The evidence for this is clear when giving the results of the just-completed Suzuki International Series a closer scan.
For a city with a population of only about 40,000, there are an incredible number of top performers, with fans at Whanganui’s final round, on the fabled Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day, fully appreciative of the efforts put in by their comrades in arms on this 70th annual running of the street race event.
Throughout all 13 classes that were competed for in the popular three-round series, the names of Whanganui riders were a telling feature, none more so than in the Super Moto class, a racing category for lightly-modified dirt bikes, where gearing might be changed and knobbly tyres swapped for road-race rubber.
“It is great to see so many Whanganui riders supporting the series and also doing very well,” said series promoter and organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy.
“It gives me a warm feeling of pride when I see locals doing so well at this iconic Whanganui event. Each of these riders receive massive support from local companies too and some of these are also valuable sponsors for our series.
“It it wasn’t for this kind of local support, we wouldn’t have the calibre of event that we now enjoy and support from the Whanganui District Council is also much appreciated. It just wouldn’t happen without these people,” said Willacy.
“The general public of Whanganui also play their part in making this event such a global phenomenon and their generosity and warmth of their hospitality is appreciated also.”
A record number of rider entries were received this year and the racing as tight and thrilling as at any time in recent years.
The 2020 Suzuki International series kicked off at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on December 6 before heading to Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, on the outskirts of Feilding, for round two a week later on December 13. Large crowds flocked to Whanganui for the traditional series finale, the world-renowned Cemetery Circuit races, held on Boxing Day each year since 1951.
This season’s 13th annual Suzuki International Series was robbed of overseas involvement because of the COVID-19 pandemic but showed, even with solely Kiwi talent, that it was a truly world-class competition and organisers anticipate it reaching even greater heights next December.
Whanganui rider performances:
Robert Holden Memorial feature race: Jayden Carrick 3rd; Richie Dibben 7th. Other qualifiers Sam Willacy and Dwayne Bishop
Formula One: Richie Dibben, 7th overall in the series and 5th overall at Cemetery Circuit; Jayden Carrick 11th in series (didn’t race at Taupo due to illness) and 8th overall at CC.
Formula Two: Tarbon Walker, 11th in series and 10th overall at CC; Luca Durning 9th for series; Jeff Croot, 10th in series, 12th CC.
Formula Three: Tony Hirini, 31st in series, 22nd at CC.
SS300 class: Caleb Gilmore, 2nd in series, 3rd at CC, and also 2nd in series in GIXXER Cup class; Luca Durning, 6th in series.
Formula Sport/Bears, Senior: Dwayne Bishop, 1st in series, 2nd at CC; Sam Willacy, 2nd in series, 1st at CC and pole winner; Stephen Leggett, 8th in series.
Formula Sport/Bears, Junior: Daren Bendle, 1st in series, 1st at CC; Blane Hannah, 2nd in series, 4th at CC.
Super moto: Jono Hamlin, 2nd in series, 1st at CC and pole winner; Ben Dowman, 4th at CC (only entered CC); James Clarke, 3rd in series, 5th at CC; Roger Bland, 7th in series, 6th at CC; Craig Scott, 5th in series, 7th at CC; James Daniels, 14th in series, 9th at CC; Tony Hirini, 11th in series, 13th at CC; Alex Luff-Scott, 17th in series, 14th at CC; Marc McKenzie, 15th in series, 17th at CC; Wilson Woods, 13th in series (crashed/injured in qualifying at CC)
GIXXER Cup: Caleb Gilmore, 2nd in series, 1st at CC; Lucy Dowman, 5th in series, 5th at CC; Stephen Leggett, 9th in series, 10th at CC; Emma Dowman, 10th in series, 8th at CC.
F1 Sidecars: Adam Unsworth/Bryce Rose (ex Wanganui), 2nd in series, 1st at CC.
F2 Sidecars: Louise Blythe swinging for Ian Burke, 4th in series.
Classic Sidecars, CC only: Robert Hood/Graham Wilkinson 1st; James & Lucy Dowman 2nd; Peter Dowman & Louise Blythe 4th; Corey Winter & Kieran Whitham 10th; Perry Lett & Michael Dowman 12th.
Pre 89 Senior: Jeff Croot, 4th in series, 4th at CC.
Pre 89 Junior: Tony Sklenars, 3rd in series, 2nd at CC; Marc McKenzie, 5th in series; Bill James, 10th at CC;
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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