Now celebrating its third season, the GIXXER Cup series has well and truly established itself as the premier competition for road-racing novices.
First created by Suzuki New Zealand in December 2017 with the aim of providing a starting place and a pathway towards "growing future champions", the GIXXER Cup class was slotted into the Suzuki International Series programme and it proved to be a runaway success.
Many of the young riders who had their first taste of motorcycle road-racing with the inaugural GIXXER Cup contest in 2017 are now out on the track and racing in some of the bigger bike classes – Formula Two and Formula Three, for example – and it probably won't be long before the momentum takes a few of them on through to the elite superbike ranks in years to come.
This year's three-round Suzuki International Series wrapped up on the public streets of Whanganui, the traditional Cemetery Circuit event on Boxing Day and, while some of the GIXXER Cup riders were deemed too young to compete on a street circuit, there were still an astounding 19 riders who did line up to race their Suzuki GSX150F bikes at this post-Christmas event.
Already incredibly popular, the GIXXER Cup this season enjoyed even greater attention from riders and fans alike, thanks to the easing of the age restriction and from the competition welcoming some of New Zealand's greatest current and former champions – including Suzuki's record nine-time former national superbike champion Andrew Stroud – to also line up and race on the nimble GSX150F bikes.
But, surprisingly, it was some of the youngest exponents who shone the most.
Hamilton's Jesse Stroud, the 17-year-old son of Andrew Stroud, was once again the leading rider in the GIXXER Cup, eventually claiming the series win again this year, ending the competition a solid 29 points clear of his nearest threat, Whanganui's Caleb Gilmore, with fellow Whanganui youth Cameron Goldfinch rounding out the series podium.
"I am really happy with how I went. I have lots more confidence this year," said Jesse Stroud, who notched up four wins out of seven races in the series.
"It was great to have my dad racing with me too. Dad beat me in one of the races too."
Suzuki New Zealand's Simon Meade, the general manager of motorcycle, ATV and marine marketing, said the GIXXER Cup competition has been "absolutely fantastic".
"We have achieved what we set out to do, which was basically to get younger riders to come through and to find the talent. The cream always rises to the top.
"They don't get the opportunity to access this sport unless we give these young ones the opportunity like this.
"Opening up the age limit meant we have seen safer racing and better racing, because there are race lines that the older, more-established riders are taking that the younger ones can see and follow. They have cottoned on really quickly and their race craft has improved. There is less crashing and much better riding too."
Other class winners in the Suzuki International Series this year were UK's Richard Cooper (Formula One; Upper Hutt's Rogan Chandler (Formula Two); Taumarunui's Leigh Tidman (Formula Three); Hamilton's Jesse Stroud (GIXXER Cup); Whanganui's Ashley Payne (Formula Sport/Bears, senior); North Shore’s Gui Mendes (Formula Sport/Bears, junior); Hastings’ Gian Louie (Post Classics, Pre 89, senior); Lower Hutt’s Dean Bentley (Post Classics, Pre 89, junior); Auckland’s Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (F1 sidecars); Tauranga’s Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan (F2 sidecars); Whanganui's Bryan Stent and Tracey Bryan (Classic sidecars); Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Supermoto).
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com