Countdown to boxing day as series gets under way
Taupo rider confident despite international talent in summer series
Summer is here, Christmas is coming and the nation’s best motorcycle road race tracks are beckoning. It is just a few days now until the 2019 edition of the always-popular Suzuki International Series begins.
The 12th annual three-round series opens this weekend and it is again swamped with potent, world-class entries right through the categories.
Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park hosts the opening round on Saturday and Sunday, December 7-8, setting into motion three consecutive weekends of blistering motorcycle action, the series again proving to be somewhat of a magnet for international stars.
Manfeild, on the outskirts of Feilding, follows as the host venue the following week, December 14-15, and the action wraps up, as it traditionally does, on the streets of Whanganui as riders tear around the worldfamous Cemetery Circuit, on Boxing Day.
Spectators can save money by purchasing “early bird tickets” through Ticketek online and they’ll also go in the draw to win a Suzuki Gixxer 150 bike.
While it is true that Taupo’s Scott Moir has fingers crossed he can make it three wins in a row in the premier Formula One Superbikes class, there are so many talented individuals lining up that picking a winner is almost impossible.
In addition to the Suzuki ace Moir’s traditional New Zealand rivals in the class, there are also several overseas visitors who could shatter Moir’s dreams of a three-peat.
Kiwi standouts include Glen Eden’s current national superbike champion Daniel Mettam, Wellington’s two-time former champion Sloan Frost, the immenselytalented Whakatane brothers Mitch and Damon Rees, Christchurch’s ever-consistent Al Hoogenboezem, and Wainuiomata’s Shane Richardson, — who has just returned from a successful racing season in the United Kingdom.
In addition, top riders are arriving from the United Kingdom, France and Australia, with Isle of Man and British Superbike Championship winners among them.
British rider Richard Cooper and Ireland’s Lee Johnston are just a couple of the international headliners.
Cooper is the British Superbike Championships (BSB) Superstock Champion for 2019 and his performance as a newcomer at this year’s North West 200 was a definite highlight of that iconic event.
Johnston is the 2019 Isle of Man TT winner, which was icing on the cake to a
2019 season that also saw him win the Scarborough Gold Cup and finish runner-up in the Ulster GP.
But, despite the hefty odds stacked against him, Moir remains defiantly confident.
“I certainly believe I can win the series again,” said the 36-year-old.
“Surely the competition couldn’t get much harder than it was for me racing against [UK rider] Peter Hickman last year.
“I’ve raced before against Lee Johnston, and I beat him on that occasion, but I don’t know about Richard Cooper, except that he’ll be fast.
“I know these New Zealand tracks well, though, so that should give me an advantage over the internationals.”
Frenchman Morgan Govignon will be here too, set to race in the Bears (nonJapanese bikes) class.
Flying Welshman Ian Lougher makes a welcome return to New Zealand. He last raced here in 1999, making many Kiwi friends along the way, and his credentials make him something of an icon in the sport.
Lougher has clocked up 10 Isle of Man TT wins, eight North West 200 wins, 18 Ulster GP wins, and a record 32 Southern 100 wins — one more than the legendary Joey Dunlop.
Lougher has registered a record 140 race wins at the Scarborough races and he has lined up 139 times at the Isle of Man TT, which is more than anyone else in history.
Wellington’s Glen Skachill returns to racing after a number of years away and he will also add spark to the F1 class on his BMW, while reigning national 600 Supersport champion Avalon Biddle announced she will again race at Taupo and Manfeild, while this time also making her debut on the public streets of Whanganui on December 26.
Rangiora-based Kiwi international Biddle will race her Kawasaki ZX6R in the F2 (600cc) class.
The Suzuki series also offers racing for Formula Three, Classics (pre-89), sports bikes, super motard bikes and sidecars, so there’s no shortage of on-track action.
The crowd-favourite Gixxer Cup class, reserved for riders on identical 150cc Suzuki GSX150F model bikes, is in the programme again this year, but with the rider age-limit restriction lifted.
This means individuals such as Moir, Frost and Mettam are expected also to line up and give talented youngsters such as Jesse Stroud (Hamilton) and Caleb Gilmore (Whanganui) something to think about.
There is nothing quite like the Suzuki series for providing international class and handlebar-to-handlebar racing is virtually guaranteed.
The streets of Whanganui on Boxing Day will cap off the three rounds of the 2019 Suzuki International Series, which begins in Taupo on Saturday.