International entries for the 2009 Suzuki International Tri-Series are massive and Wanganui’s Cemetery Circuit will be the hub of the best racing this country has seen for many years.
Shades of the 1970s Marlboro Series, top local Kiwis and 14 Australians with be pitted against three British riders, an Irishman and an Italian for $25,000 prizemoney around the Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day.
Organisers report almost 250 entries – a record for NZ’s most historic motorcycle race.
Supermoto will be the major battleground with the surprise entry of multi-Italian champion Ivan Lazzarini on a specially prepared Honda CRF450. Lazzarini recently won the prestigious X-Games Supermoto segment in Los Angeles and last weekend finished third in the World Supermoto S1 championship. Only four points below second position and seven points from first.
Lazzarini will go head to head with US-based Daryl Atkins, who is returning just to compete at Wanganui. Atkins cleaned up last year at the Cemetery Circuit on his Aprilia SXV550, but this year expect the sparks to fly.
Australians Benny Ellicott-Davies and Joseph Carpenter may be the surprise Supermoto sideways package. They’ll have their work cut-out with local fast-boys Toby Summers, Casey Bullock, Scott Moir and former top motocrosser Mitch Rowe in the entry mix during Raceweek.
The super-fast F1 class is stronger than ever. The 2008 series winner, Suzuki star Andrew Stroud, may not have his own way on his new GSX-R1000K9, as Honda CBR1000RR racer Craig Shirriffs is always one of the men to beat at Wanganui. His Castrol Honda team-mate, Taranaki’s Hayden Fitzgerald, has also come off a solid winter season after winning the Actrix VMCC Winter Series.
Australian Joel Reed is returning with the latest Aprilia RSV4 Factory weapon and is expecting top results, while Queenslander Bertrem Zoubakin will be riding his Yamaha R1. Irishman and Isle of Man TT racer Kevin Fitzpatrick will be just another rider who has to deal with IOM TT winner and Wanganui veteran Shaun Harris for the spoils.
Former 600 Supersport rider James Smith is flying in early South Island events on the ex Robbie Bugden GSX-R1000 Superbike. He may be the man to watch this year, along with rising star Sloan Frost, of Cambridge.
The sidecars have always been a crowd favourite at Wanganui. Stacey Sellar is crossing the Tasman yet again in the hotly contested F1 Sidecar category. Sellar and Louise Blythe won all three races last year, although current NZ Sidecar champion and local resident Steve Bron will never be far away with his new LCR outfit. Locals Adam Unsworth and Stu Dawes scored impressive podiums in 2008.
It’s been 27 years since Dave Hiscock last raced at Wanganui and Boxing Day will be the only chance to see him in action. Now living in Australia, Hiscock will be reunited with the famous Coleman Suzuki sponsored ‘Plastic Fantastic’ for demonstration laps in what will be one of the most celebrated homecomings of any Kiwi racer. The ‘Plastic Fantastic’ was designed and built in Wanganui by Steve Roberts, before Hiscock took it to Europe to compete on the world stage.
Suzuki International Tri-Series Schedule:
Rnd 1: Manfeild, December 19
Rnd 2: Wanganui Cemetery Circuit, December 26
Rnd 3: Taupo Motorsport Park, December 28
Main photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Words and crash photo by Terry Stevenson