Motorcycle road-racing in New Zealand is always edge-of-the-seat excitement and it certainly delivered with a late but roaring start to the much-anticipated 2022-23 season at the weekend.

With round one of the new-look season at Taupo abandoned due to track concerns just over a week ago, the adrenaline was truly gushing for round two of the series – actually now round one by default – when it got underway at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, in the Manawatu, on Saturday and Sunday.

The hugely-popular Suzuki International Series and the New Zealand Superbike Nationals are running in tandem for the first time this season and the racing that finally kicked off in Feilding at the weekend had it all … spectacular racing, glorious debuts, surprise outcomes, a few crashes and a handful of mechanical or electrical failures to shake up the points tallies.

Also, just to spice things up even further, the region delivered four seasons of weather over the two days.   

The nation’s premier competitions joined forces this year, to create a revamped and revitalised three-phase New Zealand Superbike Nationals season for 2022-23.

The first two of three rounds for the 2022 Suzuki International Series – at Taupo and then Manfeild, on December 3-4 and December 10-11 respectively – are listed as rounds one and two of that competition, but also this year the first two events of the 2022-23 national series.

The final round of the Suzuki International Series is, as usual, set for the public streets of Whanganui, the world famous Cemetery Circuit, to run on Boxing Day.

This street fight won’t be part of the nationals, but remains the jewel in the crown for the three-round Suzuki International Series.

In the New Year, the racers will revert back to standard track racing mode and resume their national championship battles on purpose-built race circuits. 

The latter two phases of the national series will be run early in 2023, two rounds in the South Island in January, followed by two more rounds in the North Island in March.

Because of the track problems at Taupo a week ago, the two series have obviously now been abbreviated to two rounds for the Suzuki International Series and five for the New Zealand Superbike Nationals, but the excitement on show at Manfeild certainly was not diluted, even though the track was drenched by sporadic rain squalls on Saturday.  

Suzuki International Series promoter and organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy said he was thrilled when Motorcycling New Zealand approached him with the idea to unite the two series and he was equally satisfied with the racing that occurred at Manfeild at the weekend.

“I’m glad that we finally got the series underway,” he said.

“Weather didn’t favour us on day one on Saturday, but the mighty Manawatu delivered on day two. It was a scorcher and it was fantastic racing and looking great as we carry on now to Boxing Day at Whanganui.”

Willacy said the street racing event on Boxing Day remains a keystone in the Suzuki International Series and all eyes will surely now focus on that post-Christmas spectacle in two weeks’ time.

It is an iconic event that typically attracts many thousands of race fans to Whanganui.

Points gained during the street fighting around the safety barrier-protected curbs and corners of Whanganui on Boxing Day will be added to the tally for riders seeking Suzuki International Series glory, but will not be counted in terms of riders chasing titles in the New Zealand Superbike Nationals.

Motorcycling New Zealand road-racing commissioner Andy Skelton said it was obviously a tremendously pleasing and positive way for the motorbike community to recover after two years of being stifled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was great to see all the smiling faces on riders and fans alike at Manfeild at the weekend,” said Skelton.

“The amalgamation of two great elements of our sport, these two fantastic series, has created a great spectacle.

“It sets the scene now for more great racing at Whanganui on Boxing Day and I wish to thank the organisers of that series for allowing us at MNZ to become a part of all that.

“It was awesome also to see all the women getting involved in all the classes of the sport. The sport is in a healthy state and I’m extremely proud of what’s been achieved by all concerned.”

Various class leaders after the opening round of both competitions are Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (F1 Superbikes class); Bulls rider Ashton Hughes (F2 Supersport 600); Taupo’s Karl Hooper (F3 Pro Twins); Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 300); Wellington’s Malcolm Bielski (Formula Sport/Bears, senior); Whanganui’s Jeff Croot (Formula Sport/Bears, junior); Silverdale’s Tyler King (Supersport 150); Upper Hutt’s Kieran Mair (Gixxer 150); Hastings rider Gian Louie (Pre-89 post classics, senior); Auckland’s Scott Findlay (Pre-89 post classics, junior); Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Supermoto); Auckland’s Adam Unsworth and Bryce Rose (F1 sidecars); Whanganui’s Bryan Stent and Dan Franzen (F2 sidecars).   

The combined series would not be possible without support from the following groups: Victoria MCC, Hampton Downs, Auckland MCC, MCI, Hamilton MCC, Southland Motorcycle Club, South Canterbury Motorcycle Club, Cemetery Circuit, MNZ and all the supporting sponsors.


Suzuki International Series:

• Round 1, Taupo, Dec 3rd and 4th (ABANDONED)

• Round 2, Manfeild, Dec 10th and 11th

• Whanganui’s Cemetery Circuit, Dec 26th (third and final round of Suzuki International Series)

South Island:

• Round 3, Ruapuna, Jan 7th and 8th 

• Round 4, Teretonga, Jan 14th and 15th

North Island:

• Round 5, Hampton Downs, part of Moto Fest, Mar 4th and 5th

• Round 6, Taupo, Mar 11th and 12th

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan