The police will probably be looking the other way this weekend when motorcyclists hare down the main street of town at eye-watering speeds in excess of 200kmph.
There is no doubt these riders will ignore stop signals, fail to give way and most probably swerve across the centre line at every opportunity.
And there is probably only one main street in the world where this can happen, Paeroa, the “antique town” of New Zealand, transformed again this weekend to host the popular Honda Battle of the Streets motorcycle road races.
This Sunday marks the 25th occasion that the barriers have gone up for the “street fight”, the straw bales have been positioned and the spectator fencing laid out along the gutters of this Thames Valley town, the front straight of this hacksaw-shaped course actually State Highway 2.
Each year hundreds of motorcyclists flood into Paeroa, at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula, with the sole intention of flouting the nation’s road laws, while thousands of spectators typically enjoy the sporting occasion under a typically blazing sky, a day that usually runs like clockwork from the 7.30am riders’ briefing, right through the packed race programme that starts at 11.30am and finishes at about 5pm.
And the question being asked is: Can Bay of Plenty’s Tony Rees celebrate yet another Formula One class win at Honda Paeroa’s annual Battle of the Streets on Sunday?
The Whakatane man first won the premier title at Paeroa more than 20 years ago, but, at age 46, he celebrated his eighth big win there when he clinched the trophy at the 23rd annual running of the iconic event in 2014 – the event skipped a beat last year when persistent rain forced the organisers to abandon the day, the first time that had been done in the entire history of the event.
In 2014, Rees crossed the finish line at the end of the 10-lap feature race ahead of New Plymouth’s Hayden Fitzgerald and Aucklander Ray Clee, although it is expected his challenge this time around will come from a different set of talented individuals.
Aside from Rees and Clee once again, foremost among the favourites in the glamour 1000cc Formula Paeroa class this Sunday are Taupo’s Scott Moir and Manukau’s Toby Summers, men who similarly have enviable reputations for mastering the high-speed, curb-clipping, hay bale dodging demands of street fighting.
In the 600cc Formula Two class fans should probably expect to see Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam, Wainuiomata’s Shane Richardson and Whakatane’s Damon Rees (the rising star son of Tony Rees) battling at the front.
International visitors, American Don Canet and Australian Mark Robertson, could also make life difficult for the Kiwi hopefuls.
“We have puts plans in place this year to ensure that the race can go ahead rain or shine,” said Paeroa Promotions Trust president Jonathan Smith, referring to last year’s sudden cancellation.
“Our concern was with the speeds being raced in the wet, particularly with the kink on the main straight. If it rains this weekend, we have made provision to alter the shape of the track at short notice and make it an all-weather course.
“We have other contingency plans in place too, with better equipment to clean up after oil spills and are looking to use the ‘air fences’ that were also used at the Cemetery Circuit races at Whanganui on Boxing Day.
“We are looking forward to what will be another fantastic day of race action, made possible only by the tremendous work done by volunteers. The support we receive from the community for this is amazing.”
Sunday’s programme also features races for several other bike classes, including Bears (non-Japanese bikes), Superlites, Seniors Classics, Junior Classics, Post Classic Pre-82, Post Classic Pre-89, sidecars, post classic sidecars and supermoto machines (converted dirt bikes).
Coming up just two weeks later will be the fourth and final round of the New Zealand Superbike Championships at Hampton Downs on March 5-6, where the riders will switch back from street to track mode.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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