Oceanview Family Speedway’s closing meeting was not without much sadness.

In the second Classic Stockcars race, 1978-79 New Zealand Stockcar champion Keith Turner is believed to have suffered from a medical event. With Turner apparently unconscious, the car slowed to the infield, before accelerating and colliding with the wall just as the safety crew approached.

The meeting was delayed as fire, ambulance and police attended to the stricken driver, and the rescue helicopter was called, landing in the centre of the oval. The decision was made to transfer Keith by road to Whanganui Hospital, from where he was later airlifted to Wellington in a critical condition.

Keith’s condition was stabilised, and by Saturday 8th April he was reportedly out of ICU and into the Cardiology ward and was expected to make a full recovery. Sadly, the next news we heard was devastating for Keith’s family and many friends; he passed away on Wednesday 12th April at Wellington Hospital.

I first met Keith back in the 1970s when he was racing a Saloon at Palmerston North. I was there the night he beat perennial runner-up Barry Featherson in a run-off to win the New Zealand Stockcar Championship, the first Whanganui driver to win an official NZ Stockcar title.

In March 2022 I was contacted by Keith’s great friend, Shane Hobman, and asked to write a story for the local paper about the debut of the replica of Keith’s championship car. That led to a feature story in NZ Dirt Track Racing Magazine, and Sticky O’Hagan’s photo of Keith in his car on the Oceanview infield became a poster. Keith was absolutely delighted when Vince from NZDTR sent me some extra copies of the magazine and poster to give him.


Oceanview Speedway celebrated 50 years of racing in October 2022, and a big field of Classic Stockcars was on hand for the opening meeting of the season. Keith wasn’t able to drive that weekend; he had recently had a pacemaker inserted after a heart scare. But I got him up to the Oceanview commentary box to spin some yarns and interviewed him on camera for Speedway; The Inside Dirt during a pit walk the following day. The mischievous sense of humour that had always been Keith’s trademark was well and truly evident.

Since Keith’s death, I have reflected on how lucky I was to have those conversations. Sadly, we are losing too many of our Speedway heroes, and losing them before they have told their stories. Keith’s passing, and that of “Dr” John Mercer a week earlier, have prompted me to put an emphasis on interviewing and recording some of these heroes so their memories of Speedway are not lost forever. I will be making calls in the next month or so to recruit some partners for what I believe is an important project for the sport.

Keith was farewelled on Tuesday 18th April, and local drivers paid tribute to him with a guard of honour around the Oceanview track. Keith’s casket was carried in his beloved Valiant stationwagon, which was followed by two of the cars in which he competed. A memorial service for Dr John will be held at Stratford on Saturday, May 13th at 2pm.

Rest peacefully Keith and John, and thanks for the many wonderful memories you provided. We are poorer for your passing, but your respective lives enriched ours greatly. My sincere condolences go to the Turner and Mercer families and to Keith and John’s many Speedway friends. We will remember you both fondly.