The organisers certainly know what they’re doing by now and the many thousands of spectators who flock to the central North Island city each year can confirm that.
Yes, once again we can expect the festive magic and madness to continue on for at least another 24 hours after Christmas Day as Whanganui stages its traditional Boxing Day motorcycle race meeting, lighting up the tarmac on its world-famous Cemetery Circuit.
The popular three-round Suzuki International Series is now marking its 13th season, with this year’s 70th Cemetery Circuit race meeting on Boxing Day the traditional final showdown.
The 2020 edition of the Suzuki International Series kicked off at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on the first weekend in December and Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, in Feilding, followed as host venue for round two a week later, on December 13.
Now the racers head to Whanganui for the final throw of the dice.
Every season the safety barriers are put up alongside Whanganui’s world-renowned motorcycle “street fight”, with straw bales positioned and spectator fencing laid out along the gutters of the city’s public streets.
Started in 1951, the Cemetery Circuit event is 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.
Leading riders expected to challenge for the top honours include Taupo’s two-timer former Suzuki International Series champion and current national superbike No.2 Scott Moir, 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, Whanganui’s multi-talented Richie Dibben and Te Awamutu’s Dave Hall.
In addition to the glamour Formula One class, there are races for Formula Two (600cc bikes), Formula Three, Bears (non-Japanese bikes), 150cc GIXXER Cup class racers, pre-89 Post Classics, F1 Sidecars, F2 Sidecars, Supersport 300 and Super Motard (dirt bike) riders.
The bike racers will hare down Ridgeway Street, along Wilson Street, into Taupo Quay and Heads Road, before looping around Guyton Street and back into Ridgeway again, all of it at eye-watering speeds, often in excess of 200kmph.
There is no doubt that these riders will ignore stop signals, fail to give way and, most probably, swerve across the centre line at every opportunity.
And there are very few places in the world where this can happen, Whanganui counted as the premier street race venue in the Southern Hemisphere.
The 1.6-kilometre course comprises eight corners, a railway crossing, an over-bridge and blind s-bends, flanked on either side by graveyard headstones.
Thousands of spectators will cram every nook and cranny as bikes race past almost within touching distance. Riders can’t believe it and spectators love it.
You have to be there on Boxing Day to see who takes out the series overall and, of course, to witness who claims the most sought-after, one-off Robert Holden Feature race trophy.
Series promoter and organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy said “it’s almost unbelievable, but entry numbers are up on last year” and he expects the final round on the Cemetery Circuit will be an “absolute cracker”.
“We are in an enviable position in New Zealand, considering what’s been happening around the COVID-19 pandemic, with spectators able to travel and watch these events up close and personal here in New Zealand. So, let’s show the rest of the world how we get behind our motorsport, put on your sun hat, slap on the sun-block and come and watch the best motorcycle racing that New Zealand has to offer.”
Class leaders after the second of three rounds in the 2020 Suzuki International Series are Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem (Formula One); Rangiora’s Avalon Biddle (Formula Two); Nikau Valley’s Richard Markham-Barrett (Formula Three); Wellington’s Malcolm Bielski (Bears Senior); Whanganui’s Blane Hannah (Bears Junior); Levin’s Justin Maunder (GIXXER 150 Cup); Hastings’ Gian Louie (Post Classics, pre-89 Senior); Ngaruawahia’s Steve Bridge (Post Classics, pre-89 Junior); Tauranga’s Barry Smith and Stu Dawe (F1 Sidecars); Albany’s Mark Halls and Michelle MacLean (F2 Sidecars); Taumarunui’s Jette Josiah (Super Motard); Timaru’s Harry Parker (Supersport 300).
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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