A Brief History of Wellington Speedway

Charlie Tonk’s Midget car before the body was added
Charlie Tonk’s Midget car before the body was added. Len Southward designed and built the front wheel drive car and stands beside it.

Speedway has a rich history in New Zealand with the first track in the country opened in the late nineteen twenties at Kilbirnie Wellington. This cinder track was opened in 1929 next to Rongotai College in Kilbirnie.

Along with solos (motorbikes), midget cars were also raced for the first time just metres away from houses in Yule Street.

Thousands turned out to watch as local and international riders and drivers took to the cinder track.

Speedway racing took a break during World War Two and returned in 1947 to Taita where a cinder track was opened on Taita Drive.

Some of the stars from the Kilbirnie days returned to race at Taita and attracted between 9,500 and 10,000 spectators on a regular basis.

The Taita track closed in 1956.

There was also a practice track on the mudflats at Pahautanui which was used during the summer from the late forties right up into the seventies.

The World Stockcar Team arriving at Te Marua
The World Stockcar Team arriving at Te Marua. On March 22nd 1969 the world team raced New Zealand in a stockcar team’s race. The Kiwis won this race by 50 points to 25.

The Wellington Stockcar Society was established in 1964 exactly a decade after Stock Car racing was first introduced to New Zealand at the Aranui track in Christchurch. In 1964 drivers had to visit other tracks – typically Palmerston North and Stratford – until their "home" track was completed at Te Marua in 1968.

At 385 metres the Te Marua track was built as a "typical" length oval track with a clay surface instead of the cinder of the earlier tracks. Te Marua is today described by Wikipedia as "a nationally important venue for stock car racing".

From 1968 until 1972 only Stock Cars were raced at the track and since 1973 some fantastic classes have been added to the racing program at the Wellington Family Speedway. Today these range from Ministocks to Super Saloons and Modifieds.

Charlie Tonk’s Midget car before the body was added
Charlie Tonk’s Midget car before the body was added
Wellington Wildcat cars at Te Marua.

Huge crowds have flocked to the track over the years - especially when Stockcar team’s racing is on the program. Teams from throughout New Zealand and the world have come to Te Marua to challenge our very own Wellington Wildcats.

Recent improvements to spectator facilities and to track safety will ensure that the Wellington Family Speedway remains one of New Zealand’s best family entertainment venues.