running now for over 25 years the battle of the streets team are getting organised for the 2017 race.
Held annually with all the precision and planning of a military operation, the circuit is set up under the cover of darkness with SH2 finally being shut around 6am. Diversions are put in place to accommodate the traffic passing through whilst plenty of free parking and camping is available for spectators.
Originally the Battle of the Streets motorcycle race had its beginnings in the Paeroa RSA in 1991.
Over a 'pint of beer' Bob Jeffery (ex-motorcycle racer) suggested to friends Colin Lynch and Sharland Waikato that the streets of Paeroa could be turned into a street circuit.
The three were joined by six other enthusiasts who turned the idea into a reality after 15 months of planning, with the first meeting being held on the third Sunday of February in 1992. Two of them were even willing to mortgage their own homes to turn their idea into a reality.
The 1.52km circuit starts in the main street (Belmont Road and Normanby Road, also State Highway 2), right into Arney Street, over the hill into Princes Street, into the "S" bends linking Wharf Street to Marshall Street, along the back straight to the hairpin opposite the Railway Reserve and back into the main street. The circuit has become known as the "Hacksaw" owing to its shape. It has provided a testing circuit on which riders reach speeds of 280kph and sidecars close to 220kph along the main straight.
The crowd support has been excellent with the event achieving an estimated 8,000 spectators in 1993 rising to 11,000 in 1998. For more recent meetings, an increase in publicity before the event has seen the numbers swelling to an incredible 13,000 – 15,000. 2004 saw national television coverage which further increased the profile of the event, and it has been televised every year since.
The Trust works tirelessly each year to improve safety at the circuit, and after consultation with MNZ and members of the industry; plastic barriers have been placed on the circuit side of the deer fencing on the main straight as an added layer of protection for the public.
On race day there are some 350 volunteers involved.
They come from croquet, athletics, soccer and rugby teams, Maori culture groups, air training corps and boy scouts, Legion of Frontiersmen, amateur radio club and women's leisure marchers, to name a few. Also, farmers, tradesmen, contractors, transport firms and local businesses providing staff, machinery, equipment and sponsorship in cash and kind. The Order of St. Johns use the event as a training day, and the local Fire Brigade and Police are also invloved on the day.
There is a team of over 100 on Paeroa’s central streets from 5am on race day constructing the circuit and preparing it for the practice sessions. During the day volunteers work as marshals, security, gatekeepers, crossing marshals, crash recovery, emergency services, race officials and communications, plus numerous other personnel ensure the smooth running of the meeting. At the end of the day another army of volunteers dismantle the circuit, the barriers are removed, the deer fencing rolled-up and the hay bales loaded onto trucks and returned to farmers’ hay barns. The road closure and detour signs are taken down and State Highway 2 and Paeroa's main street returns to normal by around 6pm.
Two church congregations within the closed circuit area combine their Sunday worship with other churches elsewhere in the town.
Residents who live inside the circuit and wish to leave have security for their properties provided. And for the cats, dogs and other pets within the area, accommodation is provided for them away from the noise. Businesses that provide a seven-day-a-week service make alternative arrangements, the medical centre changes surgery times and have an emergency service in place; temporary bus and taxi stands are provided and arrangements are in place for those local residents who wish to go to their local dairy or supermarket on race day.
There are 11 classes that run throughout the day, these are: Post Classics – Forgotten Era Pre 1982, Formula 2, Junior Classics, Senior Classics, Formula 3, Formula Paeroa, Sidecars, Post Classic Historic Pre 1972, BEARS, Super Motard and the Robert Holden Memorial Race.
The event is the largest sporting occasion in the Thames Valley and one of the largest motor sport meetings in New Zealand and receives excellent support from sponsors in both cash and kind. For the first seven years Bel Ray (NZ) Limited had the naming rights and from 1999 to 2001 Moller Yamalube Limited had the rights with Yamalube. Then its parent company, Yamaha Motor New Zealand Limited were major sponsors up until 2010.
After the first meeting some $12,000 was donated back to those clubs, groups and organisations which provide their members as the volunteer workers.
Since then this figure has risen and over 20 years over $500,000 in donations have gone back into the community. In the meantime the Trust has established its own insurance fund to pay the bills even if the event is cancelled.
In all, the Paeroa Battle of the Streets race meeting is a fun and spectacular day out for all the family, even if you only have a slight interest in motor sport. Never will you see as much overtaking and jostling for position.