across Cook Strait.
‘‘He’s never been to Invercargill,’’ Miller says.
For major race days, cars in the main event are displayed early afternoon on the Gala St reserve.
The promotion, named Show and Shine, gives fans the opportunity to check out the cars and talk to drivers. Free admission tickets are given to children.
‘‘The Show and Shine has been very successful.’’
Riverside and Beachlands in Dunedin are the only speedways in the country with a youth grade — for 12 to 16-year-olds. They compete in saloon cars.
Club officials and members and parents of youth saloon drivers help run the grade at Riverside, Miller says.
Miller hopes a Legends’ Night can held at a race meeting, at which former top Southland drivers are guests of the club.
Some of the greats have been Peter Woods, Norman Butler, Don Black and Jamie Seaton.
‘‘All those guys were great pedlars in saloon cars,’’ Miller says.
Miller became a club member six years ago after competing in three or four Demolition Derbies.
He now drives in the modified sprints but is yet to race this season due to a shoulder operation three months ago.
He might be able to race again early next year.
When Miller climbs into his modified sprint car the adrenalin starts kicking in, he says.
‘‘As soon as I put the helmet on, it’s a different world.
He regrets not starting earlier in modified sprints.
‘‘I should have been doing it years ago.’’
Some of his best results have been in the Brett Cooper Memorial (first), club championships (second), Dunedin Championships (third) and Bullet Series (fourth).