NOVEMBER 17, 2023: The revs are starting to build with the 2023 Suzuki International Series now just around the corner.
The popular annual three-round Suzuki International Series, including the world-renowned Cemetery Circuit street race event in Whanganui on Boxing Day, kicks off this busiest time of the year for New Zealand's elite motorcycle road-racers.
Once again this year, the opening round at the Taupo International Motorsport Park on the weekend of December 2-3 will pack twice the punch because it is not only round one of three for the Suzuki International Series, but also the first of six rounds in the 2023-24 New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK).
It means, of course, there will be twice as much at stake at Taupo, with plenty to win or lose over the busy weekend, with potential titles on the line in both the combined competitions.
The Suzuki International Series has already become such an iconic competition that the governing body for the sport in this part of the world, Motorcycling New Zealand, decided for the first time at the start of the 2022-23 season that it made perfect sense to include the first two rounds of the Suzuki International Series – although not the uniquely-different Whanganui street races around the famous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day – as an integral part of its NZSBK series.
Round two of the parallel Suzuki International Series/NZSBK competition is set for Manfeild, on the outskirts of Feilding, on December 9-10, and while the Whanganui street fight won't be part of the nationals, it remains the jewel in the crown for the three-round Suzuki International Series.
When the Suzuki International Series concludes on Boxing Day, the racers will re-focus in the New Year on the national superbike championship title chase, with three further rounds of the NZSBK set for the South Island and then the MotoFest festival weekend at Hampton Downs, north of Hamilton, to wrap it all up.
But the immediate focus, starting in just over two weeks’ time, is the three-round Suzuki International Series and Taupo’s traditional opening flourish of activity.
Suzuki International Series promoter and organiser Allan 'Flea' Willacy said he was thrilled to work with Motorcycling New Zealand and unite the two series.
"It is great that we are combining forces to help motorcycle racing in the current climate. The sport deserves this ... riders, fans, sponsors and other stakeholders too," Willacy said.
"Nothing changes as far as the Suzuki International Series is concerned. The classes and format will remain the same. It is just that points collected at the first two rounds (at Taupo and Manfeild) will go towards the tally for anyone going on with the nationals.
"By combining these two series, riders will benefit financially and, from a logistical standpoint, it will boost competitor numbers at all the events.”
Keeping alive the long-standing tradition of the Suzuki International Series, there is also again keen interest being shown this season by visiting international riders.
British rising star Davey Todd, Australian former Moto2 and MotoGP star Anthony West and West’s teenage team-mate Declan Van Rosmalen are all signed up to race in New Zealand this summer season.
The foundations for a fruitful Suzuki International Series campaign will have had to be sown at round one in Taupo and round two at Manfeild, and the same can be said for the NZSBK competition winners too.
Motorcycle road-racing in New Zealand is always edge-of-the-seat excitement, but, for the much-anticipated 2023-24 season, it will perhaps be an adrenaline rush like never before.
DATES FOR 2023-24 NZ MOTORCYCLE ROAD-RACE SEASON:
Suzuki International Series (and first two rounds of the nationals):
• Round 1, Taupo, Dec 2nd and 3rd;
• Round 2, Manfeild, Feilding, Dec 9th and 10th;
• Whanganui's Cemetery Circuit, Dec 26th (third and final round of Suzuki International Series, but not part of the nationals).
• Round 3, Ruapuna, Christchurch (includes GP title races), Jan 6th and 7th;
• Round 4, Levels, Timaru, Jan 13th and 14th;
• Round 5, Burt Munro, Teretonga, Feb 9th, 10th and 11th.
• Round 6, Hampton Downs, part of MotoFest, Mar 2nd and 3rd.
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com