Australian Robbie Bugden won’t be sitting back and taking it lightly in Invercargill this weekend.
The Suzuki rider from Brisbane has won the New Zealand Superbike title for the past three seasons, winning the title last year by a solid 29 points over fellow Suzuki man Andrew Stroud, of Hamilton.
But now the boot is on the other foot and it’s the Kiwi who is on top after the series opener at Christchurch on Sunday — Stroud leads fellow Hamilton rider Sloan Frost by two points, with defending champ Bugden back in fifth spot overall and 13 points behind Stroud.
But the series has a long way to go yet and the action is only just starting to warm up.
It’s round two on Invercargill’s Teretonga race track this weekend, followed by Timaru’s Levels race track the following Sunday. Then the riders head north to round four at Feilding’s Manfeild circuit and, finally, the new track at Hampton Downs, near Meremere.
So a lot is likely to happen before the championship reaches Hampton Downs on March 28 and Bugden has plans to catch and overtake the four men ahead of him.
Bugden’s race team manager, Peter ‘Red’ Fenton, is confident his man can do the job.
“Robbie always goes very strong at Teretonga and I’m sure he will get amongst it and come away from there with the gap a lot closer.
“We always go out to win and that’s what we’ll be trying to do this weekend.”
Bugden’s team-mate, Christchurch’s James Smith, is enjoying his debut season in the superbikes class and he is currently third in the standings. Smith is also racing in the 600cc sports production class and hoping to improve upon his runner-up finish of last season.
That might be a difficult proposition, though, for Smith, after the stunning performance of Hamilton’s Nick Cole (Kawasaki) at round one.
Cole looked comfortable in winning both 600cc races at Christchurch and he has a solid 10-point lead over Smith and 21-point gap over third-ranked John Ross (Christchurch, Yamaha) after that opening round.
Racing is also close in the other classes with more exciting action expected in the formula three, pro twins, sidecars, 125GP, super motard and street-stock categories.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com