CAPTION 1: Southland’s Hayden Brookland leads fellow Invercargill rider George Congreve during this race at the Oreti Park Speedway circuit on Saturday, an integral part of the 2023 Burt Munro Challenge week. Photo by Andy McGechan,

CAPTION 2: The start of one of the many races that were held at Oreti Beach on Friday, the popular beach racing phase of the 2023 Burt Munro Challenge week. Photo by Andy McGechan,

The Burt Munro Challenge is an iconic event, a week of bike-related activity that was marked off in big red letters on the calendars of many New Zealanders and not just by the motorcycling community.

It is considered a must-see or must-do festival of motorcycling and this year it celebrated its 16th anniversary, the 2023 Burt Munro Challenge taking place across Bluff, Invercargill and Otatara from Wednesday, February 8, through until Sunday, February 12.

It skipped a beat last year, cancelled due to restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic – and that was the first time the Burt Munro Challenge has been cancelled since it began in 2006 – but it has certainly bounced back, with the action so far proving to be another truly momentous festival of motorcycling.

New Zealanders are highly regarded for their “can do” attitude and that characteristic, along with widespread general sporting prowess and a mighty mix of bravery and bravado, are at the root of what the world-famous Burt Munro Challenge is all about.

It is that indefatigable fighting spirit, coupled with the Kiwi number eight wire ingenuity that has made the man that the event is named after – legendary Southland bike racer Burt Munro – and of course the event itself, so appealing to domestic and international motorcycle enthusiasts alike.

Event committee chairman Craig Hyde said the event means a lot to Southland and the wider motorcycling community too because it really is a time for celebration and also an opportunity for the region to be on show to the world.

“We had so many people come here this year that the rally site was really bulging … it has been really awesome. Competitor entries were up and there were over 500 riders cross-entering events too, which is also good.

“We had not had any rain for the past month-and-a-half, but we certainly got a deluge (the night before the actual start of key Burt Munro Challenge activities). At the rally site, we went from worrying about a fire hazard and bringing in trucks of water, to having too much water as the event was due to start.”

The inclement weather didn’t last long, however, and the remainder of the week was sun-baked, visitors quickly ditching their rainwear and reaching instead for sunscreen.

“We will have a de-brief in a couple of weeks and then planning all starts for the next Burt Munro Challenge week in 2024,” said Hyde, himself a former Burt Munro Challenge race title winner.

“Having five race meetings and a rally at the same time over five days is a major logistical exercise. Fortunately we have a great team of people, a lot of people who have been doing this for a long time and so they all know what they have to do.”

Credit: Words and photos by Andy McGechan,