Recently Laurie Lester, KartSport New Zealand Life Member (appointed 1984), past National President, past National Steward and competitor retired from his Race Official Grade 1 position.
Thank you Laurie and Jean (KartSport New Zealand Life Member appointed 1992) for your outstanding service to our sport over many many years!
The following is Laurie's karting story in his own words.
From my early days in Christchurch growing up I was always interested in sport. Firstly, participating in hockey and cricket and spectating at motor racing via the Aranui speedway every Saturday night, Lady Wigram GP meetings, and the Cust motorcycling classics.
On being transferred to Hawkes Bay in January 1960 it wasn’t long before we located a go kart track with high wheelers and dirt tracks. This did nothing to excite me.
Then in 1967 during a lunchtime walk around town I saw a low wheeled kart in the local motor bike shop and on closer inspection I was hooked. Although advertising in the Hawkes Bay and Palmerston North newspapers I didn’t get any replies.
At Christmas time that year we went to Christchurch for our annual holidays and was lucky enough to procure a McCulloch 45 with twin carbs and a Dart copy frame made by Ohau Engineering from long time Christchurch stalwart Robin Wilkinson. The holiday was cut short and we returned home to build up the kart.
Ready for my first day karting with son Michael as chief mechanic.
We were lucky that the Hawkes Bay Kart Club had decided to upgrade their limestone track to a purpose-built tar sealed circuit and this was the first day it was available for use. Many happy hours have been spent there since.
In 1971 I competed in my first National Sprint Championship meeting and was lucky enough to compete in another 17. My best placing was at the infamous Bridgestone nationals in Christchurch in 1978 where I was placed 4th, and the first kart on the non sticky tyres. Many North Island Champs, Gold Star, and of course our own Blossom Festival meetings where I am the only person to have been present at all 52 of them were all supported. Club days at the Hawkes Bay and Waipawa tracks filled a very busy calendar where I enjoyed my fair share of success.
After several terms on school committees, I was elected to the H.B. management in 1972 and in ‘73
The origins of the WPKA Gold Star Series
Attended my first Conference of Clubs held at Logan Park hotel in Auckland under the President Len Harris. Very successful outcomes for H.B. as we were awarded the Nationals for 1975. The only condition was that I had to be the Convenor.
Late 1974 and early 1975 were frantic times preparing for the Nationals and the presentation cabaret to follow. These were times before texts and faxes so every communication was done by letter and carbon paper was the order of the day. There were 219 entries spread over 17 classes and everything went smoothly. At Conference that year I was elected as Vice President of the then NZ Kart Federation Inc.
These were dark days for karting administration. Firstly, the Executive was equally divided between Christchurch and Auckland representatives and neither party would support the others’ ideas. Secondly it was revealed that the previous treasurer had absconded with the bank balance so members had to fund their own transport to Executive meetings and Conference. This also meant that there was a reluctance of nominations for Executive positions.
Chairing the 1985 NZKF Conference of Clubs
In 1977 I decided that things had to change and so gathered some willing supporters around me and stood, and was elected as National President. This began an 11-year unopposed term in the position. These years are best told by Ian Love’s presentation to Conference on my retiring from the position. CLICK HERE
The ensuing years passed quite peacefully without the onerous responsibility of the Presidency. I was able to source and restore two NZ made Dart copy vintage karts with 91a McCulloch motors for Jean and I to use at vintage demonstrations, support the families’ racing activities, and even had time to assist National President Bob Cunningham and John Lennox review and update the judicial system. Along the way there were numerous requests from clubs around the country for assistance with Race Official duties in running their meetings which I very willingly filled.
Laurie being presented with Life Membership by NZKF Patron, Norma Triplow.
Although involved with vintage karting much earlier it did not look like it was going anywhere positive so I sold our karts. Then a resurgence took place and so I restored my Kevin Nairn built laydown kart and we began participation again. Unfortunately, it was quite hit and miss and it was great when Mark Jenkinson formed the group Vintage Karting New Zealand and went about joining and being accepted by KartSport. This move ensured that the rules were safely held by KartSport with a specific procedure for changing them, and driving and meeting procedures were standardized. With this in place son Brendon joined, followed by granddaughter Sarah, then her partner Hayden, then grandsons Matt and Brook all with karts originally found and restored by me. It has developed into a very social experience (until Covid). and much like Karting was when I first started in 1968.
Jean and Laurie at a recent Vintage karting event.
None of the above would have been possible without the tremendous support of my family. Jean has been a tower of strength, but even in her own right has served KartSport as the licence secretary for 10 years in the time of manual licence renewal. For this she has been rewarded with Life membership of KartSport New Zealand. Still not content with this she has served KartSport Hawkes Bay as chief lap scorer over many years during the time of manual lap scoring and karts with 3-digit numbers, magazine editor, and treasurer as well as many other duties. Again, a well-deserved Life Membership was awarded here. Daughter Carolyn willingly assisted by typing all the National Presidents correspondence and reports, and at local level running the ever popular 'lolly shop' and sons Michael and Brendon became machine examiners to help out.
I have never regretted any time or effort that I expended in the name of Karting, as I have met some wonderful people enjoyed some great occasions, and made some sincere friends along the way.
1978 NZKF President Laurie Lester with Denny Hulme at the opening of Wellington Kart Club's Kaitoke track.
1978 NZKF President Laurie Lester with Denny Hulme at the openning of Wellington Kart Club's Kaitoke track.
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