1966 - 1970 Kart racing

In the late 1960s, there were attempts to establish kart racing as a regular activity in Central Park.  References are few but a letter to the Evening Herald dated 26th April 1967 stated that “’Concession’ karts, which are usually overweight, underpowered and noisy, are to be allowed in Central Park.  Real racing karts, which have an ample safety power-to-weight ratio, four-wheel brakes and R.A.C. approved silencers, are not.”

One supporter was Councillor Graham Jinks, the Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee in 1966, seen in this photograph trying out one of the silenced kart models. 

Western Morning News, 23rd December 1966 (The Box accession reference 2732/25))

The following year, Alderman Jinks – no longer Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee – was quoted as saying, “Central Park must be utilised to the absolute maximum to give people what they want.  As well as a running track, there should also be coffee bars, helter-skelters, an amusement arcade – in fact, a mini-Blackpool.” (Western Evening Herald, 1st November 1967)    

In 1969, the Evening Herald reported that one of the attractions being planned for the Mayflower Year was a national kart meeting in Central Park with expectations of 150 drivers and 10,000 spectators attending.  The same article stated that it would be the first time since the war that a motor sport event had been held in the park. 

Poster advertising the race meeting

The meeting, organised by Plympton and Plymstock Round Table, took place on Sunday, 24th May 1970, with 35 races scheduled.  About 150 drivers entered and thousands turned out to watch.  The course included Coronation Avenue, Jubilee Row, the clock tower roundabout, Discovery Way’s northern section and the road past the stadium turnstiles and wall behind the Devonport end, all in a clockwise direction. 

According to a report in the Evening Herald, the organisers decided to abandon the meeting after three serious accidents in the first dozen races. 

The first accident came at the clock tower roundabout when a kart developed steering trouble and the driver broke both ankles.  The second accident occurred on Coronation Avenue when a kart struck a lamp standard and the driver broke a leg.  The worst accident came on the straight section past the Devonport end stadium with karts reaching speeds of 85 miles per hour and literally taking to the air.  Two karts momentarily interlocked coming onto the downhill slope. One kart spun across the track with its driver being flung head-first against the boundary wall and the other driver sustaining multiple injuries. 

A airborne kart by the Devonport end wall at Home Park (Tim Norwood – British Historic Kart Club)

After the meeting was abandoned, some drivers who had travelled from all over the country said the track was “suicidal” although it was officially approved. A race official conceded there were hazards but said a major factor was the speed of the bigger-engined karts and a temptation to go faster than was prudent at certain points.