While a lot of riders are busy with other things in life, training and checking over their bikes between the North and South Island NZSBK rounds, there’s always a few that take to the track at other meetings.
This weekend, 3-4 February, the iconic Pukekohe Classic Festival roars back into life for its 39th meeting. The field boasts over 200 machines, ranging from the 1920 Harley Davidson ridden by Kerry Piggott to a host of pre-89 Post Classics and everything in between, including sidecars.
Several NZSBK competitors will be in action over the weekend, although some from our ranks will no doubt be saving themselves for Southland’s Burt Munro Challenge; now slotted into the New Zealand racing calendar 7-11 February, at the other end of the country.
NZSBK Superlite and Supersport 300 entrant Dennis Charlett will be riding the beautiful McIntosh Suzuki GSX1100-powered machine owned by American enthusiast Mark Williams. With a racing career spanning 35 years so far, Charlett has raced this bike before at the Mike Pero Southern Classic at Levels and the Pukekohe Classic Festival so he’s no stranger to it. This is the same bike 2016 NZSBK Championship Sloan Frost rode at Eastern Creek in 2017 and pretty much identical to the McIntosh Suzuki ridden many times by nine-times NZSBK Champion Andrew Stroud.
Joining the Classic Festival this year with a last minute entry to replace injured Supersport 600 rider David Hall is Auckland’s Superbike competitor Dan Mettam. With injuries to a hand sustained earlier this week, Hall is side-lined for the moment. Mettam will ride Lindsay Kyle’s 1962 Norton Dominator (pictured), one of the three bikes that provided the best racing dices at the 2016 Cemetery Circuit in the Classic Races. The other two bikes in that race were NZSBK rider Rogan Chandler on a Norton Commando, and Hastings rider Vince Burrell riding his 1972 Moto Guzzi. It will be interesting to see how Dan Mettam adapts from a superbike to a classic bike, where the gear change and foot brake are on opposite sides – it’s unlikely to take him long to get to grips with it though. Hall was also entered on a 1972 350cc Honda twin cylinder owned by Pete Johnson of PJ Racing, which Mettam will also race.
Another NZSBK Superbike entrant Scott Moir may also ride at Pukekohe on a 1970s Yamaha RD350, although this was yet to be confirmed at the time of writing.
Rogan Chandler, a former NZSBK 125GP Champion has been racing Gerard Dobson’s Norton Commando for a number of years, and will be on it again this weekend. This bike/rider combination is a force to be reckoned with; Rogan will put his all into it and would be an odds-on favourite for a win or two in the Classics 70’s class. His race number is 355 at the classics, normally running the number 15 at the nationals on his bLU cRU Yamaha R6 where he currently lies third in the NZSBK Supersport 600 standings.
Former NZSBK 125cc specialist 20-year-old Tyler Lincoln was to be racing two bikes at Pukekohe: Dave Kenah’s 1961 Manx Norton as well as a Yamaha RD350LC built in 1980 belonging to his father, but he will now race just the Norton. Former NZSBK Pro Twin competitor Dean Bentley is campaigning a very quick Yamaha FZR600 in the ‘Postie Junior’ class and has been at the sharp end of the field on most outings since getting the bike.
Other current NZSBK riders and passengers will be at the Leadfoot Festival, also on over this same weekend. Tracey Bryan, lately a passenger at the nationals, will ride her own DMR600 Formula Two sidecar up the hill at Rod Millen’s ranch, while Kendall Dunlop ‘sits’ on the deck. David McArthur and Tony New will pilot the number 67 machine they are campaigning this season over the four rounds of the NZSBK series at Leadfoot too.
Other meetings between now and NZSBK Round 3, incorporating the New Zealand Tourist Trophy (3-4 March), where we’ll also see a number of NZSBK competitors don their leathers include: the Burt Munro Challenge in Southland, ‘Battle of the Streets’ at Paeroa (18 Feb) and Christchurch’s Sound of Thunder meeting at Ruapuna (24-25 Feb).
Credit: Words and photo by Graeme ‘Spyda’ Staples
The 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championship is supported by Honda Cars, providing safety/medical vehicles, Pirelli tyres, Corprint, CTAS and MX Timing and the inaugural GIXXER Cup is supported by Suzuki New Zealand.