Whanganui's iconic Cemetery Circuit was the scene once again of some classic motorcycle racing on Boxing Day, fans left in no doubt that this event is truly world-class and like no other.
The traditional post-Christmas affair, this year celebrating its 70th anniversary on the public streets circuit, wound up the three-round Suzuki International Series in typical style, the record entry list of riders representing the cream of the crop in 13 separate classes and producing some of the finest racing seen there in years.
Series promoter and organiser Allan "Flea" Willacy said he was thrilled with how the series had panned out and was particularly happy with the street race finale, that iconic event following hot on the heels of round one at Taupō's Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park and round two at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon.
"It was brilliant weather-wise at all three events and the richly-talented Kiwi riders put on a great show, particularly at Whanganui. It was a good crowd at Whanganui too and they all would have left the circuit happy that they had been royally entertained," he said.
There were multiple race winners throughout the various classes, with stand-out performances in particular coming in the premier Formula One/Superbikes class from Christchurch's Alastair Hoogenboezem, Whakatāne brothers Mitch and Damon Rees, Taupō's Scott Moir, Glen Eden's Daniel Mettam, Whanganui duo Richie Dibben and Jayden Carrick.
Hoogenboezem won three of the four F1 races at rounds one and two before dipping out of the competition and giving up his series lead to concentrate on his preparation for the upcoming nationals; Damon Rees won both F1 races at the Whanganui finale and also won the stand-alone Robert Holden Memorial feature race there, while his elder brother Mitch wrapped up the series overall in the F1 class with a solid showing throughout.
Two-time former Suzuki International Series winner Moir finished a close runner-up to Mitch Rees in the series overall, finishing just ahead of Damon Rees and Mettam, while Dibben impressed on what was his F1 debut while fellow Whanganui rider Carrick delighted his home fans as he shone out at the popular Cemetery Circuit event.
Class leaders changed in almost all classes as the series progressed, the depth of riding talent giving rise to many close and exciting battles and it was not until the final round at Whanganui that some of the top honours were decided.
Even in the 600cc Formula Two class, it came down to the final round, despite Upper Hutt's Rogan Chandler proving time and again that he was the fastest rider in the class. A rare mistake that led to a crash at the second round of the series meant Chandler started the day at Whanganui in second position and nine points adrift of former national 600cc champion Avalon Biddle, from Rangiora.
Chandler finished first and third in his two F2 races at Whanganui, forced to accept second overall for the day, but this was enough for him to get the job done and secure the series honours overall.
Taupiri teenager Zak Fuller came on strong at Whanganui, winning the day with his 2-1 score-card, and this remarkably elevated him from sixth to second overall for the series on his debut at this high level of close-fought competition.
This season's 13th annual Suzuki International Series was robbed of overseas involvement because of the Covid-19 pandemic but showed, even with solely Kiwi talent, that it was a truly world-class competition and organisers anticipate it reaching even greater heights next December.
Class winners after Boxing Day's third and final round of the 2020 Suzuki International Series are Whakatāne's Mitch Rees (Formula One); Upper Hutt's Rogan Chandler (Formula Two); Nīkau Valley's Richard Markham-Barrett (Formula Three); Whanganui's Dwayne Bishop (Bears Senior); Whanganui's Darren Bendle (Bears Junior); Levin's Justin Maunder (GIXXER 150 Cup); Hastings' Gian Louie (Post Classics, pre-89 Senior); Ngāruawāhia's Steve Bridge (Post Classics, pre-89 Junior); Adam Unsworth and Bryce Rose (F1 Sidecars); Albany's Mark Halls and Michelle MacLean (F2 Sidecars); Taumarunui's Jette Josiah (Super Motard); Sanson's Shane Miller (Supersport 300); Whanganui's Robert Hood and Graham Wilkinson (Classic Sidecars, raced at Whanganui round only).