There is plenty to ride for as the country’s elite motorcycle road-racers head to the Manawatu for the national championships’ grand finale, the fifth and final round, this weekend.
This season’s Castrol Power 1 New Zealand Superbike Championships wind up at Manfeild, just outside Palmerston North, on Sunday and, even though three of the championship titles have already been decided, this weekend’s racing will lack nothing in terms of pace, potency and potential.
Hamilton’s Andrew Stroud, Timaru’s Johnny Small and Tapanui’s Seth Deveraux wrapped up the superbikes, 650 Pro Twins and Prolite 250 titles respectively at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, last weekend.
But the fight continues for the remaining podium spots in those classes and, of course, champions still need to be found in the other bike categories.
Just to add a bit of spice to the event, and as part of the host Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club’s 100 year anniversary celebrations, the overall winner of the superbike class at Manfeild will be awarded a special one-off King of Manfeild trophy.
This will only ever be presented once, so the winner will keep the trophy.
This gives added incentive for Suzuki’s Stroud to perform well on Sunday, not that he ever needs any prompting to do that.
Stroud has been beaten only once in the series this year – Tauranga’s Sloan Frost (BMW) edging him out for the win at a rain-drenched Teretonga, near Invercargill, in February – although there have been plenty of top riders nipping at his heels throughout the contest.
Bay of Plenty’s Frost, Australian pair Robbie Bugden (Suzuki) and Dan Stauffer (Yamaha), Taranaki’s Hayden Fitzgerald (Honda), Hamilton’s Nick Cole (Kawasaki) and Christchurch’s James Smith (Suzuki) have all been close enough to pounce in the superbikes class.
Feilding’s Craig Shirriffs (Suzuki) has had a disappointing season, by his own high standards, and he finds himself down in 12th spot in the superbike standings but he is always a contender for the win at his home track.
Look for fiery battles among the 600cc bike riders as Christchurch pair Dennis Charlett (Suzuki) and John Ross (Yamaha) and Wellington’s Glen Skachill (Suzuki) dispute honours in the supersport category, while a trio of Yamaha men – Auckland’s Jaden Hassan, Inglewood’s Midge Smart and Christchurch’s Eric Oliver-Maxwell — argue over superstock (unmodified) category honours.
A similar three-way fight is set to boil over in the Superlites class with Foxton’s Jason Easton (Aprilia) attempting to keep Suzuki pair Glen Williams, of Palmerston North, and Taranaki’s Terry Fitzgerald at bay.
Rangiora’s Jake Lewis (Honda) has been the dominant force in the 125GP class but he will need to be wary this weekend as Orewa’s Avalon Biddle (Honda) seeks to put herself top of the standings.
Also watch for Christchurch’s Matthew Hoogenboezem (Suzuki) to assert himself in the Streetstock 150 class.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com