CAPTION 1: The crowd looks on as Richmond’s Heath Botica races up Bluff Hill during the New Zealand Hill Club Championships racing segment of the 2024 Burt Munro Challenge week. Botica eventually finished overall runner-up, behind Whakatane’s defending champion Tony Rees. Photo by Andy McGechan,

CAPTION 2: Australian Damien Koppe (left) and Invercargill’s Conrad White battle for supremacy during the 60-lap feature race in the New Zealand Beach racing Championships phase of the 2024 Burt Munro Challenge week. The Kiwi rider eventually took the victory, passing the chequered flag just 0.4 seconds ahead of the international star. 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 17th anniversary, the 2024 Burt Munro Challenge taking place across Bluff, Invercargill and Otatara from Wednesday, February 7, through until Sunday, February 11.

It skipped a beat in 2022, 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 since, with the action last February and this year too proving to be truly momentous festivals to celebrate 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.

One of the people who made all of this possible in 2024 was Burt Munro Challenge committee member Andy Underhay.

“We again managed to produce fantastic events at the 2024 Burt Munro Challenge festival this year and I have been surrounded by fantastic crew of people, who have prided themselves in finding the best solutions to problems we’ve occasionally been faced with and carrying on and never giving up,” he said.

Various serious problems did arise during the Burt Munro Challenge week this year, including a car on fire in the sand dunes at Oreti Beach that threatened to force the cancellation of the beaching racing phase of the week and a massive oil spill at Teretonga Park that caused hours of delay at the NZSBK event on day one there on Saturday.

Cold and blustery conditions had to be endured at Thursday’s hill climb (where spectators had now been screened off with protective plastic barriers after a bike-versus-spectator incident the previous year) and Saturday’s planned speedway event had to be pushed on a day (to Sunday afternoon) after rain had drenched the track on Saturday.

“Problems do sometimes pop up at any event,” said Underhay. “All events have difficulties and it’s all about how well you deal with them. They’re not problems, they’re just a bunch of solutions waiting to happen.”

Underhay was Clerk of the Course for NZSBK at Teretonga, CoC for Bluff Hillclimb event and CoC for the Honda Training Day and, at the festival’s conclusion, he was awarded the Pike River Trophy, perhaps as a farewell gesture because he declared this would be his last Burt Munro event, but also to recognise the enormous amount of work he’d put into the event over the past 15 years.

Having five race meetings and a rally at the same time over five days is a major logistical exercise, but Underhay and the various teams of volunteers, did a remarkable job once again.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,

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Code No. MNZ-AM1058