Petrol heads and speed enthusiasts have converged on Southland this week as one of the biggest events to take place annually in the region returns. It’s Burt Munro Challenge time once again, with the popular five-day event taking over a variety of locations in Invercargill and surrounds, delighting everyone who attends.
The event was first held in 2006 off the back of the success of the movie The World’s Fastest Indian which celebrated the life story of arguably one of the most famous Southlanders, Burt Munro.
Traditionally held in November, the event switched to a February date in 2018 and according to event chairman Craig Hyde, it hasn’t looked back since.
He said he believed the event to be the biggest annual event in Southland and it helped open up the region to the world.
“The amount of people it brings to town and the amount of spending they do throughout the town it’s just great for Southland in general. We have people staying in Winton and Gore and lots of different places. Our accommodation gets chockas so it fills up all those regions as well.”
“The guys that are coming down on their touring bikes are not just sitting in their hotel rooms when they’re here, they’re usually out touring around in the district. So all those little places it’s great whether it be Otautau or Tuatapere or wherever. It really opens up the region.”
A highlight for 2020 will be the addition of a New Zealand 3km speed record attempt by a fighter plane over Oreti Beach during the beach sprint races on Friday, which also double as the New Zealand Beach Racing Championships.
The Russian Yak 3 aeroplane, piloted by Graeme Frew, is expected to reach speeds of up to 550kmh at a height of just 30m over the sand.
Mr Hyde said bumper crowds were expected at the beach for the racing and speed attempt, with it taking place at a more friendlier time this year of 5.30pm, compared to the morning start time in 2019.
“Every three years we have to have a morning one because of the tides. This year racing starts at night so it’s brilliant for people to come after work.”
Other popular events held during the five days included the Invercargill street races, Teretonga sprint races and the Bluff hill climb.
Mr Hyde said a strong contingent of volunteers helped the event turn into a success each year, with planning for each year starting as early as March with barely anytime off in between.
And with the event coming off the back of the Toyota Racing Series at Teretonga Park last week, and ahead of the inaugural George Begg Classic Speedfest next week, Mr Hyde said it was a perfect time to be a motor enthusiast in the region and was fast turning Southland into the “motorsport capital of New Zealand.”
“There are so many different genres with bikes and cars which is really good. With everything we’ve got going for us right now it is helping bringing people to Southland.”
This article was originally written for The Advocate. You can read the published version here