Munro Challenge draws the crowds

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2013
Burt Munro Challenge 2013
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ

Bluff School pupils, from left, Sailor Hawkless, Lucan Akuhata, Paul Carter and Larnee-Jay Batchelor, all 5, get time off school to watch a heat of the Bluff Hill Climb Champs

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Burt Munro Challenge

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The sun was out and the rubber burning when the 2013 Burt Munro Challenge roared to life with riders charging up Bluff Hill.

Several hundred spectators lined the hill in the warm conditions to watch the New Zealand Hill Climb Champs yesterday.

In the crowd were Burt Munro's son John and Bluff schoolchildren who got part of the day off from school to watch the action.

King of the hill Ryan Hampton was setting the pace with his first run, falling agonisingly short of breaking the record time he set last year. There were also four-wheeled bikes and classics to thrill the crowd. Former Dunedin resident Kelvin Hellyer, who now lives in Brisbane, was attending his first Burt Munro Challenge but had a special connection to the man whom the event honours.

"I met and raced against Burt Munro at a meeting in Alexandra in 1972. We became friends after he found out I made most of my own parts," Mr Hellyer said.

"He didn't like anyone who bought all their parts brand-new."

The result of that race between a 19-year-old Mr Hellyer and a 72-year-old Munro remains etched in his memory. "I lost to Burt by 0.4 seconds," he said.

He used to catch up with Munro when the legendary motorcyclist passed through Dunedin on his way to the US. Munro was a character and a real larrikin, just like in the movie, he said.

It has been decades since Mr Hellyer last raced, but he said that after turning 60 a couple of days ago, he wanted to tick something off his bucket list by taking part in the Burt Munro Challenge.

"I'm racing at Teretonga and at Wyndham," he said.

Temuka couple Chris and Lilias Kingham said the challenge was unique with so many different events during the four days.

"We're back for more after our first Burt Munro last year so we knew we were not going to be up Bluff Hill for a quiet picnic," Mr Kingham said.

The Burt Munro Challenge continues tonight with the New Zealand Beach Racing Champs at 5pm on Oreti Beach.

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- The Southland Times

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