The roar of the Burt Munro Challenge

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2011

Roaring engines, screaming tyres and the sweet smell of burning tyres – it's that time of year again.

During the next five days, Southland will turn into a motorcyling mecca as over 2000 petrolheads pour into town to experience the excitement of the Burt Munro Challenge.

The challenge has evolved dramatically since it was first set up in 2006 and is the leading event of its kind in Australasia.

It continues to grow in popularity each year with riders from all corners of New Zealand and even overseas making the annual pilgrimmage to Southland to be part of the festivities.

One of the best aspects of the challenge has to be the quirky personalities of the riders and the special tales they have to share with everyone. If you get the chance during the week, be sure to say hello to West Coast rider Kevin Ryan, who has competed in every Burt Munro Challenge and is one of the real characters of the event.

Every year, Ryan makes the long trek from Runanga to Invercargill in his bus with road, beach and speedway bikes on board, and traditionally competes in all six events of the challenge.

Ryan is one of the nice guys when it comes to motorcycling.

He's always happy to stop for a yarn and while not being one of the quicker competitors flying around, still shows a ton of passion and rides to the rulebook.

Last year, he was personally affected by the Pike River coalminining disaster but put the pain and despair to one side and bravely stayed on to dedicate his efforts to the victims.

Another rider, who I've always had a lot of respect for is Christchurch's Nigel Curtis, who is dubbed "the one-armed bandit" and always gives it 100 per cent out on the bike.

Curtis lost the function in his left arm after a freak accident while practising motocross 20 years ago, but does not let that jeopardise his love for motorcycling and always makes the trip down to be at the start line for the Wyndham Street Race.

Every competitor at the challenge seems to have their own unique tale and I'm sure there will be plenty of new ones shared on these pages and over a quiet beer between the riders over the next couple of days.

This year's Burt Munro Challenge has the potential to be the best yet.

Two of the legends of New Zealand motorcycling in Barry Briggs and Ivan Mauger are in town for the event and will only add to the challenge's aura.

Brace yourself Southland, it's going to be an exciting couple of days.

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