8 Feb
8 February 2024

Manfeild buzzing as over 1000 riders descend on Feilding

Feilding just entered the race for the title of New Zealand’s next spiritual home of motorsport.

The town was roaring as close to 1200 motorbikes descended on Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon for the APS Classic Motorcycle Racing Festival.

It was the first time the festival, previously known as Classic Festival, was held at Manfeild, after Pukekohe Park Raceway, the festival’s home of 43 years, closed to motorsport events last year.

But Pukekohe’s loss was Feilding’s gain, as over 320 classic racing motorbikes revved up in town during two days of racing over the weekend.

Run by the New Zealand Classic Motorcycle Racing Register (NZCMRR), the festival also included a display of motorbikes and show laps by one of the iconic Brittens.

Before the festival kicked off, close to 100 racers brought their bikes to Manchester Square.

NZCMRR president Ken McGeady, of Hamilton, described the festival as a “live museum on wheels” with motorbikes made between 1927 and 1995 on show.

The festival attracted racers from as far as Paihia, Invercargill, and even Australia.

One of the local racers in attendance was Whanganui local Melissa Tate.

Principal of the Shirley McDouall School of Dance by day and motorbike racer by night - or rather on weekends - Melissa has come to race tracks ever since she was a little girl.

Whanganui local Melissa Tate with her 1961 Triton T100. Photo / Lloyd Capon

“My father [Colin Tate] has been racing for a long time ... I will miss Pukekohe, but the atmosphere here at Manfeild is great, too.”

Speaking after the festival, McGeady said it was a huge success.

“It went extremely well - and we didn’t even advertise it properly yet. There had to be between 800 to 1000 motorbikes [of visitors] in the carpark on Sunday alone.

“I don’t have any total numbers, but it was probably similar to our last festival at Pukekohe, so starting off where we left last year is great.”

He said while having to move on from “Puke” had been tough, the new venue brought along some great opportunities.

Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon is the new home of the Classic Festival. Photo / Danielle Zollickhofer

“We are looking at how to grow this event over time. Manfeild is a worthy replacement for Puke and feels like home already.

“The kind of support we had from the community and the atmosphere on the day was just great. Everybody was smiling and interacting with each other. It had this feeling of togetherness.”

Manfeild Park Trust chairman Hamish Waugh said he was stoked with how the festival went.

“It was fantastic, the place was packed. It was probably one of the biggest motorsport events we had here in a while.”

He couldn’t say exactly how many people came through the gates, but that it would take 2500 to fill up the embankments.

Shane Graves (#282), of Raglan, and Jase Watkin, of Auckland, zoom past spectators. Photo / Danielle Zollickhofer

“I don’t think there are any barriers for Manfeild to replace Pukekohe.

“The festival had 43 successful years at Pukekohe ... I’m certain we can give them at least 43 successful years at Manfeild.”

Waugh said the trust was yet to “debrief” with the NZCMRR, but the festival’s future at Manfeild was looking positive.

“It was great for the town, the district and the region, there was a noticeable uptake of people out and about ... So I hope they loved it here as much as we loved hosting them.”

ManawatÅ« Mayor Helen Worboys echoed Waugh’s statement.
Spectators had all eyes on the track. Photo / Danielle Zollickhofer

“Having an event of this scale in Feilding meant a lot to the community,” Worboys said.

She also hinted that this year’s festival wasn’t going to be the last, with Manfeild being well placed to fill Pukekohe’s racing boots as New Zealand’s spiritual home of motorsport.

“It looked like a successful event, but I think we can even build on that.

“Manfeild is certainly up there with the big guns. People have raved about the racetrack ... [and] we hosted the New Zealand Grand Prix [Toyota Racing Series in 2015] and the Superbikes [several times], so we are used to big crowds.”