JANUARY 3, 2023: The opening stanza in the North Island is done and dusted and now it's the turn for the South Island tracks to take centre stage in the 2022-23 New Zealand Superbike Championships.
The first two rounds of six in the series were completed last month, although racing actually only happened at Manfeild's round two after dangerous track conditions forced organisers to abandon plans to race, midway through the first day, at the series opener in Taupo.
This has effectively shortened the competition to five rounds, therefore making the scheduled rounds three and four – at Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Ruapuna), on the outskirts of Christchurch, this coming weekend (January 7-8) and then at Teretonga, in Invercargill, the following weekend (on January 14-15) – even more crucial for the various title hopefuls.
With fewer races in which to score valuable points, it intensifies and concentrates the action, heaping extra pressure on riders who hope to defend their respective positions or perhaps to push on and win a national crown.
There will certainly be no room to relax for the riders who performed so admirably at what actually was, by-default, the series opener at Manfeild in early December.
Class leaders after Manfeild are Whakatane's Mitch Rees (F1 Superbikes class, Honda), Bulls rider Ashton Hughes (F2 Supersport 600, Triumph), Taupo's Karl Hooper (F3 Pro Twins, Honda), Invercargill's Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 300, Yamaha), Silverdale's Tyler King (Supersport 150, Yamaha) and Upper Hutt's Kieran Mair (Gixxer 150, Suzuki) and they each know they'll likely have a target on their back at Ruapuna this Saturday and Sunday.
Additional non-championship support classes, that were not raced at Manfeild, will have their first outings at Ruapuna.
"We had some great racing at Manfeild across all the various classes and there were a good number of entries too," said Motorcycling New Zealand road-racing commissioner Andy Skelton.
"Hopefully this is all a sign of things to come," he said.
Meanwhile, after a short hiatus through February, the Hampton Downs-promoted Star Insure MotoFest reignites the racing again when it hosts round five, on the weekend of March 4-5.
The sixth and final round is set for a return to a resurfaced track at the Taupo International Motorsport Park and Events Centre on March 11-12.
Skelton also revealed that Blue Wing Honda have donated a first-response medical vehicle for the final four rounds of the series.
"We are so fortunate and appreciative to receive this generosity from Honda. They've really come to the party and we're exceptionally grateful."
The COVID-19 pandemic caused all sorts of disruptions to major sporting events world-wide and New Zealand was affected also, the annual New Zealand Superbike Championships series being cut short in 2020, similarly reduced in size to just three rounds in 2021 and unable to be raced at all in the early part of 2022.
Motorcycle road-racing in New Zealand is always edge-of-the-seat excitement and, with the much-anticipated 2022-23 season now in full swing, the racing will perhaps be an adrenaline rush like never before.
This season's competition would not be possible without support from the following groups: Victoria MCC, Hampton Downs, Auckland MCC, MCI, Hamilton MCC, Southland Motorcycle Club, South Canterbury Motorcycle Club, Cemetery Circuit, MNZ and all the other supporting sponsors.
DATES FOR 2022-23 NZ MOTORCYCLE ROAD-RACE SEASON:
Suzuki International Series (and first two rounds of nationals):
- Round 1, Taupo, Dec 3rd and 4th (ABANDONED)
- Round 2, Manfeild, Dec 10th and 11th
- Whanganui's Cemetery Circuit, Dec 26th (third and final round of Suzuki International Series, but not part of the nationals)
- Round 3, Ruapuna, Jan 7th and 8th
- Round 4, Teretonga, Jan 14th and 15th
- Round 5, Hampton Downs, part of Moto Fest, Mar 4th and 5th
- Round 6, Taupo, Mar 11th and 12th
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com