Crowds roar in to take up Munro challenge
The tyres are in, the spare parts have been ordered and the engines are all go for this year's Burt Munro Challenge.
While Invercargill did not turn on its best weather yesterday, the roar of motorbikes at Oreti Park was starting to build as motorcycle enthusiasts began arriving for this week's challenge.
Among those braving the wet weather to set up camp at the tent city was 74-year-old Nelson man Merv Lightfoot.
The first to arrive at the camp, Mr Lightfoot is a Burt Munro Challenge veteran, having come south for the event five times.
Choosing one of his 30 bikes to bring down, he said, made a "real trip" of the journey, including stopping at the Winchester Magpie Madness Rally on the way.
For Burt Munro Challenge first-timer Colin Duncan, of Westport, the event was a great opportunity to catch up with friends.
Mr Duncan, who had stopped in Methven, Geraldine, Cromwell and Gore before reaching Invercargill, said he hoped to catch a glimpse of world champions Barry Briggs and Ivan Mauger – two "huge drawcards" for this year's event.
Southland Motorcycle Club president Craig Hyde said "engines are all go" for the challenge, with about 2000 expected to register for the rally.
Most of those were expected to start arriving today, he said.
The event was also expected to attract about 250 to 300 racers, many of whom would compete in several events, he said.
The challenge has kept southern motorcycle businesses busy.
A van-load of extra tyres arrived at MotoSouth yesterday, as staff prepared for their busiest time of the year.
MotoSouth owner Greg Baynes said business was picking up already as people started to arrive, with two extra staff rostered on to help out.
The Burt Munro Challenge brought a huge demand for tyres, particularly from long-distance travellers who wore out their tyres on the trip south, he said.
Wet-weather gear was also expected to be in demand, staff said.
Mr Baynes, who will compete in the long track and beach race, said the challenge was one of the highlights of his year.
"It's pretty much the biggest motorcycle event in the country, and we are really lucky to have it down here," he said.
Excitement was also building at the Southland Honda Motorcycles workshop.
Manager Jeremy Holmes said extra tyres, tubes and other bike parts had been brought in for the event.
He mainly expected to deal with competitors with bike problems.
Venture Southland event manager Jade Gillies said the challenge would provide a "huge" boost for the region's economy.
"The effect retailers see is comparable to Christmas," he said.
The last economic study of the motorbike challenge showed an injection of more than $1 million, Mr Gillies said.
"I would expect the impact would be well over that by now, given the rapid growth of the event in the past two years."
Win for hometown hero, Page 24
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The Southland Times