Revheads back from dead

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Queenstown Car Club reborn a decade after spectator tragedy

Queenstown Car Club is revving up again after folding from the fallout of a nationally publicised street-race tragedy in 1998.

The club’s been revived as an enthusiasts’ club with an accent on affordable, skill-based off-road events rather than straight-out motorsport races.

Founded in 1971, the club was forced into mothballs when street racing and even off-road events became mired in red tape after four officials were prosecuted by police on criminal charges after the deaths of two spectators in the 1998 Queenstown Classic Road Race.

The spectators – on a bank just above the Gorge Road section of the circuit – were killed instantly when a speeding racecar left the track. There were no barriers.

MotorSport New Zealand pleaded guilty in 2001 to a criminal nuisance charge in return for the race officials walking free – but Queenstown Car Club was already a dead duck.

“I think people had had too many kicks in the backside for what they’d been trying to do,” local motorsport stalwart Stuart Maclean says.

He’s delighted the club’s back running events such as car shows, autocrosses and, for the first time, a “motorkhana” on August 30.

“The great variety of events we are running for club members is indicative that that’s really what we should have been doing earlier on.

“A motorsport club has, I suppose, to specialise in motorsport but you can do other things that are still of interest to a greater number of people.”

An example is the motorkhana, to be held at Fulton Hogan’s Glenda Drive yard, for an entry fee of just $15.

“You don’t have to wear a helmet, you don’t have to have overalls, as long as you’ve got covered-in shoes and a warrantable car,” says club secretary Caroline Cullimore.

“It’s a driver skill more than a speed event.”

“You might hit a cone and that’s it,” committee member Marc Doran says. He was first taught to drive by the club at Frankton’s Five Mile site and enjoyed a five-year racing career.

The club’s run by new people but taps those with experience, such as Maclean, Doran says.

Anyone with a car they’re proud of can join for $50 a year, Culli­more adds – even non-drivers are welcome.

The 40-member club will also run a car show at Lake Hayes Showgrounds on September 19 – their first show last year attracted 80 cars – and hopes to run an autocross at Cardrona in October.

It meets on the first Thursday of every month at the Gold Ridge Hotel at 7.30pm.