Organisers gear up for biggest Burt Munro Challenge
The Burt Munro Challenge's Saturday Speedway Spectacular event has attracted its highest number of entries since its inception in 2006.
Organising committee chairman Wayne Affleck said about 500 competitors had registered for this year's challenge, which begins with the New Zealand Longtrack Championship and Grand Prix at Ascot Park Raceway on Wednesday night.
The Speedway Spectacular, which has developed into one of the premier events of the week-long extravaganza will feature 75 riders across the various classes, the most in the challenge's history.
Affleck said preparations were going well for next week, and he had his fingers crossed for some fine weather for the five days of competition.
"Pre-registrations are up there with the best of them. The numbers should be very good. Hopefully the weather is going to be good."
"I'd like to think we're the best organised we've ever been."
Rally numbers were similar to previous years, with Affleck expecting about 2000 petrolheads to flock to Invercargill to camp out at Oreti Park and attend the festivities. The marquees for the rally site will be erected on Monday, with most riders arriving on Wednesday morning.
The Burt Munro Challenge organisers started planning for the next year's event almost as soon as the previous one had finished. Affleck said they received tremendous volunteer support and he was also thankful to the community funders, Invercargill City Council and all the sponsors, who helped make the challenge possible.
The Burt Munro Challenge had received increased funding from the city council and Invercargill Licensing Trust, after running at a $3000 loss last year.
"It costs a lot of money to run the event. There's quite a lot of infrastructure costs. We've got six race events - four of which we've got to build the tracks for," Affleck said.
A contingency plan has been put in place for the Friday night beach racing after the event has been cancelled in two of the past three years because of bad weather.
If the racing is called off, a grass-racing event would be held at the north end of Bill Richardson Dr instead.
"We've got resource consent to be able to do that," Affleck said.
"The competitors are coming a long way. We want to provide an event for them."
Many familiar faces will compete in this year's challenge.
Christchurch superbike rider Ryan Hampton, who has dominated the road racing component of the challenge is returning, and will be one of the names to watch.
Last year, Hampton shattered his Bluff Hill Climb record with a lightning quick time of 45.99 seconds over the 1.4km course on his Honda CBR1000 bike.
Southlanders Paul Hayes (solos) and Aiden Thwaites and Daniel Gillett (sidecars) are also back to defend their speedway crowns from last year.
New Zealand speedway great Larry Ross, who won a record nine national titles and two London Riders' Championships is also confirmed. The 58-year-old also rode in the British Speedway League with four different teams between 1975 and 1986.
Legendary West Coast rider Kevin Ryan will continue his fine record of racing in every event of the Burt Munro Challenge since it was first set up.
Ryan makes the long trek from Runanga to Invercargill in his bus each year, with road, beach and speedway bikes on board.
"He's one of those competitors, who's done all six. He's definitely a character in his own right," Affleck said.
Several Australian riders would also be making the pilgrimage to Southland, including Melbourne's Doug Wood and Western Australia's Allan Challinor.
About 12 riders are expected to race in all six challenge events next week.
The challenge brings more than $1 million into the Southland economy each year, providing a big boost for many retailers, restaurants and hoteliers.
The Twitter hashtag for next week's challenge is #burtmunro.
- © Fairfax NZ News