Rugby is part of the staple diet in North Otago and if it’s not the Highlanders playing then it’s the locals supporting their local team and no one is more staunch than Ken McKeown when it comes to the home team and to prove his loyalty he is the major sponsor of North Otago rugby and has been so for a number of years.
Waimate 50 The Street Race Event Of The Year – and McKeowns are so sold
on this fantastic event that we have agreed to be the major sponsor again for
the 3rd year in a row.
Last year the organisers were so overwhelmed by the positive feedback from
the crowds that attended that they are promising to make it even bigger and
better this year with some other surprises yet to be announced.
For those of you that haven’t heard of the Waimate 50 before here is some
history from the chairman of the Waimate 50 organising committee, Rob
“At a time before purpose build racetracks were around especially in the South
Island the place to race was on the streets and so it was in 1959 that the small
rural township of Waimate was chosen to host a National Championship round
because of Waimate's central location, wide streets and a community that was
right behind the event. The Ferrari's, Cooper's and Maserati's were some of the
famous marquee’s along with many saloon cars that came to race in
Waimate. The main race was the 'Waimate 50' won by a young man who would
soon become a world champion - Bruce Mclaren. Thousands of spectators
turned up to watch the thrill of up close racing around the houses of Waimate at
numbers not seen before such was the popularity of the event. Racing at
Waimate continued from 1959 up to 1966 when Levels raceway was opened
and the following year the championship shifted to that new venue - a shame
as spectators witnessed something special that only a street circuit can create.
Time elapsed and the small town returned to it's quiet self until the 15th
anniversary from the last race a small team brought back a glimpse of what the
Waimate 50 was like with a bent sprint that used part of the original track on the
main street. Again this proved to be very popular with drivers and spectators
alike that on the 25th anniversary a full racing meeting was planned. Yes in
1991 racing was restored to Waimate with the return of the 'Waimate 50' now as
a classic event - this continued every second year until 1999 when there was a
dramatic change in safety requirements that unfortunately proved far too
costly for the Waimate 50 to continue and that event again went into recession.
Since that time a small team with a vision has been working hard to re establish
the Waimate 50 and to be able to build a track that met the new requirements -
something that was not easy to achieve as the rules kept getting harder and
more costly. The team new that for the Waimate 50 to be a success it had to
maintain the historical significance of the event while meeting the new
regulations and they were determined it could be done and be bigger and better
than ever but where to start…..
In early 2010 the team had come to a cross road with falling membership
numbers and no clear easy path forward, about this time a new member joined
the team and had an idea about combining his rally network with our street
circuit background and so it was that after some discussions the Waimate 50
GT Series was born.
Ken McKeown - McKeown Petroleum was approached and asked if he wanted
to become part of this new event and his answer was yes and the rest as they
say, is history. 2010 was a brilliant year and with Ken's support the Waimate 50
GT Series became a reality and a huge success with over 10,000 people
attending the event over the long weekend in October. Many overseas entrants
made the journey to Waimate including Rod Millen from USA and Leo
Leonard came out of retirement to race at Waimate again.
We are approaching our third year now and Ken is again at the forefront as
Principal Sponsor of the McKeown Petroleum Waimate 50 GT Series - more
surprises this year are in line with even more entrants and cars coming from
Australia. The standing 1/4 mile along with the street party on Saturday night
last year was big with crowds in excess of 15,000 over the weekend - so stay
posted for updates by visiting the website http://www.waimate50.co.nz/