The 2022-23 New Zealand Road-Race Nationals
CAPTION: Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler (Suzuki GSX-R600), itching to get out on his “home” track at Manfeild this weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Okay, let’s try that again … these could so easily be the words spoken behind closed doors by organisers of the 2022-23 motorcycle road-racing season.
The popular annual three-round Suzuki International Series and the six-round New Zealand Superbike Nationals – running in tandem for the first time this season – experienced a stutter start after the combined competition’s opening event at Taupo at the weekend was abandoned on the afternoon of day one on Saturday, with only a handful of bikes at that stage actually kicked into life.
Deteriorating track conditions at Taupo forced organisers to call off the meeting due to concerns over rider safety.
With the Suzuki International Series therefore now reduced to three rounds and the New Zealand Superbike Nationals down to five rounds, it makes round two in the Manawatu this weekend doubly important for title hopefuls, race fans organisers, the sport’s governing body and other stakeholders.
The final round of the Suzuki International Series is, as usual, set for the public streets of Whanganui, the world famous Cemetery Circuit, to run on Boxing Day.
This street fight won’t be part of the nationals, but remains the jewel in the crown for the Suzuki International Series.
But before that there is the popular Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding, the default new season opener, which will this weekend host two days of frantic race action.
It will obviously be twice as important for riders to perform at their optimum at Manfeild, with point-scoring opportunities now at a premium.
One rider in particular who will want to push ahead will be Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler, the Suzuki star who regards Manfeild as “home turf”.
Chandler, the current national No.2 in the F2/Supersport 600 class and a two-time former Suzuki International Series winner in that same class, will be keen to stake an early claim at Manfeild this coming Saturday and Sunday.
“Both the nationals and Suzuki Series were called off last year due to the pandemic and so I have only been out on the race track once on this new bike. I’m still sorting out a few settings,” said the 25-year-old Chandler, a builder by trade.
“But I think Manfeild will suit the Suzuki well, with the power and the brakes so good on this bike.”
Of course Chandler may have his work cut out trying to tame the man who edged him out for the national 600cc crown last season, Christchurch’s Dale Finch.
“I have been riding the new Kawasaki for about six months now, but haven’t been able to line myself up against any other competitive riders yet,” said the 32-year-old Finch.
“Racing at Taupo was going to be the gauge for how we all might perform, but, unfortunately, we just didn’t get out onto the track last weekend. I feel comfortable on the new bike but I don’t know yet whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” he laughed.
His comments here indicate that very few riders, if any, have spent much time on their bikes lately and so few will have any advantage at Manfeild this weekend.
As Suzuki International Series organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy points out “the pressure will really be on riders to perform at Manfeild, so that they can carry solid points forward to the final round on Whanganui’s streets, the world famous Cemetery Circuit, and also for the superbike nationals” that will carry on through to mid March.
DATES FOR 2022-23 NZ MOTORCYCLE ROAD-RACE SEASON:
Suzuki International Series:
- 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)
- 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