Friday, May 18

DOUBTS OVER BURT MUNRO CHALLENGE

Burt Munro with the Tropy donated by
Mrs Clancy Bricknell in 1973
(Photo Copyright Michael Esdaile)
By MICHAEL ESDAILE


Doubt has been raised over the future of the Burt Munro Challenge - with the club that organises many of the events apparently in a state of crisis.


According to a report filed on May 11 in the Southland Times website by reporter Ewan Harding, the Southland Motorcycle Club is asking the Invercargill City Council for a $50,000 lifeline to continue running the event.


The report says the six key club members - out of a club that boasts a membership of some 350 people - are facing burn-out from the stress of running the annual event.


The Burt Munro Challenge is no small undertaking. It includes a beach race at Oreti Beach, road-racing at the purpose-built Teretonga circuit, speedway at the Oreti Park Speedway, long-track racing on the Ascot Park horse trotting track, a hill climb on Bluff Hill, a street race in the township of Wyndham and a motorcycle camp at Oreti Park. There is not another club in the country that runs as many events as this in succession.


According to Burt Munro Challenge Committee chairman Wayne Affleck, the event costs up to $350,000 to run, and he says that the Club has to build four of the tracks.


"The reality is that we have to build four of the six race tracks before we race and these all are required to be safe for the participants and the public, which obviously requires a lot of manpower and some cost," Mr Affleck says.


Teretonga is a long-established race track, no building required there, and the Bluff hill-climb is run on a public road.


Oreti Park Speedway is a well-established venue as is the Ascot Park trotting track. However, there is no question the biggest job is laying out the street course in Wyndham, placing haybales to protect riders and spectators, setting up a pit area and a rider sign-in as well as making there are plenty of marshals to run it.


The only other track that requires "building" is the course on Oreti Beach. This involves measuring the distance between the two turn markers, installing spectator barriers and running a grader around to smooth the sand. The course also requires grading during the racing.


Many visitors have suggested the timing of the event should be changed to either February or March when the weather is better. The late November date means specators at Oreti Beach get sand-blasted by strong winds, something the Southland Times says resulted in last year's beach race being abandoned.


"The extreme conditions resulted in fewer riders competing and the loss of about 7000 paying spectators at the beach racing," it reports, which it says ultimately meant the entire event ran at a loss.


Despite this, Mr Affleck says "the November date is set to work around other motorcycling and local events and although mid-March has been considered several times, it does not suit the racers. Events in February nationwide are already over-subscribed."


However, according to the Events calendar on the Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) website, the only event currently listed as being on in February 2013 is a Huntly Motorcycle Club motocross event at Te Kauwhata on February 14.


As far as road-racing is concerned, the 2013 New Zealand Road Race Championships are scheduled to get underway at Christchurch's Ruapuna circuit on January 5-6, continue south to Timaru the following weekend (January 12-13) then another weekend later they will be racing at Invercargill's Teretonga Circuit (January 19-20).


There is then a month long break until March 16-17 when the series resumes at Hampton Downs then is scheduled to conclude at Taupo on March 23-24.


With a large contingent of the Burt Munro Challenge visitors riding down to Southland from the North Island, perhaps aligning the date with the NZ Road Racing Championships would help boost numbers at the Timaru round as well as the Teretonga event, which currently does not get anything like the support it deserves.


Having a round of the NZ Road Race Championships as one of the attractions of the Burt Munro Challenge would be a win-win situation for both events, surely?


For the full Southland Times story on the Burt Munro Challenge, click here


Meantime, Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) the FIM-affiliated governing body of motorcycle sport in this country, has established what it calls Project Grants to help clubs to "build the infrastructure of not only the organisation itself but we need to assist Clubs to become stronger and enhance their infrastructure."


This could be of assistance to the Southland Motorcycle Club as it struggles to run the monster Burt Munro Challenge.

Burt Munro Images by BD: