Racing fun keeps enthusiast hooked

By Anne-Marie McDonald

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Wellington man Laurence Gooding who has not missed a Cemetery Circuit since 1957. Photo/Stuart Munro
Wellington man Laurence Gooding who has not missed a Cemetery Circuit since 1957. Photo/Stuart Munro

Laurence Gooding has staying power.

The motorbike enthusiast from Wellington drove to Wanganui early yesterday to watch the racing at the Cemetery Circuit - as he has done every single year since 1957.

He came prepared, as he always does, with sunscreen and wet weather gear, and ready to catch the action from his favourite spot near the start line.

Mr Gooding was 12 years old when his father first brought him to Wanganui's famous Boxing Day bike bonanza.

"My family was really into motorbikes - we used to go to the motocross and the speedway all the time. Going to the Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day became a tradition."

He bought his first motorbike at the age of 17, and from then rode to Wanganui with friends.

Even young love couldn't keep him away. During his engagement to now-wife, Nena, Mr Gooding would ride to Wanganui on Boxing Day morning to watch the Cemetery Circuit, then carry on to Ohope, in the Bay of Plenty, where Mrs Gooding spent the Christmas period with her family.

Since 1957, Mr Gooding has bought and sold several motorbikes, got married, had two children, moved from Masterton to Wellington, become a grandfather, and retired from his job at the Inland Revenue Department.

"I've seen a few changes," he said.

He's also seen many changes in his now 57 years at the Cemetery Circuit.

The track has improved, the racing is faster, the crowds are bigger, and even the built environment surrounding the track is different.

"It's just so much more organised, more professional.

"It was common in earlier days for the racing to be running more than an hour late."

And although Mr Gooding enjoys seeing lots of families at the racing, he's also noticed an increase in the number of groups of young people attending.

"Unfortunately, a lot of them seem to be trying to drink as much as they can."

Rain has cut short several Cemetery Circuits - including last year's - although racing has never, during Mr Gooding's time, been cancelled completely because of the weather. "It's nearly always been quite hot - but I always come prepared for anything."

These days, he no longer rides a motorbike to Wanganui.

He and his wife drive up together and while Mr Gooding enjoys the racing, Mrs Gooding goes shopping.

He said the Cemetery Circuit was one of the best day's entertainment you could get in New Zealand. "It's great because you can get so close to the action, and the racing is tight and fast."

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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