Nobody wants to let Bay of Plenty man Tony Rees grow old gracefully, but he’s only got himself to blame for that.
Even at the age of 49, the multi-time former national motorcycling champion from Whakatane was again a leading contender for the premier national superbike crown this season, time and again leading the younger brigade of horsepower jockeys around New Zealand’s famous race tracks and showing them just how fast a 1000cc Honda could go.
Rees will celebrate his 50th birthday in November, but he’s giving no thought to retiring just yet.
For the coming 2017 Tri Series, starting in Taupo on December 10, and the four-round 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships, starting at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, in Christchurch, on January 6-7, Rees will roll to the start line with one of the new Honda CBR1000SP1 superbikes and just the thought of that brings a massive smile to his face.
“I’m so grateful to Honda for all the support they’ve shown,” said Rees. “It is quite motivating to get a new bike too … it was actually a 2013-model bike that I raced at the nationals in March.”
For a 50-year-old to be considered a contender for New Zealand’s glamour superbike crown is one thing, but to be battling alongside his own children in the races is quite something else and that’s what will happen this summer.
Also racing on identical Honda CBR1000SP1 superbikes will be his two sons, 24-year-old Mitchell Rees and 22-year-old Damon Rees.
Damon Rees won the New Zealand 600cc supersport title this season and is looking forward to stepping up to the 1000cc version of the bike in December. Mitchell Rees made his superbike class debut last season and finished a creditable sixth overall, but this summer will be the first time that all three men will be on the same starting grid.
“I’ve got the passion, I’ve still got the ability and I’ve got the bikes to get the job done … so why would I quit now?” laughed Tony Rees.
“I was originally just going to be on the sideline to assist my boys, but I was talked into giving it another crack myself and why not?
In preparation for his novice year in the superbike class, Damon has been building up his strength and experience in recent months by tackling some of the best riders across the Tasman.
He missed the opening round of the Australian superbike nationals “because of a clash of dates”, but raced with success at rounds two, three and four, before crashing out of the fifth round of seven at Morgan Park Raceway, south of Toowoomba, just over a week ago.
It means he’ll now be sidelined with injury for several weeks, but expects to be fully fit and raring to go again by the start of December.
“When the nationals finished here (in New Zealand), we decided to take Damon to Australia,” said Tony. “We bought and old bike and got an engine from a wrecker and put together a low-budget campaign.
“The bike was nothing too flash, but he was quickly featuring in the top 10 and was making good progress before the crash.
“I think he impressed a few people, because everyone there could see he was doing it on a shoestring. Brother Mitch was booked to head across and support him and so, with Damon now sidelined, Mitch will take his place at round six (at Sydney Motorsport Park) this weekend.”
Meanwhile, the Rees trio are taking nothing for granted ahead of the New Zealand summer season.
“I’m expecting good competition (for the superbike title) from Sloan Frost, Alastair Hoogenboezem (Christchurch), Jayden Carrick (Whanganui), Hayden Fitzgerald (New Plymouth), Daniel Mettam (Pakuranga) and Taupo’s Scotty Moir, among others, so I’m expecting it will be pretty hot on the track again this summer,” said Honda team patriarch Tony Rees.
© Words and main photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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