The moment of truth is fast approaching for the Kiwi motorbike community, with 12 months of hard work all coming to a head when the 2023 edition of the Suzuki International Series kicks off in Taupo in just a few days’ time.
The Taupo International Motorsport Park is the place to be for the first of three rounds of the hugely-popular motorcycle road-racing competition this weekend and, what’s more, it will be twice the bang for buck for spectators and racers alike, with Taupo this weekend, and then round two at Manfeild a week later, also recognised as the opening phase of the six-round 2023-24 New Zealand Superbike Championships.
So, if you haven’t got Saturday and Sunday (December 2-3) already set aside and marked up on your calendar, it may already be too late to book accommodation, with beds in the Bay of Plenty region sure to be filling up or perhaps already taken, as nearly 200 riders are entered and a huge crowd of fans expected at Taupo.
The crowd-favourite series final round, the Cemetery Circuit street races in Whanganui on Boxing Day, will once again wrap up the Suzuki International Series in style and that grand finale will be live streamed on I-Net/TV3.
Film footage from the two previous rounds at Taupo and Manfeild will also be packaged up for viewing in three one-hour shows on the CRC Motorsport show on TV3 in mid-January.
It should be noted that, although the public street phase of the Suzuki International Series will not be counted as a round of the nationals, it is worth recognising that this “street fight” component is a must-see or must-do event for any serious motorcycling enthusiast or dedicated racer and several bike classes will also be racing for national TT title trophies at Whanganui.
Many riders perhaps regard the popular Cemetery Circuit race day as a stand-alone event anyway, with it requiring a totally different approach and unique set of skills, although it is a challenge that must be accepted for riders chasing outright honours in the Suzuki International Series, not to forget mentioning that there is a $20,000 prize pool on offer at the Boxing Day event alone.
Of course, there will be twice as much at stake at Taupo and Manfeild too, with plenty to win or lose over those two busy weekends, with potential titles on the line in both the combined competitions.
The New Zealand Superbike Nationals resume in the New Year, with rounds three, four and five at tracks in the South Island – round five at Invercargill’s Teretonga race circuit incorporated into the Burt Munro festival week – and then the MotoFest festival weekend at Hampton Downs, north of Hamilton, wraps up the New Zealand road-racing season in March.
Suzuki International Series winners in in 2022 were: Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (F1 Superbikes class; also the TT title winner and winner of the Robert Holden Memorial race); Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler (F2 Supersport 600; also the TT title winner); Taupo’s Karl Hooper (F3 Pro Twins; also the TT title winner); Wanaka’s Jesse Stroud (Supersport 300); Whanganui’s Dwayne Bishop (Formula Sport/Bears, senior; also the TT title winner); Whanganui’s Jeff Croot (Formula Sport/Bears, junior; also the TT title winner); Silverdale’s Tyler King (Supersport 150); Upper Hutt’s Kieran Mair (Gixxer 150); Hastings rider Gian Louie (Pre-89 post classics, senior); Lower Hutt’s Dean Bentley (Pre-89 post classics, junior); Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Supermoto; also the NZ championships title); Auckland’s Adam Unsworth and Whanganui’s Bryce Rose (F1 sidecars; also the TT title winners); Whanganui’s Bryan Stent and Dan Franzen (F2 sidecars; also the TT title winners); Carterton’s Mark Smith and Dean Corrigan (Classic sidecars).
But there may be fresh names etched onto the trophies this year with British rising star Davey Todd, Australian former Moto2 and MotoGP star Anthony West and West’s teenage team-mate Declan Van Rosmalen are all signed up to race in the Suzuki International Series.
Todd will be racing for M1 Motorsport and Moggy in the Formula One Superbike class and also racing a Suzuki RM-Z450 in the supermoto class, supported by Whanganui dealership DS Moto.
The supermoto class – for highly-modified dirt bikes – is again recognised as a national championship class this season and is run during the Suzuki International Series only. The inaugural running of this championship last December saw Whanganui favourite Richie Dibben (pictured above on his Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike) crowned national No.1.
With international star Todd entered this year, and ironically partially sponsored by Dibben during his stay here, there could possibly be a new name engraved on this special trophy on Boxing Day.
Suzuki International Series promoter and organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy said everything was now in place for a thrilling start to the Suzuki International Series and the nationals that follow on into the New Year.
“The first round of any series is particularly important because this will set the benchmark for the rest of the season. I know the riders are keyed up and ready to go and it will be good to see all those familiar faces, and maybe to meet some new people too, in Taupo this weekend.”
DATES FOR 2023-24 NZ MOTORCYCLE ROAD-RACE SEASON:
Suzuki International Series (and first two rounds of the nationals):
- Round 1, Taupo, Dec 2nd and 3rd;
- Round 2, Manfeild, Feilding, Dec 9th and 10th;
- Whanganui’s Cemetery Circuit, Dec 26th (third and final round of Suzuki International Series, but not part of the nationals).
- Round 3, Ruapuna, Christchurch, Jan 6th and 7th;
- Round 4, Levels, Timaru, Jan 13th and 14th;
- Round 5, Burt Munro, Teretonga, Feb 9th, 10th and 11th.
- Round 6, Hampton Downs, part of MotoFest, Mar 2nd and 3rd.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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