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Cemetery Circuit motorcycle racing is returning to Whanganui streets

Organizers and sponsors of the Cemetery Circuit are excited to be back on track for the 2022 event. Photo/Paul Brooks

One of Whanganui’s biggest events will return to the streets this summer.

Cemetery Circuit was canceled for the first time in 70 years in 2021 due to Covid-19 restrictions but event organizer Allan Willacy said he was expecting the Boxing Day event to make a big comeback this December.

“We’re expecting a fantastic crowd and a fantastic event, overseas competitors are coming, so it’s a really positive feeling this year.”

He was expecting the event to pull great numbers of both spectators and riders from across the country and overseas.

International riders had not yet been confirmed for the event, but Willacy said there were plans to bring in four riders from Australia and two from the United Kingdom.

The Cemetery Circuit is also once again the final round of the Suzuki International Series, which this year is collaborating with the New Zealand Superbike Championship to provide six rounds of racing throughout the summer.

As well as the finale of the Suzuki Series, the final round of the New Zealand SuperMoto Championship will be part of the Cemetery Circuit meet.

The event will also play host to the New Zealand TT title, which Willacy said runs alongside the national championships and originally came from another world-famous street race, the Isle of Man TT.

“It’s come home, they’ve given the titles back to us for our street circuit so that’s another plus for our competitors to race against,” he said.

Despite not being part of the national championships, as the nationals don’t include street circuits, Willacy said the collaboration between the two series will bring more attention to the event.

“The [Suzuki] series is the biggest series in New Zealand and the Whanganui Cemetery Circuit is the biggest motorcycle event in New Zealand.

Strategic lead of marketing for Whanganui & Partners, Jonathan Sykes, said the contribution of events such as Cemetery Circuit were important to the district’s economy.

“When events are hosted in Whanganui, we see a significant impact in our visitor spend metrics and we hear their value spoken about by our community and the participants.

“Holding renowned world-class events like Cemetery Circuit is something Whanganui takes huge pride in. Like our community, and Cemetery Circuit’s national and international fans, we were hugely disappointed to see this iconic event having to cancel last year. And we know the organizers did everything they could to go ahead with the event until it became inevitable it couldn’t be held under the restrictions.”

Sykes said having Whanganui host the New Zealand Amateur Boxing Championships and Hoop Nation Junior Showcase in April showed the value of events to the district. Marketview shows consumer spending in Whanganui in April 2022 was up 8.1 per cent on April 2021. During the period of Hoop Nation’s Junior Showcase, April 27-30, consumer spending was up 7.9 per cent on the same period a year earlier.

“We work with all our supported events in evaluating the economic contribution made versus what was anticipated in advance. In addition, we have our own tools, such as consumer spend metrics, that help us understand the incremental value the event created,” Sykes said .

Willacy said Cemetery Circuit was a jewel in the crown: “Everybody wants to compete, everybody still wants to win, and the top guys still want to win the Robert Holden.”

Keryn Amon (left), owner of Platinum Homes, Allan Willacy, event organizer for Cemetery Circuit and Peter Goldfinch, dealer executive at Suzuki New Zealand.  Photo / Bevan Conley
Keryn Amon (left), owner of Platinum Homes, Allan Willacy, event organizer for Cemetery Circuit and Peter Goldfinch, dealer executive at Suzuki New Zealand. Photo / Bevan Conley

One of those people is 2016-2018 national superbike champion Sloan Frost, who will compete at the event on a unique machine, the 2022 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa, the fastest naturally aspirated motorbike in New Zealand.

Suzuki New Zealand is continuing to support the event and provided the bike for Frost to race on.

The 1300cc Hayabusa sportbike is significantly heavier than the rest of the 1000cc formula one superbikes he will be competing against, but dealer executive at Suzuki New Zealand, Peter Goldfinch, said Frost should put up a good fight.

“He’s not expected to win, but if he can get a top-five or top-six on what is essentially a street bike, that’ll be pretty good marketing for us.”

He said Frost racing the Hayabusa around the tight city streets will be quite the spectacle.

“He’ll probably get into second gear sometimes,” he said.

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