It is certainly going to be another scorching summer of motorcycling this year with the 13th annual Suzuki International Series set to kick off in Taupo on Sunday, December 6, the programme again bulging with potent, world-class entries right through all the various bike categories.
Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park hosts the opening round, setting into motion three weekends of blistering motorbike action, the series again proving to be a magnet for the cream of motorcycling talent.
Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, on the outskirts of Feilding, follows as host venue a week later, on Sunday, December 13, and the action wraps up, as it traditionally does, on the public streets of Whanganui, riders tearing around the world-famous Cemetery Circuit, on Boxing Day (Saturday, December 26).
Spectators can save money by purchasing “early bird tickets” through Ticketek on-line and they’ll also go in the draw to win an upgrade to a Suzuki VIP Pass for the Cemetery Circuit race day.
For more than half a century the barriers have been put up for this world-renowned motorcycle “street fight”, with straw bales positioned and spectator fencing laid out along the gutters of Whanganui’s public streets.
Started in 1951, the event has been a magnet for bike fans even since and it’s likely to be another scorcher this coming Boxing Day, both in terms of the sun beating down and of bike riders trying to beat each other to the chequered flag.
And while it is true that Taupo’s Scott Moir has his fingers crossed he can make it win No.3 in the premier Formula One/Superbikes class, there are so many talented individuals lining up again this year that picking a winner is almost impossible.
In addition to Suzuki ace Moir’s traditional rivals in the class – riders such as Glen Eden’s former national 600cc and superbike champion Daniel Mettam, Wellington’s two-time former national superbike champion Sloan Frost, Whanganui firebrand Jayden Carrick, Auckland’s Dave Sharp, powerhouse Whakatane brothers Mitch and Damon Rees, along with their championship-winning father Tony Rees and the ever-consistent Al Hoogenboezem, from Christchurch – he will now also have to face Whanganui’s multi-talented Richie Dibben.
Dibben is a many-time Suzuki International Series winner in the supermoto (dirt bike) class and last year he made a winning debut on a Suzuki GSX-R600 in the Supersport 600 class in the New Zealand Superbike Championships.
He easily won that 600cc title when the nationals were wrapped up early in March (due to the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down) and now Dibben steps up to the more-powerful 1000cc Suzuki superbike.
A modest Dibben refuses to play up his chances of success as a superbike “rookie”, despite the fact that it is always going to sound odd using the word “rookie” to describe this multi-faceted bike racer, but he said he has “only had the new GSX-R1000 for three months and only ridden it a dozen times” so far.
“But I feel I’m there or thereabouts in terms of pace and a top five finish might be a realistic goal for me,” admitted the 31-year-old father-of-two.
“To be honest, the 1000cc Suzuki doesn’t feel a whole lot different to the 600. It just has a lot more ‘get up and go’. Hopefully I can keep up with the big boys,” he laughed.
“I’ve gone from racing a 450cc super moto bike to a 600cc road-bike and now I’m on a 1000cc one and the step up in power is actually quite huge. The dirt bike is like 60 horsepower and the superbike is something like 200 horsepower.
“My dirt bike experience does help though. When the bike’s back end slips out a bit, it’s not a problem for me. I don’t mind if the bike dances around under me.”
The Suzuki International Series also offers races for Formula Two (600cc), Formula Three, Classics (pre-89), Supersport 300, Sports bikes, Post Classics (pre-89), BEARS (non-Japanese bikes), Super moto (dirt) bikes, the GIXXER Cup 150cc bikes and sidecars, so there’s no shortage of on-track action.
There is nothing quite like the Suzuki International Series for providing true international-calibre racing and so handlebar-to-handlebar action is virtually guaranteed.
Series organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy knows exactly why this is so true.
“The various bike classes that are offered by this series cater for all motorcycle owners out there and we know this leads to the high participation numbers that we see in the Suzuki Series each year. That’s what we’re all about, offering something for everyone,” he said.
And for those who take note of such things, the class winners in the Suzuki International Series last year were the UK’s Richard Cooper (Formula One); Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler (Formula Two); Taumarunui’s Leigh Tidman (Formula Three); Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud (GIXXER Cup); Whanganui’s Ashley Payne (Formula Sport/Bears, senior); North Shore’s Gui Mendes (Formula Sport/Bears, junior); Hastings’ Gian Louie (Post Classics, Pre 89, senior); Lower Hutt’s Dean Bentley (Post Classics, Pre 89, junior); Auckland’s Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (F1 sidecars); Tauranga’s Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan (F2 sidecars); Whanganui’s Bryan Stent and Tracey Bryan (Classic sidecars); Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Supermoto).
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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