Whakatane racer Tony Rees knows how to get the most out of a motorcycle, but even he was surprised at what he has achieved this summer.
Racing Yamaha R1, former national champion Rees entered just the final two rounds of the five-round New Zealand Superbike Championships this season and yet he still ran away with the Open Stock Production title, the series wrapping up at the new Hampton Downs circuit, near Meremere, on Sunday.
This class was a battle-within-a-battle with the stock bikes like those of Rees and fellow Whakatane racer Reece Pickett (Yamaha) lined up alongside the fully “tweaked” superbikes of men such as Andrew Stroud (Suzuki) and Australian international Robbie Bugden (Suzuki).
Even so, time and again Rees found himself in the thick of the action, trading places with the souped-up superbikes in the top half of the field.
“The Tony Rees Motorcycles race team headed north from Whakatane at the weekend, keen to get the Yamaha R1 on the new track to cut some laps, “ said Rees. “We were hoping to get the SuperStock R1Yamaha right amongst the higher-spec Superbikes, just to show what you can do without spending a small fortune.
“The fastest lap I did in qualifying was good enough for sixth overall on the grid and first for the Open Stock Production bike class.
“Race one on Sunday was 15 laps and, due to the high track temperatures, it was pretty hard on the rear tyre. But a good start meant a great finish with me coming home fifth overall and in first place in the stock classification.
“Race two was also for the New Zealand TT title and a full 20-lap race. With another good start, it gave me a chance to have a good run with the Superbikes only giving away a little bit of straight-line speed.
“With five laps to go, it was getting pretty slippery with the rear tyre crying ‘enough’ and I had to back off to make it to the finish line for another pretty good finish, sixth overall and first again in the stock rankings.”
Pickett finished the series in the No.2 spot, with Christchurch’s Brent Hall (Suzuki) rounding out the Open Stock Production class podium.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com