A mix-up with the flag signals at Invercargill may yet have a long-term impact on this year’s national superbike championship.
There was a tinge of controversy to the weekend’s racing at the weekend’s second round of five in this year’s Castrol Power 1 New Zealand Superbike Championships at Invercargill’s Teretonga circuit when the white “last lap” flag was not shown to the race and championship leader, Suzuki’s Andrew Stroud, at the end of the prescribed 14 laps.
Instead it was waved after the 15th lap and, soon after that, there was a new man in front, defending champion Robbie Bugden (Suzuki).
Stroud had won the day’s first 15-lap superbike race, finishing ahead of Australian Budgen and Christchurch’s James Smith (Suzuki).
But Brisbane rider Bugden fought back in race two — Bugden, Stroud and Feilding’s Craig Shirriffs (Honda) battling furiously in a three-way fight at the front.
When race leader Stroud had a “moment at the hairpin” on the “extra” lap 16, Bugden pounced and crossed the line first.
After much deliberation, Bugden’s win was confirmed and it was an extremely disappointed Stroud who left the track at day’s end, his championship lead still intact, but with Bugden now up to second in the title chase, albeit still 13 points behind Stroud.
Bugden will have renewed confidence as the riders head to round three at Timaru’s Levels circuit next weekend.
“It has been recommended to me that I could protest this (flagging mistake),” said Stroud.
“The same thing happened in a 125GP race on Saturday and they wound it back to the rider order on the previous lap. I filled out a protest form but then drew a line through the whole lot.
“I always race to the flag and to the spirit of racing, so I’ve left the situation as it is and I’m not protesting.
“I’ll just carry on as it is and aim to finish in front of Robbie at the next rounds.
“I blew it in that second race. On the lap I went in too hot in the last corner before the flag and overshot the bend and lost all my drive coming out.
“But I’m still feeling confident. The Brother Suzuki is great and the Pirelli tyres are fantastic.
“I know a lot of the crowd are wanting to see the title come back to New Zealand (after Bugden has won it the past three seasons), and I hope I can satisfy their wants.”
Meanwhile, in the 600cc sports production class, a new leader emerged as all the stunning riding displayed by Hamilton’s Nick Cole (Kawasaki) in the series first three races was undone by mechanical failure in the fourth race of the championship on Sunday.
Though unbeaten in the class after three races — Cole celebrating two impressive wins in the class at round one in Christchurch and also running away with the first race at Teretonga — the Waikato rider now finds himself second in the championships standings, six points behind Smith.
A dual class campaigner, Smith is also currently in third spot, just eight points behind Bugden, in the superbikes class.
Leading standings after round two of the Castrol Power 1 New Zealand Superbike Championships at Teretonga, Invercargill, on Sunday:
Andrew Stroud (Hamilton, Suzuki) 83 points;
Robbie Bugden (Australia, Suzuki) 70;
James Smith (Christchurch, Suzuki) 62.
600cc Sports Production:
James Smith (Christchurch, Suzuki) 81 points;
Nick Cole (Hamilton, Kawasaki) 75;
John Ross (Christchurch, Yamaha) 65.
Alastair Hoogenboezem (Christchurch, Honda) 150 points;
Tim McArthur (Dunedin, Honda) 96;
Jaden Hassan (Auckland, Yamaha) 82.
Glen Williams (Palmerston North, Suzuki) 129 points;
Terry Fitzgerald (New Plymouth, Suzuki) 121;
Jason Easton (Palmerston North, Aprilia) 113.
650 Pro Twin:
Geoff Booth (Dannevirke, Suzuki) 135 points;
James Hoogenboezem (Christchurch, Suzuki) 117;
Jason Cameron (Kaiapoi, Suzuki) 103;
John Crawford (Invercargill, Suzuki) 125 points;
Trevor Chapman (Christchurch, KTM) 102;
Darcy Prendergast (Ashburton, Honda) 99.
Jarred Pyke (Timaru, Kawasaki) 127 points;
Stephen Winteringham (Invercargill, Suzuki) 70;
Phil Denovan (Suzuki) 64.
Johnny Small (Timaru, Suzuki) 126 points;
Seth Devereaux (Tapanui, Kawasaki) 112;
Anthony Singer (Canterbury, Suzuki) 90.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com