The two Whakatane men were eager to add to their impressive points tallies at the second of three rounds in the Suzuki International Series at the Manfeild race circuit, just outside Feilding, on Sunday, keen to continue their respective progress as they tune up for the upcoming New Zealand Superbike Championship season early in the New Year.
And it could not have been any closer between the two Honda CBR1000 stars, the pair well supported in the pits by their multi-time national road-race championship-winning father Tony Rees and also assisted by mum Vicky, the family atmosphere providing incredible warmth and encouragement for the sibling rivals.
Riding with precision, almost as if of rails, the soon-to-turn 28-year-old Mitch and his 25-year-old younger brother Damon battled handlebar-to-handlebar in the first of two Formula One/Superbike races at Manfeild on Sunday, virtually nothing to separate them as they passed the chequered flag 1-2 respectively at the end of the eight-lap thriller.
It was nearly the same in race two as well, although this time series leader Alastair Hoogenboezem (Yamaha) joined in the fray, eventually snatching the win on the last lap and forcing the brothers to accept second and third positions at the flag.
However, with Mitch Rees registering 1-2 results for the weekend, he won the day overall and chewed into Hoogenboezem’s points lead.
Mitch Rees had been 12 points adrift of the Christchurch rider, but he is now only nine points behind with just the final round to come.
The three-round series will wrap up, as it traditionally does, on the public streets of Whanganui, riders tearing around the world-famous Cemetery Circuit, on Boxing Day (Saturday, December 26) and that’s been a happy hunting ground in the past for both Mitch and Damon Rees.
“It was a really good weekend. I actually expected it was going to be a good one for me,” said Mitch Rees.
“Every bike manufacturer has stepped up their game this year, including Honda of course, and the new bike did very well for me.
“Obviously Damon is always a threat and always going to be fast and I would have hated to see what he might have done with the new bike. I’ve got the 2020 model Honda CBR1000 and he was on the 2019 version of the bike.
“There’s a massive difference between the new bike and the older model, mainly in terms of extra horsepower and it’s basically a stock bike.
“I scooted into the lead in race one coming out of the first turn and that’s all she wrote really. Damon was close but I felt I had control of the race.
“In race two I led every lap again, except the most important last one,” he laughed.
“Hoogenboezem got me on the last lap and I could have done something to get him back but my goal for the weekend was to finish top-five and to get on the podium was obviously awesome … finishing second in that race was enough for me to be on the top of the podium, so it wasn’t worth risking everything on that last lap.
“I’ve only had three days of riding on this new bike, so if we can keep progressing with settings, getting as much data as we can, we can improve even more.
“If all goes well for me at Whanganui, I could win the series. Obviously Scotty Moir (Suzuki rider from Taupo) is going well too, so I can’t take anything for granted. But I am feeling pretty confident ahead of the nationals.”
Class leaders after the second of three rounds in the 2020 Suzuki International Series are Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem (Formula One); Rangiora’s Avalon Biddle (Formula Two); Nikau Valley’s Richard Markham-Barrett (Formula Three); Wellington’s Malcolm Bielski (Bears Senior); Whanganui’s Blane Hannah (Bears Junior); Levin’s Justin Maunder (GIXXER 150 Cup); Hastings’ Gian Louie (Post Classics, pre-89 Senior); Ngaruawahia’s Steve Bridge (Post Classics, pre-89 Junior); Tauranga’s Barry Smith and Stu Dawe (F1 Sidecars); Albany’s Mark Halls and Michelle MacLean (F2 Sidecars); Taumarunui’s Jette Josiah (Super Motard); Timaru’s Harry Parker (Supersport 300).
A third rider in the Rees Honda Racing Team, Taupiri’s Zak Fuller, also shone out at Manfeild, the teenager finishing the weekend runner-up in the Formula Two/600cc class.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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