8 Feb
8 February 2024

Waikato racers stoked about move to Manfeild

More than 30 classic motorbike racers from the Waikato descended on Feilding last weekend for the APS Classic Motorcycle Racing Festival.

It was the first time the festival was held on Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, after Pukekohe Park Raceway, the festival’s home of 43 years, closed to motorsport last year.

But Waikato racers seemed to be happy with the longer drive - or ride - to attend the festival.

Hamiltonian Neville Mickleson, who raced a 1932 Velocette and a 1961 Matchless sidecar, said he had strongly advocated for Manfeild as the festival’s new home.

“It was always second choice [to Pukekohe]. We wanted to go back to the grassroots atmosphere and Manfeild is also a track with history.

“We were blown away by the interest we had this year, there were about 220 entries [from individual racers] and over 320 bikes.”

Hamiltonian and classic motorbike racer Neville Mickleson with his 1932 Velocette. Photo / Lloyd Capon

Manfeild first opened to motorsport in 1973 and big events it has hosted include Superbike Championship rounds, the New Zealand Grand Prix and the Formula 5000.

Fellow Hamiltonian and retired Superbike racer Andrew Stroud was part of Manfeild’s history.

He competed - and won - races on the track several times, set a lap record and it was here where John Britten first asked him to race his home-built motorbike, the iconic Britten.

“It was in 1990 - at Manfeild - when John asked me to ride the Britten. He said that he had built this bike and wanted to race it at Daytona [US]. I didn’t take him up on that offer [back then].”

Andrew Stroud, of Hamilton, also attended the APS Classic Motorcycle Racing Festival at Manfeild to showcase the iconic Britten. Photo / Lloyd Capon

Stroud attended last weekend’s festival to showcase one of the Britten motorbikes.

“I raced here [at Manfeild] a lot over the years. It’s a good track, also from a spectator’s point of view ... I haven’t ridden the Britten here in a long time - since 1998.”

Another Waikato local who attended the festival was Scott Moir, of Taupō, who is usually a Superbike rider. He was racing a very special 1962 ES Norton that was built by Auckland engineer Peter Lodge and placed third at the Isle of Man.

“I’m a racer, I’d race anything. But the first time, I jumped on this bike, I just felt at home ... I have to admit, I never liked Pukekohe, I always preferred Manfeild,” Moir said.

New Zealand Classic Motorcycle Racing Register (NZCMRR) president Ken McGeady, said he was stoked with how the festival went.

“It went extremely well - and we didn’t even advertise it properly. We are not quite as big as some of the car events, but everybody was surprised by the number of spectators.

“There had to be between 800 to 1000 motorbikes [of visitors] in the car park on Sunday alone. I don’t have any total numbers, but I’d say it was probably similar to our last festival at Pukekohe - which was our biggest festival ever.

“So starting off where we left last year is great. There are definitely plans for future development.”

McGeady, who also made the journey to Manfeild from the Waikato, described the festival as a “live museum on wheels” with motorbikes made between 1927 and 1995 on display and on the racetrack.

He said although having to move on from Pukekohe had been tough, the new venue brought along some great opportunities.

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


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