If this year’s Motul Six-Hour motorcycle endurance race at Hampton Downs could be considered a litmus test for the coming road-racing season, then it’s going to be another scorcher this summer.
A total of 30 three-rider teams signed up to race at this season’s third annual edition of the popular endurance event on Sunday and, when the chequered flag waved at about 4.30pm, the Suzuki New Zealand trio of Daniel Mettam, Sloan Frost and Scotty Moir were way out in front and the only combination to complete 314 laps in the six hours.
It was a comprehensive start-to-finish victory after the team had first topped the qualifying table and then shot away quickest from the Le Mans (run-to-the-bikes) start just before 10.30am on Sunday.
The lead increased slightly each hour as first Mettam, then Frost and then Moir each took turns on their new Suzuki GSX-R1000A model bikes, with the eventual two-lap winning margin equal to an advantage of more than two minutes.
The runner-up trio on Sunday was the M1 Motorsport team comprising Manukau’s Toby Summers (Kawasaki ZX10R), Orewa’s Avalon Biddle (Kawasaki ZX6R) and Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem (BMW S1000RR), crossing the finish line two laps behind, while the Honda DNA team of Whakatane’s Tony Rees, his son Mitch Rees and Invercargill’s Jeremy Holmes (each of them on Honda CBR1000RR bikes) claimed third overall, another six laps further back.
Tony Rees was perhaps lucky just to be able to race on Sunday after he accidentally gulped a mouthful of engine coolant from an unmarked bottle, thinking it was water. After vomiting up the contents of his stomach, the 49-year-old eventually made it out on to the track and gave a typically inspired performance as the team fought back through the pack after Holmes had crashed early in the race.
Riders in these three leading teams will clash again as individuals when the popular annual pre-nationals Suzuki Tri-Series kicks off at Taupo on December 10, and then in the four-round New Zealand Superbike Championship series that follows, beginning at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, in Christchurch, on January 6-7.
Round three of the nationals will be held at Hampton Downs in March and so technical adjustments made during Sunday’s racing will no doubt form the basis of machine tuning for that event.
Sunday’s result was doubly significant for Mettam because it meant he became the first rider to win this race a second time – he had teamed with fellow Aucklanders Summers and Connor London to win the inaugural running of the event in 2015.
“I knew we were going quicker than the other teams today, but I had to try and manage my pace and not push too hard, to go easy on fuel and tyres,” 21-year-old Glen Eden bike mechanic Mettam said afterwards.
“It was a good test for us with the new bike. We have lots of data now, so we can really move forward with our settings.”
Taupo man Moir said he too “went easy at first to conserve tyres, but then I got told to hurry it up”.
“The tyres were deteriorating near the end but, honestly, I didn’t feel unsafe on the track,” said the 32-year-old.
“We had to have shorter stints on the bike than some of the other teams because our bikes are quite thirsty for fuel, although it also meant we had plenty of power. Fuel consumption won’t be an issue with the shorter duration races in the nationals.”
Frost was thrilled that the team was able to work so well together.
“I think we showed on the track today that we’ll be a force to be reckoned with again this season,” said the 36-year-old refrigeration engineer from Wellington.
“This new model bike is great. We have only had it about a month now and so this race was a great way to get some valuable track time on it.”
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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