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Annual Classic Celebration A Trip Down Memory Lane

Hastings rider Gian Louie (Yamaha 1000), sure to be a contender after winning the NZCMRR F1 class last year and the Post Classic class in the just-completed Suzuki International Series. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

It's that time of year again when all the best from motorcycling yesteryear come together in one massive celebration.

We're counting down the days for New Zealand’s biggest and most famous classic motorcycle racing event – The Pukekohe Classic Festival – this year set for the weekend of February 6-7.

The New Zealand Classic Motorcycle Racing Register's (NZCMRR) annual Classic Festival, always a highlight of the year, will this year celebrate its 42nd anniversary at Pukekohe Park Raceway and it promises to be an occasion to remember.

In fact, tripping down memory lane is perhaps just what this is all about.

It all actually kicks off on the Friday (February 5) with the Pukekohe Park Raceway organising a separate Motorcycle Track Day (through motott.co.nz), as well as a "Ride Into Pukekohe Township", a tradition started when Italian 15-times world champion Giacomo Agostini came to the festival in 1999.

In addition to the always-popular static displays at the Pukekohe circuit over the weekend, proper race action will be out on the twisty tarmac course with a wide variety of categories catered for.

These classes include 351-500cc - Pre '63 500 Clubmans; Pre '63 500 Factory Racing, Pre '63 500 Modified, Classic 70's 500; Vintage & Pre War - Pre '31, Pre '46 350, Pre '46 500; 0-250cc - Pre '63 250 Clubmans; Pre '63 250 Factory; Pre '63 250 Modified, Classic 70's 250; Post Classic - Pre '82 Senior and Pre '89 F1; Pre '95 Superbike, Pre '95 F1, Pre '95 F2; Sidecars - Pre '63, Classic 70's and Pre '82; 251-350cc - Pre '63 350 Clubmans; Pre '63 350 Factory Racing; Pre '63 350 Modified; Classic 70's 350; 501cc-Open - Pre '63 Open Modified; Classic 70's Open; Post Classic - Pre '82 Junior, Pre '89 F2, Pre '89 F3 and Pre '95 F3.

Then, if the close-fought on-track action was not already enough, there will be so many former New Zealand racing greats and international legends in attendance and it will be a great chance for bike racing enthusiasts to mix and mingle with their heroes – perhaps legendary racers such as Hugh Anderson, Ginger Molloy, Graeme Crosby, Gary Goodfellow, Richard Scott, Aaron Slight and Andrew Stroud, among many others.

A few of the currently active "big name" riders in attendance will include Christchurch's multi-time former national motorcycle champion (and current sidecars championship contender) Dennis Charlett, Pukekohe's multi-time New Zealand and NZCMRR champion Paul 'Superman' Pavletich, Auckland's multi-time national champion Dave Cole and Auckland's former New Zealand champion Brendon Coad, Christchurch's James Hoogenboezem and Wellington's Jay Lawrence, to name just a few.

Will anyone challenge Glen Eden's former New Zealand superbike champion Daniel Mettam’s outright lap record of 67.64 seconds set on Pavletich's Yamaha OW01 last year as he battled bar-to-bar with Charlett on the 1280cc McIntosh Suzuki?

More than 300 Classic, Post Classic and Vintage bike will be on display and the world-famous Daytona-winning Kiwi-built Britten bike will also be on display, as well as being taken out on demonstration laps.

The bikes range from the early 1920s through to 1995 and include some of the world's most valuable motorcycles, machines normally only seen sitting silently in museums. These include such famous bikes as the 1927 Brough Superior "SS100", the 1949 1000cc Vincent "Black Lightning", one of only 29 made and which is officially the most expensive model motorcycle ever sold at auction, as well as Grand Prix racing bikes such as "Manx" Nortons, AJS "7Rs" and Velocette "KTTs", European machinery from BMW, Ducati, Moto Guzzi, and Laverda, Japanese Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki racing bikes from the 1960's to 1995 and racing sidecars from the 1960's to the 1990's.

The festival has a family atmosphere that has become legendary around the world, with seriously fast racing, free pit access, displays of machines never normally seen by the public and it will even include a lunchtime display on Sunday of a WWII Spitfire, so maybe this is one weekend that bike fans really need to set aside on their calendars.

"Race fans may wish to take the opportunity to enjoy 'camping on the hill' at the event," said NZCMRR president Ken McGeady.

"There is an increased interest now from caravan and motor-home travellers, especially since the 'team of five million' are now looking to explore New Zealand events."

Tickets are available at http://www.nzcmrr.com/index

Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

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