It promises to be bigger and better than before and that’s a tough pledge to keep.

Whanganui’s Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy is overjoyed with the huge overseas interest being shown ahead of this season’s annual Suzuki Series motorcycle road-race competition and he believes the 2017 edition, set to kick off in Taupo on December 10, could be the biggest yet.

Each year Willacy organises for the public streets of Whanganui to be closed off for a drama-filled 24-hour Christmas-time period as he and his workers run the renowned Cemetery Circuit event, one of the very few motorcycle street race meetings in the world.

This year he has been absolutely swamped with entrants, many more of them from overseas that ever before, and he really will be stretching the boundaries to fit them all in.

The Cemetery Circuit event on December 26 will again be the third and final round of the popular annual Suzuki Series, which kicks off at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park near Taupo on December 10, then takes riders to Manfeild, on the outskirts of Feilding, for round two on December 17, before its traditional Boxing Day finale on Whanganui’s streets.

The Boxing Day event always draws crowds in their thousands and invariably turns on a spectacle worthy of all the attention.

Last year’s Suzuki Series winner was Whakatane’s Tony Rees, although he will again face a stern challenge from arch rival Sloan Frost, of Wellington, and others such as Taupo’s Scotty Moir and Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam.

Frost won the 2015 Suzuki Series ahead of Rees, with Liechtenstein rider Horst Saiger, the early leader in the series, slipping down to eventually settle for third overall.

The year before that, in December 2014, it was a classic down-to-the-wire battle between Saiger and Moir. In the end, Saiger won the series by just three points from the hard-charging Moir.

This year it’s again anybody’s guess as to who will dominate the series or, perhaps even more importantly, who will win the Boxing Day finale and its signature Robert Holden feature race.

In addition to former series winners Rees, Frost and Saiger, former series runners-up Moir and Mettam, along with Manukau’s Toby Summers and New Plymouth’s Hayden Fitzgerald, are also sure to be contenders, not to mention all the other nationally-ranked Kiwis, while British world champion sidecar pairing Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes, will obviously again add international sparkle to the sidecar class.

Also in the starting line-up this time around will be Irish former Isle of Man race winner Lee Johnston and Isle of Man native Connor Cummins, also a winner at the Isle of Man and the British Superbike Championships as well.

“The series’ growing popularity has created a bit of a headache for me again this year,” said Willacy.

“The sidecar class numbers have gone ballistic this year, with three teams entered from Australia and seven from Europe.

“It’s a tough position to be in, with this year’s entry list the largest we’ve had in the nine years since the competition began (in 2008). The popularity is global, particularly for the Cemetery Circuit final round, and I guess that means we’ve been doing something right.

“We make it very easy for people to enter and race and the spectators love being so close to the action too.”

Willacy said members of the public could save money by purchasing “early bird tickets” through Ticketek and then they’ll also go in the draw to win a Suzuki GIXXER150 bike in MotoGP colours.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan