December 13th, 2023

by Andy McGechan

It’s not hard to see why the annual Suzuki International Series each December has a huge following, both domestically and internationally too.

However, while the first two rounds of the 2023 edition have now been staged, both events held in contrasting weather conditions over consecutive weekends, it’s worth remembering that the best is always saved for last.

All that remains now for the three-round Suzuki International Series to wrap up is for the world-renowned Cemetery Circuit races to take place on Boxing Day, the massive annual post-Christmas festival of speed always a popular final blow-out before New Year celebrations begin.

The racing on the twists and turns of Whanganui’s public streets – with part of the circuit actually snaking the riders past the Suzuki New Zealand headquarters on Heads Road – attracts worldwide interest every year, especially since this is one of the very few motorcycle street fights still being run anywhere in the world.

And, yes, the course does take the speeding riders past headstones in the inner-city graveyard, not to mention the competitors zooming close to road-side curbs, across white-painted lines, over railway lines and near to traffic islands. It takes your breath away just to think about it, although serious safety measures are in place.

It may be particularly exciting this year as Whakatane father and son duo Tony and Mitch Rees get set to bang handlebars again in the premier Formula One/Superbike class and Whanganui’s home-town hero Richie Dibben attempts to dish it up to international star Davey Todd in the Supermoto class.

All the other various classes too will provide nail-biting excitement, the Suzuki GIXXER Cup class always a close affair, while it’s worth noting that Whanganui crews will be out in force in the Formula One, Formula Two and Pre-82 Classic Sidecars classes.

Can Whanganui father and daughter Peter and Lucy Dowman continue their winning ways in the F2 Sidecars class? This year’s Cemetery Circuit event will be Lucy’s debut in this class in the street racing environment.

Meanwhile, in addition to Dibben battling at the front of the Supermoto class, a road contest for racers on highly-modified dirt bikes, plenty of other Whanganui riders will be keen to impress their home fans, men such as James Clarke, Roger Bland, Tony Hirini, Craig Scott and his son Alex Luff-Scott and Marc McKenzie, not to mention the many equally-talented riders from other parts of the country.

There are in fact 21 riders entered for the Supermoto class at Whanganui.

But most eyes will perhaps be on dual-class riders Dibben and Todd – who are also both racing in the F1/Superbike class – with these two international stars separated by no more than the thickness of their plastic fairings throughout the Supermoto action so far.

Unfortunately for Todd, who had been leading the class after round one at Taupo, he crashed out of one race at Manfeild last weekend and this has handed the points advantage to close friend and rival Dibben.

“It was a good weekend for me at Manfeild,” said Dibben. “I qualified fastest and then got three wins over the weekend, so you really can’t ask for anything more than that. I earned maximum points.

“It puts me in good shape for Whanganui’s Cemetery Circuit and I’m looking forward to having some good battles there with Davey (Todd).

“We’re actually good mates and previously raced together overseas, but when we are out on the track, there is no quarter given by either of us. The last race in the wet at Manfeild on Sunday was probably the best so far. He got past me near the end, but I managed to pip him over the line and take the win.

“I’m sure that Whanganui will bring more excitement like that.”


CAPTION: The Supermoto class is sure to be a crowd favourite on the public streets of Whanganui on Boxing Day, especially if UK rider Davey Todd (Suzuki RM-Z450 letter D) and local hero Richie Dibben (Suzuki RM-Z450 No.1) have anything to do with it. Photo by Andy McGechan.


Class leaders in the Suzuki International Series after round two at Manfeild are:

Whakatane’s Tony Rees (F1/Superbike class); Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (F2/Supersport 600 class); Taupo’s Karl Hooper (F3/Pro Twins); Feilding’s John Oliver (Formula Sport, Senior); Whanganui’s Jeff Croot (Formula Sport, Junior); Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud (Supersport 300); Hamilton’s Joseph Stroud (GIXXER 150); Upper Hutt’s Keiran Mair (Supersport 150); Taupo’s Karl Hooper (Post Classics, Pre-89, Senior); Auckland’s Scott Findlay (Post Classics, Pre-89, Junior); Invercargill’s Jon Rawcliffe (Post Classics, Pre-95, Senior); Christchurch’s Jordan Leslie (Post Classics, Pre-95, Junior); Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Supermoto); Panmure’s Adam Unsworth and Whanganui’s Bryce Rose (F1 Sidecars); Whanganui’s Peter and Lucy Dowman (F2 Sidecars).

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com