Burt Munro Challenge move proves favourable

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Paddy Snowden, of Christchurch, rides an Indian Chief 1200cc during the Indian Motorcycle NZ Beach Racing Champs on Friday. Photos: Janette Gellatly

MOVING the Burt Munro Challenge from its traditional November time-slot to the second week of February has proved to be the right decision, Southland Motorcycle Club president Andy Underhay says.

“For those who may have doubted, we have been exonerated… we have had fantastic numbers and the weather has been so kind too… it is all we could ever have hoped for.”

Invercargill’s population swelled with the record numbers of motorcyclists and enthusiasts for the four-day rally which honours Southland motorcycling legend Burt Munro (1899-1978).

Arguably New Zealand’s largest all-round motorcycle rally, the Classic Motorcycle Mecca NZ Hill Climb Champs kicked the challenge off on Thursday, when more than 70 entries over seven classes, from classic to modern motorcycles, took on Bluff Hill.

Bluff promotions/publicity officer Lindsay Beer said it had been the largest crowd he had seen in the decade he had been attending the climb.

Mr Underhay said the Hirepool Twilight Drag Racing, new to this year’s challenge, held at Teretonga Park on Thursday night had also been “a huge success, especially with the public turnout”.

The iconic Indian Motorcycle NZ Beach Racing Champs held at Oreti Beach on Friday had 80 entries across 10 classes.

An unexpected highlight at the beach was the arrival of The World’s Fastest Indian movie director Roger Donaldson. He said it was the first time he had been back to the beach since filming the 2005 movie. He started the 50-lapper (1.61km/1 mile) race for the Burt Munro Trophy which was won by Australian Damien Koppe with a time of 45 minutes 2.499 seconds. Close behind, Kiwi Josh Coppins came second with 45.12.470.

The weather was perfect for Saturday’s events which included the E Hayes & Sons Teretonga Circuit Races at Teretonga Park and the Oreti Park Speedway Spectacular.

However, the Honda Invercargill Street Races had to be cancelled on the Sunday after only one race because of a “significant oil spill”.

Mr Underhay said BMC organisers were bitterly disappointed for riders and fans, but safety was the main priority.

The oil spill from a motorcycle contaminated about 95% of the track and was an unfortunate occurrence, he said.

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