Suzuki's popular Gixxer Cup competition, one of the support divisions at the Cemetery Circuit races on Boxing Day, is set to go 'next level' this year with the lifting of age restrictions.
The competition, hatched in late 2017 as a nursery ground for motorcycle road-racing and with the catch-phrase 'Growing Future Champions', has truly been an outstanding success.
Numerous young riders, many of whom would perhaps previously not even have considered tackling the sport, have now embraced racing and are showing signs that they indeed could be superbike champions in years to come.
The concept was initially planned to be a feature of the three event Suzuki Series, which culminates in Whanganui on Boxing Day, but was then expanded into six rounds by also becoming part of the national championship tour.
It encouraged young riders to go into battle on identical Suzuki GSX150F bikes, a level playing field being an ideal environment for the stars of tomorrow to learn their craft and spread their wings.
In a tweak for December 2019, potentially bringing an even greater level of excitement, the Gixxer Cup has been opened to individuals of all ages, removing the 14-21 years old restriction.
"We have arranged for some of New Zealand's top Superbike riders to enter the series, and act as guides and mentors for the young racers, and this is very much in keeping with our aim of growing future champions" said Simon Meade, Suzuki NZ's general manager of motorcycle, ATV and marine marketing.
"At the same time, removing the age restriction for the Gixxer Cup opens the door to older riders, many of whom have hounded us for the opportunity to compete in this low cost, ultra-competitive class.
"The younger or novice riders should not be put off by seeing senior former champions on their Gixxer Cup start line," Meade continued.
"If anything, this should be further encouragement for them.
"They will be able to race side-by-side with their heroes, all of them on equal machinery. And there's the additional attraction for them being able to learn from the masters.
"Several of New Zealand's most successful riders have said they'd be keen to guide and coach the young ones."
The Cup will have a prize pool of $7000 and forms an integral part of the popular three-round Suzuki Series, as that competition undergoes a branding change this year and will now be known as the Suzuki International Series, in reflection of the worldwide status it enjoys and the respect that it is shown by so many renowned overseas racers to take part each year.
It starts at Taupo's Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on December 7-8 with round two to follow a week later at Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild, December 14-15, and the traditional final round is the world-famous public street race event on Whanganui's Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day.
Although the sport's purists will still focus on the headline categories like the 1000cc superbikes or 600cc Formula Two bike classes, there is no denying that some of the closest and most exciting racing witnessed in the series last season were in Gixxer Cup.