An intense year competing against the world’s best in Europe has prepared Southland motorcycle racer Cormac Buchanan strongly for his next challenge.
Buchanan, 17, returned home from Spain two weeks ago and immediately switched his focus to the New Zealand Superbike Championship, which roars into action at Taupo Motorsport Park this weekend.
“It’s been a massive season internationally and I enjoyed reflecting on that during the long trip home. But as soon as that plane touched down, it’s like my brain switched into kiwi mode,” he said.
“Ironically, the last time I stood on New Zealand soil, I was boarding a flight to Europe just a few hours after winning both the 600 SuperSport and 300 SuperSport championships at the Taupo circuit – it was crazy!”
Reuniting with the Yamaha New Zealand racing team he has been part of since 2020, Buchanan will strive to defend the 600 SuperSport title on his YZF-R6.
“They say the only thing harder than winning a championship is defending it. That number one on the front of the bike becomes a target everyone else is chasing so I’m definitely expecting it to be a massive challenge,” he said.
“All I can control is my own preparation and I know I’ve done the hard yards. I’m excited to get back amongst the action on track against a really tough field of competitors and see what’s possible.”
Back on the R6 for the first time during the Southern Race Series at Teretonga on November 19, Buchanan impressed with an unbeaten performance in the 600 SuperSport ranks.
“It was cold and windy so conditions were not ideal but we still managed to clock a lap time just 0.1 seconds off the lap record I set earlier this year so it bodes well for the season ahead.”
On the world stage, Buchanan racked up a credible scoresheet for 2023 in both the FIM JuniorGP World Championship and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup he contested.
“I can honestly say it’s been a fantastic year – even with plenty of the extremes motorsport has a habit of dealing out,” Buchanan said.
“We earned two front row starts, a top finish of fourth at Jerez – just 0.3 seconds from the win – and were consistently battling at the front of the field, finishing the championship as the second highest placed rookie overall.
“I’m really proud of the step I took as a rider this year as we continued to learn and progress on and off the track. To have the chance to hone my skills in such a professional and highly-competitive environment is unreal and it’s my job to soak up everything I’m taught and work hard to get the results we deserve.”
He will return to Europe in March for a third campaign with leading Spanish team AGR, racing for a second season in the FIM JuniorGP World Championship.
“A summer of racing here in New Zealand is going to keep me race fit and my edge sharp so I can head back to Europe and get straight into action,” Buchanan said.
“We’ve earned our reputation as a top contender this year and now it’s time to really prove it. I want nothing more than to see that New Zealand flag hoisted above the podium and achieve our ultimate goal of being the next kiwi racer on a MotoGP grid.”
Buchanan’s immediate racing schedule will feature six rounds of the NZSBK Championship. Taupo and Manfeild launch proceedings as part of the international Suzuki Series in December before rounds at Ruapuna and Levels in January. Round five will be included as part of the Burt Munro Challenge in February before the final round at Hampton Downs in March.
“It’s going to be wicked to see New Zealand’s best line up at the Burt on my home turf at Teretonga. Between the modern machines and all the classic bikes, it’s going to be a real spectacle for motorcycle fans,” he said.
The New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK) rounds for 2023-24 will be:
Round 1, Suzuki Series at Taupo, December 2nd/3rd; Round 2, Suzuki Series at Manfeild, December 9th/10th; Round 3, Ruapuna in Christchurch, January 6th/7th; Round 4, Levels at Timaru, January 13th/14th; Round 5, Burt Munro at Teretonga, February 9th/10th/11th; Round 6, MotoFest at Hampton Downs, March 2nd/3rd.