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Cemetery Circuit Races A True ‘Boxing Day Special’

It will again be fierce and frantic on the streets of Whanganui on Boxing Day. This photo shows Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (bike No.1) leading Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (bike 91) through the first corner at the Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day last year. Photo by Andy McGechan,

The Christmas rush should be over by December 25, but that doesn’t mean things will really be slowing down at all for many hundreds of people.

In fact, life will be speeding up considerably for New Zealand’s elite motorcycle racers, their followers and thousands of devoted bike enthusiasts.

Yes, we can expect the festive magic to roll on for at least another 24 hours after Christmas as Whanganui stages its traditional Boxing Day motorcycle race meeting, the Suzuki International Series’ third and final round on the city’s world-famous Cemetery Circuit.

We can just hope the police are looking the other way on Tuesday when motorbike riders take over the public streets of Whanganui.

Racers are expected to hare down Ridgeway St, along Wilson St, turn into Taupo Quay and Heads Rd, before looping around Guyton St and back into Ridgeway again, all of it at eye-watering speeds, often in excess of 200km/h.

There is no doubt that these riders will ignore stop signals, fail to give way and, most probably, swerve across the centre line at every opportunity.

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And there are very few places in the world where this can happen, Whanganui this year being transformed again to host the traditional Suzuki International Series finale, a jam-packed day of racing around the city's famous Cemetery Circuit.

For more than half a century, since 1951 in fact, the barriers have been put up for this world-renowned motorcycle "street fight", with straw bales positioned and spectator fencing laid out along the gutters of Whanganui's public streets.

The 2023 edition of the always-popular Suzuki International Series kicked off at Taupo's Motorsport Park on the first weekend in December and round two was staged at Manfeild, in Feilding, a week later.

Therefore, all that now remains to find our champions for 2023 is for Whanganui’s streets to light up for the final throw of the dice on Boxing Day.

Leading riders expected to challenge for the top Formula One/Superbike class honours include Whakatane’s two-time former Suzuki International Series champion and two-time and current national superbike No.1 Mitch Rees, his multi-time champion father Tony Rees, Wellington’s Luke Riley and Christchurch pair Dale Finch and Al Hoogenboezem, to name a few.

Visiting British star Davey Todd will line up against Whanganui firebrand Richie Dibben in both the F1/Superbike and the Supermoto classes. This dynamic duo has been separated by no more than a lick of paint in their Suzuki International series battles so far and, no doubt, it will be more handlebar-to-handlebar action from these two again on Tuesday.

You have to be there on Boxing Day to see who takes out the series overall and, of course, to witness who claims the most sought-after, one-off Robert Holden Feature race trophy.

Series promoter and organiser Allan 'Flea' Willacy said he has been delighted with the spectacle produced by the riders already this season and said he was excited about what might be in store for the spectators on Boxing Day.

The racing is always exciting on Boxing Day and Whanganui’s Cemetery Circuit is one of the few places in the world where spectators can stand within an arm's-length of the action, albeit behind sturdy safety barriers.

In addition to the glamour F1 class, there are races for Formula Two (600cc bikes), Formula Three/Pro Twins, Supersport 300, Formula sport, Post Classics, Supermoto (dirt bikes) and F1, F2 and classic sidecars.

National TT title races will also be fought over at Whanganui in the F1, F2, F3 and Formula Sport classes, not to mention that the national supermoto crown will also be handed out. Home-town hero Dibben won the inaugural national supermoto title last season.

The 1.6-kilometre Cemetery Circuit course comprises eight corners, a railway crossing, an over-bridge and blind s-bends, all flanked by graveyard headstones.

Class leaders after round two at Manfeild are:

Whakatane’s Tony Rees (F1/Superbike class); Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (F2/Supersport 600 class); Taupo’s Karl Hooper (F3/Pro Twins); Feilding’s John Oliver (Formula Sport, Senior); Whanganui’s Jeff Croot (Formula Sport, Junior); Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud (Supersport 300); Taupo’s Karl Hooper (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); Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Supermoto); Panmure’s Adam Unsworth and Whanganui’s Bryce Rose (F1 Sidecars); Whanganui’s Peter and Lucy Dowman (F2 Sidecars).

Hamilton’s Joseph Stroud (GIXXER 150) and Upper Hutt’s Keiran Mair (Supersport 150) have already been declared champions in their respective classes.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,

© Scoop Media

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