The Waiheke TT Races
In the 1930s and 1940s…
Each New Year’s weekend Waiheke became the centre of the universe for motorcycle enthusiasts. Three or four thousand people would come across to watch, piling on board the ferries for the hour-long voyage and unloading onto the Ostend Wharf. They lined the route from Ostend to Onetangi and around Seaview Road and were rewarded with plenty of thrills and spills, flying dust and metal.
The inaugural Waiheke TT (Tourist Trophy) motorcycle race was held in 1931. The event had a keen supporter in Mr F.H. Brown, the then chairman of the Ostend Roads Board and, no doubt, in the various subdivision syndicates selling sections in Ostend Onetangi, Palm Beach, Oneroa and Surfdale who were keen to entice people over to the island.
The first race began spectacularly. The road was so narrow the riders started at 10-second intervals and the first man away, R. McLeod riding a 500cc Norton got off to a flying start only to skid and crash at the first bend.
The race was famous for both its high number of spills and its low number of finishers. In 1933 there was only one, Sid Moses, riding a Rudge (500cc) Sid won 3 TT races including the first in 1931.
The undisputed king of Waiheke, however, was Len Perry who won no fewer than 8 Waiheke TT races.
All the roads were metal. Riders achieved speeds of up to 100mph along he Onetangi straight. There were injuries but no one was ever killed at the Waiheke races. Racing was suspended between 1941 and 1945 for the wart years and stopped finally in 1950 because it was felt that the bikes were becoming too fast and too technical for such a dusty winding road.