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Age Shall Not Weary Them, Nor The Years Condemn

DECEMBER 6, 2023: New Zealand’s spiritual home of international superbike racing is the place to be this weekend.

The Manawatu racetrack that hosted the final round of the inaugural World Superbike Championships 35 years ago will this weekend host round two of the parallel-but-separate 2023 Suzuki International Series and New Zealand Superbike Championships.

Manfeild hosted the final round of the first ever World Superbike Championships (WSBK) back in 1988 (and also hosted the final round in 1989, 1990 and 1992 as well), so there have certainly been world class competitors tackling the twists and turns of the circuit on the outskirts of Feilding.

This now 50-year-old track has been expanded and undergone many changes and improvements since it was first opened in 1973 and it is still ranked among New Zealand’s most popular motorsports venues, with great spectator viewing possible for the entire track.

The likes of Americans Fred Merkel and Doug Polen, Frenchman Raymond Roche, Italians Davide Tardozzi and Fabrizio Pirovano, famous Australians Robbie Phillis, Mal Campbell, Scott Doohan, Daryl Beattie and Troy Corser and Kiwi legends Aaron Slight, Simon Crafar, Gary Goodfellow, Grant Ramage and Glenn Williams, to name a few, may have long since retired from top-level racing, but we can still expect to see world class riders on track there this Saturday and Sunday.

In fact, several of the New Zealand riders who competed at the WSBK back in the 80s and 90s – men such as Eddie Kattenberg, Andrew Stroud, Tony Rees and Russell Josiah – will be at Manfeild this weekend too. Both Rees and Josiah are actually there as leading competitors in the Formula One/Superbike class and supermoto class respectively.

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Incredibly, the now 56-year-old Rees is currently running second in the premier F1/Superbike class, behind his defending champion 30-year-old son Mitch Rees, after these two men dominated at the opener for the two Kiwi competitions in Taupo last weekend.

Keeping the Rees family honest last weekend were Christchurch pair Dale Finch and Alastair Hoogenboezem, Whanganui’s Richie Dibben, British visitor Davey Todd and Upper Hutt’s Luke Riley. This weekend at Manfeild these frontrunners will be joined by another international star, former MotoGP ace Ant West, from Australia.

West raced the final round of the Australian Superbike Championships last weekend, precluding any appearance at Taupo last weekend, but he should be race fit and sharp when he lines up at Manfeild.

The 42-year-old West finished sixth overall in Australia last weekend.

The Suzuki International Series is again this season being run in conjunction with the New Zealand Superbike Championship (NZSBK) series, with the first two rounds recognised as rounds one and two of both parallel-but-separate competitions.

The Suzuki International Series will wrap up, as always, on Whanganui’s famous Cemetery Circuit public street environment on Boxing Day.

The Boxing Day ‘street fight’ is not part of the NZSBK series and that six-round NZSBK competition resumes in the New Year, with rounds three, four and five in the South Island – at Christchurch, Timaru and Invercargill respectively – with the series then travelling north again to wrap up with round six at Hampton Downs, near Huntly, in March.

Class leaders in both series after the opening round last weekend in Taupo are: Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (F1/Superbike class); Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (F2/Supersport 600 class); Taupo’s Karl Hooper (F3/Pro Twins); Papakura’s Craig Coulam (Formula Sport, Senior); Whanganui’s Jeff Croot (Formula Sport, Junior); Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud (Supersport 300); Hamilton’s Nathan Finlay (GIXXER 150); Christchurch’s Diego Petrucci (Supersport 150); Hastings’ Gian Louie (Post Classics, Pre-89, Senior); Auckland’s Scott Findlay (Post Classics, Pre-89, Junior); Invercargill’s Jon Rawcliffe (Post Classics, Pre-95, Senior); Christchurch’s Jordan Leslie (Post Classics, Pre-95, Junior); Britain’s Davey Todd (Supermoto); Panmure’s Adam Unsworth and Whanganui’s Bryce Rose (F1 Sidecars); Whanganui’s Peter and Lucy Dowman (F2 Sidecars).

DATES FOR 2023-24 NZ MOTORCYCLE ROAD-RACE SEASON:

Suzuki International Series (and first two rounds of the nationals):

• Round 1, Taupo, Dec 2nd and 3rd;

• Round 2, Manfeild, Feilding, Dec 9th and 10th;

• Whanganui's Cemetery Circuit, Dec 26th (third and final round of

Suzuki International Series, but not part of the nationals).

South Island:

• Round 3, Ruapuna, Christchurch (includes GP title races), Jan 6th and 7th;

• Round 4, Levels, Timaru, Jan 13th and 14th;

• Round 5, Burt Munro, Teretonga, Feb 9th, 10th and 11th.

North Island:

• Round 6, Hampton Downs, part of MotoFest (includes TT title races), Mar 2nd and 3rd.

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

© Scoop Media

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