Big names underline annual motorbike tribute in Southland
If you put Tony Rees or Josh Coppins on a motorcycle, you'd better stand back and watch for the fireworks.
The annual Burt Munro Challenge in Southland attracted the cream of NZ motorcycling across the various bike codes.
These two stole the spotlight, although they never went head-to-head.
Making his debut, Rees was virtually unstoppable. He won two events on his "spare bike", a 2009 Honda CBR1000RR, and finished first equal in another at the week-long festival.
The 48-year-old won both Formula One races that wrapped up the final day, the inaugural Honda Invercargill Street Races on a closed-off section of the city's industrial area.
Rees won the class ahead of Lee Munro (a relative of the World's Fastest Indian legend, Burt Munro) and Dan Ornsby. He won the day overall ahead of Jeremy Holmes. To make it even sweeter, his 20-year-old son Damon was in sixth and fourth spots. Damond finished 3-2 among the 600cc bikes, who were scored separately, over the two races, to finish runner-up in the up-to-600cc category.
Rees senior also won Thursday's Bluff Hill Climb, took a Honda CRF450 to finish third in his class in Friday's beach race and climbed back on his Honda CBR1000RR to finish first equal in the F1 class at Teretonga Park Raceway on Saturday.
"I had never been to the Burt Munro event before, but I had been meaning to come down for years," he said.
"I was heading down here about five years ago and I broke my leg just before I came."
The Whakatane man believes his experience helped.
"I have done a lot of street racing which helps when it comes to racing here," said Rees.
He is the record winner of the annual Paeroa Streets Races and a multi-time champion of the Boxing Day races on Whanganui's Cemetery Circuit.
Former motocross world championships star Coppins proved to be just as hard to beat in several other events.
Although his bike is designed primarily for off-road use, Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team boss Coppins knew that with a few modifications, the Yamaha YZ450F was the ideal weapon to win on tarseal as well.
The 38-year-old qualified fastest at the NZ Supercross Championships at Winton on Thursday before the event was blown away by gale-force winds. He used the same bike to win the Oreti Beach races on Friday and the super motard class in Sunday's street races.
"I'd never done the beach races before, so I just rolled up and hoped for the best.
"After I finished third in the first race, I knew I had the bike's gearing wrong. After that I was sorted and won the next six-lapper. Then I won the 50-lap feature race as well."
Coppins switched the tyres from dirt-bike "knobbies" to road rubber for Sunday.
Duncan Hart finished runner-up on another Yamaha YZ450F, with Casey Bullock (KTM) third.
"I thought both Duncan and Casey were technically better super motard riders than me," said Coppins, "but I learned so much from watching them.
"I'll be coming back next year and perhaps I will race the hillclimb event too."