The Burt gets a makeover
The Burt Munro Challenge has evolved over the last 13 years into a four day international motorcycling festival. Now one of New Zealand’s major motorsport events, the laid back event is attracting an increasing number of competitors and spectators from Australia, Europe and America. Racing covers a wide range of classes from Pre 63s with Girder Forks to Formula 1, with half of the classes for vintage, classic and lost era machinery. The Classic and Post Classic classes attract a very diverse entry. After a number of weather affected events in the last few years the decision was made to move the Challenge to the second week in February. The move was a great success with record attendance of competitors, motorcyclists and enthusiasts and with only one weather affected event. The organisers are always on the lookout for new events and classes. This year they added 1/4mile Twilight Drag racing on Thursday evening and the AMCA C class racers (for 750cc sidevalves) to the major events. The Challenge kicked off on Thursday morning with the road hill climb – a 1.4km blast up the side of “Bluff Hill” on a winding road with large drop offs and rock faces, with a few short straights and several challenging corners. With 70 entries in 7 classes including new for this year American C class, it was a packed programme. The fastest time of the day 43.65secs was Mitch Rees on his 2017 Honda CBR1000. The 1/4mile Twilight Drag Racing was a runaway success, exceeding everybody’s expectations and attracting one of the largest crowds. The strip was laid out on the main straight of the Teretonga racing circuit. The quickest run of the evening was Barry Mitchell on his Yamaha FJ Pro Stock achieving 9.767secs, and a highly tuned Suzuki Hayabusa topped 150mph through the speed trap. A number of the older machines did not fit the normal drag racing classes so a Demonstration class was instigated. It became an Australian benefit with Danny Ahearn on his Matchless G50, winning the class with a 15.042secs run and Bianca Bonner (HMRAV) coming second, on her 1942 WLA Harley, with a 16.481secs run.
Beach racing started earlier than usual, the change of dates moved low tide at Oreti beach to mid-afternoon. However it was a great event with 80 entries in 10 classes and unofficial estimates putting attendance at over 4000. The older machines were out in some numbers as were the modern motocrossers, a few long track speedway machines and open class machines. The 1 mile course is marked out by two oil drums ½ mile apart. The attendance of Roger Donaldson (director of “The World’s Fastest Indian”) was an unexpected bonus; his first time back at the beach since filming some of the key scenes for the 2005 film. The success of the film led directly to the creation of the Burt Munro Challenge. Roger started the premier 50mile beach race which was won by Australian Damien Koppe in just over 45mins.
The Historic Motorcycle Racing Association of Victoria (HMRAV)
shipped 10 C class Harleys and Indians racers and 10 road machines, from Melbourne, especially for the event. Eddy Garner led the HMRAV contingent, a native of Invercargill he now lives in Melbourne. Their hand change and foot clutch C Class racers went down a storm. The team had a real blast, competing in as many events in four days as most of them do in a year. They will be back. Wandering around each of the pits is an education in itself, the sheer diversity of the over 300 racing machines entered is outstanding, from Malcolm Pearce’s 1930 Royal Enfield K9 1130cc V twin to Wayne Picard’s 2000 MV Augusta F4 750, speedway outfits, super motards, beach racing moto-crossers and the ungainly looking unlimited beach racers. Tucked away in the pits were a couple of gems that caught this reporter’s eye. Phil Price’s latest Velocette project is a replica of a works 1938 350 DOHC engine housed in a copy of the last post-war works rolling chassis. Phil has spent a small fortune having parts cast in magnesium and cutting the weight down to 102kgs dry. The goal is a 100mph lap at the IoM later this year, and given the three straight wins Chris Swallow achieved at Teretonga I think they are well on their way. The other machine was Bruce McGregor’s 1969 Drixton 500 Honda, it looked every inch the classic racer. The third day of the Challenge was circuit racing at Teretonga; the international circuit is 2.62km long and roughly B shaped. A long main straight tests top speed and a series of long sweeping bends tests handling. The races are mostly four laps long, covering 13 classes from pre 63 girder-fork to Formula 1. Some of the races are combined classes, the pre 63 girder class was run at the same time as the C Class 750cc side-valves. The biggest grid was the BEARS F1 open, the hotly contested lead and diversity of machines was a real crowd pleaser. The three races were won by: Kevin Beaumont Ducati BK1, Jonny Lewis Aprilia RSV4, and Jayden Galway Triumph Daytona 675.
The excellent weather lasted until Sunday morning when the Street Racing started in overcast conditions. The circuit is roughly square with a chicane on the back straight, laid out on the roads of an industrial park near the Invercargill City centre. Practice and qualifying sessions were completed, after a few showers, but with some riders complaining that parts of the circuit lacked grip. A significant oil and fuel spill had contaminated the track. Heavy rain started just as the Class C racers went out for the first race, turning the circuit into a skating ring. Clerk of the Course Andy Underhay wisely terminated the racing and was applauded by the riders for the decision. The social side of the event was another great success, the biggest event was the four day Rally at Oreti Park with 1400 riders attending. A toy and poker run was held on Sunday morning as part of the rally. The Bill Richardson Trust’s Motorcycle Mecca, a collection of over 300 motorcycles, was packed the whole time as was Transport World, one of the world’s largest collection of Trucks and older vehicles. The E Hayes & Sons shop, home of Burt Munro’s “The World’s Fastest Indian” and the Hayes vehicle collection was also crammed full. The Indian motorcycle company had their latest models on display at Hayes and took a number of orders. The Southland Vintage Car Club had a collection of ‘70s and ‘80s motorcycles on display at their clubrooms. The Munro Family Trophy was presented to Neil ‘Turbo Tonsils’ Ritchie, who has commentated at every Burt Munro Challenge since 2006 – the first time a non-rider had been so honoured, but everybody agreed it was well deserved.
Beach Racing – bikes as far as the eye can see.
The line up of HMRAV Class C Racers.
Beach beast – an Unlimited class Honda.
Malcolm Pearce’s 1930 Royal Enfield K9 in the Teretonga pits. Paddy Snowdon flying off the line at Bluff on his 1942 Indian Chief 1200. He recorded an impressive 63.40 seconds.
The Pre 63s and Pre 72s blast off the line at Teretona. Bruce McGregor’s stunning 1969 Drixton Honda.