The 2022-23 New Zealand Road-Race Nationals
CAPTION: Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Suzuki GSX-R1000), sure to be among the frontrunners when the 2022-23 season kicks off this coming weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
The waiting is almost over and it’s now just days away to the start of the new-look combined Suzuki International Series and New Zealand Superbike Nationals.
The popular annual three-round Suzuki International Series, including the world-renowned Cemetery Circuit street race event in Whanganui on Boxing Day, kicks off this busiest time of the year for New Zealand’s elite motorcycle road-racers, with the New Zealand Superbike Nationals flowing on nicely after that, two events in the South Island and then two in the North Island.
This makes it a whopping seven-event schedule for racers this summer, although only six will count towards the national road-racing championship titles, with Whanganui’s street racing the day after Christmas a virtual stand-alone event, albeit also a vital one for competitors seeking separate Suzuki International Series honours.
Although the street fight won’t be part of the nationals, it remains the jewel in the crown for the three-round Suzuki International Series and New Zealand TT titles for F1, F2 and F3, Formula Sport Bears (non-Japanese bikes) and the sidecars class will also be on offer at Whanganui on Boxing Day.
Additionally, for the first time, a national title will be awarded to the super moto class winner in the Suzuki International Series.
In a nutshell, rounds one and two of the Suzuki International Series – in Taupo this coming weekend and at Manfeild, near Palmerston North, the following weekend (December 10-11) – will also this season be recognised as the opening two rounds of the New Zealand Superbike Nationals.
Points gained during the street fighting around the safety barrier-protected curbs and corners of Whanganui on Boxing Day will be added to the tally for riders seeking Suzuki International Series glory, but will not be counted in terms of riders chasing titles in the New Zealand Superbike Nationals.
The nationals resume in the New Year, racers reverting back to standard track racing mode on purpose-built circuits, the third round of six in that series set for Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Ruapuna), on the outskirts of Christchurch, on January 7-8, while round four will be at Teretonga, in Invercargill, on January 14-15.
After a short hiatus through February, the Hampton Downs-promoted Star Insure MotoFest reignites the racing again as it hosts round five, on the weekend of March 4-5.
The Taupo International Motorsport Park and Events Centre will actually book-end the national superbike series as it not only hosts round one this weekend, but also the final round on March 11-12, 2023.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused all sorts of disruptions to major sporting events world-wide and New Zealand was not immune to these, 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 2022.
Because of the pandemic, the Suzuki International Series was also not run in December 2021.
Bearing all that in mind, it’s not hard to see why rider entries this season have ballooned to record levels.
Suzuki International Series promoter and organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy said he was thrilled when Motorcycling New Zealand approached him with the idea to unite the two series.
“It is great that we are combining forces to help motorcycle racing in the current climate. The sport deserves this … riders, fans, sponsors and other stakeholders too,” he said.
“Nothing changes as far as the Suzuki International Series is concerned. The classes and format will remain the same. It is just that points collected at the first two rounds (at Taupo and Manfeild) will go towards the tally for anyone continuing on with the nationals.
“There has been a fantastic response and effort by the riders, with entry numbers well up on previous years,” Willacy said.
“We have huge numbers lining up across all the various classes. It’s obvious that Kiwis are keen to get back to racing again.”
Defending New Zealand superbike champion Mitch Rees, of Whakatane, says he can’t wait to get out on track again.
“I busted myself up pretty good at a fundraiser race at Teretonga in February. I was in hospital with quite a bit of damage, but I feel pretty good being back on the bike now,” said the 29-year-old.
“I don’t feel any pressure because I don’t have anything to prove. I’m well prepared, as fast as I’ve ever been and I hope to be a title contender again this season.”
Motorcycle road-racing in New Zealand is always edge-of-the-seat excitement, but, for the much-anticipated 2022-23 season, it will perhaps be an adrenaline rush like never before.
The combined series 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, Platinum Homes and all the other supporting sponsors.
DATES FOR 2022-23 NZ MOTORCYCLE ROAD-RACE SEASON:
Suzuki International Series:
- Round 1, Taupo, Dec 3rd and 4th
- Round 2, Manfeild, Dec 10th and 11th
- Whanganui’s Cemetery Circuit, Dec 26th (third and final round of Suzuki International Series)
- 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