Australian superbike hero Robbie Bugden will be one of the star attractions in the Suzuki International Tri Series this summer.
The three-round series kicks off this weekend at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, the same battleground where Bugden surrendered his New Zealand No.1 plate to fellow Suzuki star Andrew Stroud last summer.
Stroud won the Tri Series last season and will be looking to retain that crown, starting at Hampton Downs, and at races to follow at Manfeild the following weekend and on the Streets of Wanganui just after Christmas.
Joining Bugden and Stroud in the Suzuki camp this season is Feilding’s Craig Shirriffs, likely to also be a feature this weekend and particularly so on his favourite Cemetery Circuit in Wanganui city on Boxing Day, the third and final round of the Tri Series this time around.
There is a cluster of Australians arriving for the Tri Series this year, including Scott Charlton, Joel Reed, Paul Gaston, Daniel Stauffer, Darren Love and Shane Robinson, as well as Canadian championship No.2 Andrew Nelson.
In addition, Italian superstars David Gozzini and Andrea Occhini will add spice to the 450 Moto class.
Gozzini stunned last year’s crowds with his spectacular sideways riding style on his TM Racing Factory race machine.
This year the 2009 Suzuki Tri-Series Supermoto champion will be even faster because he knows the tracks and arrives in top form after finishing runner-up in the World S1 Supermoto championship just a few weeks ago
Gozzini went into the final round in Spain tied for the lead, but missed out on the world championship by just two points, to team-mate Thomas Chareyre.
Meanwhile, race fans can expect last year’s 600cc sports production champion Nick Cole (Kawasaki) to be a feature on the big bikes this season, along with fellow Hamilton racer Sloan Frost (BMW), Taranaki’s Hayden Fitzgaerald (Honda), Feilding’s Peter Tanner (Aprilia), Hawera’s Nick Prestidge (Ducati), Katikati’s Rhys Holmes (Yamaha), Upper Hutt’s Dion Sellars (BMW), Christchurch’s James Smith (Suzuki) and Palmerston North’s Derek McAdam (Kawasaki), to name a few.
The superbike action doesn’t end there either with the Castrol Power 1 Superbike Championships set to kick off at Levels Raceway, near Timaru, on January 29-30.
Bugden will be riding for Red Fenton’s Triple R Team, racing a Ray Clee-prepared bike.
Bugden finished sixth overall in the 2010 Australian Superbike Championship and is a three-time New Zealand Superbike Champion – taking the main title in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com