Q: You’ve been our Speedway Doctor for many years. What year did you start and how did you get the job?
A: I started just after Christmas in the 1983/84 season. I was working in Auckland Hospital’s Emergency Department as a House Officer. Midget #14 Ray Easton came into the department on Boxing night having taken a heavy tumble at the Springs. I got talking to him about my family’s interest in Speedway when I was a kid living in West Auckland. Ray told me the promoter at the time, Tony Leader, was looking for a new doctor and he suggested I contact him. I went down and met Tony, got the job, and have been there ever since. Incidentally, Tony eventually became a patient of mine at Marina Medical, in Half Moon Bay. He’s a lovely man and he continues to put his faith in me for his own medical care. We can’t get through a consultation without chatting about the old days at Western Springs!
Q: You must have many stories of your time at Western Springs while Barry Butterworth was racing. Can you share one with us?
A: I guess the story that sticks in my mind is when Barry’s health was obviously declining and the board of Speedway New Zealand asked me to do a medical check-up on him, to determine if he was fit to continue racing. The following race meeting I saw him standing trackside watching a race so I went and stood beside him. I said “Barry, the board has asked me to check you over. Now, you were my childhood hero and I still have the utmost respect for what you have achieved in this sport….but… we both know you’re unlikely to pass that medical. I don’t want to be known as the guy who put an end to the racing career of the legendary Barry Butterworth”. He looked at me, gave me a big grin, and gracefully retired the following week. He went out on his terms.
Q: What driver/drivers have left a lasting memory for you and why?
A: First and foremost I want to mention Ray Easton who encouraged me to come down to the Springs and introduced me to Tony Leader way back in 1983. Ray remains a great friend and I have very fond memories of those BBQs after each race meeting in those early years of my involvement when Ray was still racing. There have been many other names along the way – Barry and his brother Max Butterworth, Brett Horrobin (who was rooky of the year when I first started and went on to win many national midget titles), Ted Tracey, Graham Standring, Michael Kendall, Bryce Townsend, the Insley brothers Justin and Shaun, Noel Goodwin, Alan Wakeling, to name a few – and of course the new guns of the sport such as Mosen and Pickens, who I have watched since their days in ¼ midgets.
Q: What interests do you have away from the race track?
A: I’m a musician and love playing the bass guitar. I have a five piece jazz band called Catnap – if anyone wants us for a gig! I was also heavily involved in my kids’ school and representative sports teams (rugby and hockey) when they were growing up. I started playing golf when I gave up delivering babies about 12 years ago, but haven’t played as much lately as have become too busy running Marina Medical (my General Practice) and Marina Specialists (which is a specialist medical/surgical centre next door).
Q: How has Western Springs Speedway changed since you started here?
A: There have been many changes over the years – some forced on us due to the noise issue – such as the reduction of 12 meetings per season (my wife is grateful!). There have been changes to the track surface, fencing, lighting and (more recently) the surrounds. Everyone is going much faster and the sport is getting more expensive as the sophistication of the race cars improves. We’ve lost the bikes along the way which is unfortunate, but unavoidable, due to the change in track surface. Health and safety in the sport at a national level has improved but there is still a great deal of work to be done in that department.
Q: Do you have a favourite class and in your opinion, what is the most exciting race in New Zealand’s annual speedway calendar?
A: I enjoy all the classes but if I had to pick I guess my favourite is the midget class. There are some great names attached to that class some who are still racing, others who have retired. But I believe all classes are important and add variety to the meetings and contribute to the development of the sport. I look back over the years and look at some of the names that have come through from the ¼ midgets such as Michael Pickens and Brad Mosen and you realise just how important that class is as a feeder to keep the sport growing.
As to my favourite race, I have two! The midget 50 lapper and the Barry Butterworth Classic. The former because I believe it is the most prestigious race to win in the Western Springs calendar, and the latter because it reverts to the old “fastest-off-the-back” format in honour of the great BB.