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Today marks the start of the 4 day Burt Munro Challenge in the deep south of New Zealand. Motorbike enthusiasts congregate to race and gather with fellow enthusiasts to honour the memory of The Worlds Fastest Indian.

You don't have to be a Kiwi, a motorbike fan or someone who has attended the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to appreciate the greatness of Burt Munro.

He was born in 1899 in the small country town of Edendale, not far from the city of Invercargill. I wrote about the winter I spent in that southern city and know the area well.  Burt Munro bought his first motorcycle age 15 and owned his first Indian Scout in 1920. It was this bike he would modify and race for the rest of his life.

 

 

 After setting a number of New Zealand land speed records in the 1940s and 1950s his next goal was to compete at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, United States. His first trip to Bonneville as a competitor was in 1962 (Burt was 63) and there he set a land speed record of 178.97mph. He travelled there a further 8 times to compete and set two more world records. His 1967 record of 183.58mph still stands today, and on this trip he also managed to hit 190.07mph during a qualifying run which is the fastest ever recorded speed on an Indian motorcycle. Burt Munro was an extraordinary character that represents real and positive kiwi attributes such as ingenuity, dogged determination, and a laid back and humorous demeanour. " source

I have relatives who still live in Invercargill and also the neighbouring Catlins, where one of the Rally events is being held. Apparently, according to my relo, the rally is in full swing with heaps of bikes everywhere. " It is raining of course,  always does for this rally!  They switched from November to Feb for more settled weather, still not fine,  last year was flooding...but it hasn't dampened the spirits. "

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Following the success of the 2005 movie about Burt Munro’s inspirational life - “The World’s Fastest Indian”, the Southland Motorcycle Club created the Burt Munro Challenge to honour Burt, his ingenuity, determination, and love of speed and motorcycles.

The inaugural event was held in 2006, and it has since forged a name for itself as one of New Zealand’s major motorsport events. It has a strong local & national following, and rapidly growing international interest. It attracts top New Zealand riders as well as all the weekend warriors, all provided with a variety of exciting events, fantastic entertainment, and famous southern hospitality.

1280px 1920 Indian Scout Land Speed Record Motorcycle 14605496828

This is not a replica from the movie, the Worlds Fastest Indian, this is the actual bike that Burt Munro built and broke that Land Speed Record for motorcycles under 1000cc.He held many New Zealand speed records, eventually taking it to the Bonneville Salt Flats in the US and broke the land speed record for motorcycles with engines under 1000cc 20 August 1962: 883 cc class record of 178.971 mph. 22 August 1966: 1,000 cc class record of 168.066 mph. 26 August 1967: 1,000 cc class record of 183.586 mph. His basic story was used in the 2005 movie the Worlds Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins as Burt Munro. Behind this bike, in the same showcase is his earlier record breaking bike, his 1936 Velocette 500cc, now 650cc, 12.2 second qtr mile at 138.8 mph, probably the worlds fastest Velocette! Photographed in Invercargill, New Zealand

 

 

  What is it about this man and the movie made to honour him, that Rally that keeps his name alive... what is it that is so magical? 

For me, I found myself smiling for the first time in ages. His story was about hope, belief in doing the impossible. It was a story of camaraderie, optimism and simple enjoyment of life. 

It was about an ordinary man who lived an ordinary life in an ordinary town and did some extraordinary things. 

In today's news cycle of perpetual misery, doom gloom and depression, I hope that this wee article about a happy event celebrating a genuinely amazing man will bring a smile to your face as well.

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Of course, this article wouldn't be about Burt unless I mentioned the lemon tree. Every little kiwi lad knows about peeing on a lemon tree. My own brothers got sent out to the lemon tree on many occasions. It's a well known tradition. 

 

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Burt Munro: Oh yes, ah, you can pee on my lemon tree for me if you like, while I'm away. And ah… (looks at Tom who is shaking his head vigorously). Well, there's nothing wrong with peeing on your lemon tree. As Confucius used to say, it's the best natural fertiliser in the world.
Tom: Who's Confucius?
Burt Munro: Oh, he's some bloke who lives up in Dunedin. 

 

 

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