The first big motorcycle road race of the season is this weekend, it is set to be a ripper and the riders can’t wait to get amongst the action.
The third annual Motul Six-Hour endurance race is set for Hampton Downs on Sunday and Suzuki team-mates Sloan Frost, Daniel Mettam and Scotty Moir are one team in particular that believes they have the goods to win the main trophy.
Last year’s winning combo – the father and sons trio Tony, Mitch and Damon Rees (Honda CBR1000SP1) – are also among the more fancied line-ups for Sunday’s big endurance race, although it is expected to be more than just a two-team battle, with a solid list of top teams entered.
There is no doubt that all the teams entered believe that they have the machinery, the speed and the experience to get them to the finish and, hopefully, a place on the podium too.
“It will be our first big hit-out of the season and our first time out on the new Suzuki GSX-R1000A model bikes too,” said Wellington’s Frost.
“We have really had no time to test the new bikes before this event, so it will be an ideal opportunity to break them in. I have been racing the same model bike in Australia this year, so I am already familiar with it, and I like what I’ve been experiencing.
“I feel this bike is a huge step up from the previous model and, in terms of set-up, there’s not much you need to do to it to make it a race winner.”
In fact, the bike has already placed on the podium at national championship level this year with Victorian Josh Waters wrapping up the 2017 Australian Superbike Championships on an identical GSX-R1000A at the seventh and final round at Phillip Island recently.
Frost confirmed that he, Glen Eden’s Mettam and Taupo’s Moir would each be on identical bikes for the Motul Six-Hour, fine tuned by Henderson engine guru Ray Clee.
As a previous winner of the race, Mettam brings valuable experience to this year’s campaign. Moir also raced the event previously, in 2016, but it will be a first for Frost.
“As much as we do things separately during the season, it will be massive to be able to pool resources and chase the win together,” said Frost.
First held in 2015 – as a re-introduction of motorcycle endurance racing to New Zealand – the inaugural Motul Six-hour attracted a diverse range of riders and machines.
Running in teams of three riders and three motorcycles – in what is, in effect, a tag-team relay race – each rider is required to complete a specified amount of track time within the six-hour duration.
“We can only use one set of tyres each for the race duration, so that’s going to make things interesting too,” said Frost.
“We usually put fresh tyres on the bikes for every 20-minute outing in the national championship races and these tyres are going to have to last for three times as long, for two hours or more.
“It could all come down to what tyre compound we decide to use and how well we ride the bike, keeping it smooth with the throttle and avoiding wheel-spin. These bikes are very powerful, so they eat up tyres unless you’re careful.
“I think that having efficient fuel stops and rider change-overs will be important too. It’s going to be exciting.”
Winners of this race in 2015 were the experienced trio of Mettam, Connor London (Suzuki) and Toby Summers (Kawasaki), while the winners last year were Whakatane’s Rees family combination.
This arduous race will no doubt also help prepare the riders for the pre-nationals Suzuki Tri-Series, starting next month, and then the four-round 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships that follow in January and March.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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