A cool head and years of experience paid rich dividends for Waikato’s Andrew Stroud last season and it will be more of the same coolness under fire that sets him up for a win again on Boxing Day.
The Hamilton father-of-eight knows it will be tough for him to march to his third consecutive overall Suzuki International Tri Series victory in the F1 superbike class this weekend but that’s exactly what he is plotting to do.
The public streets of Wanganui will be the battleground for the third and final round of this year’s edition of the series on Boxing Day, a situation that has the 42-year-old Stroud licking his lips.
Though unforgiving and quick to punish mistakes, this track has often been a happy hunting ground for Stroud (Suzuki GSX-R1000).
He was level in the points standings with arch rival Craig Shirriffs, of Feilding, at this point in the contest last season but fellow Suzuki star Shirriffs has not been a feature this time around, his day at Manfeild’s round two last weekend ruined by crashes.
But that doesn’t mean Stroud can afford to relax in Wanganui.
In addition to street-wise Shirriffs determined to salvage some honour from his so-far disastrous 2010 campaign, Stroud will need to be wary of the threats posed by three-time New Zealand superbike champion Robbie Bugden (Suzuki), of Australia, Tauranga’s Sloan Frost (BMW) and fellow Hamilton man Nick Cole (Kawasaki), all of whom have displayed awesome form this season.
“It’s going to be very interesting at Wanganui,” said Cemetery Circuit first-timer Bugden.
“I know Stroud and Shirriffs are extremely fast around those streets and they will definitely be tough to beat,” said the Brisbane 30-year-old.
“This is my fifth season in New Zealand … I love this country … but it will be my first time on the street circuit. I’m going there with an open mind. It is very stop-start and there’s little time to react to things. It’s very fast in places and some corners are blind, so it will be a very big challenge but I’m looking forward to it.”
Wellington’s Glen Skachill (Suzuki) won the Tri Series’ 600cc title and New Plymouth veteran Terry Fitzgerald (Suzuki) won the Formula 3 category last season and they are both ideally placed to defend those titles on Boxing Day.
Italian world No.2 Davide Gozzini (TM) won the under-450cc super motard class last season and he could be expected to wrap it up again on Boxing Day, unless hard chargers Toby Summers (Yamaha), of Auckland, and Wanganui’s Jayden Carrick (Suzuki) can spring a surprise at Wanganui. Meanwhile, Taupo’s Scott Moir (Aprilia) has a narrow six-point lead over Rotorua’s Scott Birch (Aprilia) in the over-450 super moto class.
Christchurch’s John Ross (BMW) leads the Bears (non-Japanese) class by 21 points from Australian visitor Joel Reed (Aprilia) and it would possibly take a miracle for Reed to catch Ross now.
While Wanganui’s Adam Unsworth and Stu Dawe (Honda) won the sidecars title last season, they currently trail fellow Wanganui pair Stephen Bron and Dennis Simonsen (Suzuki) by six points in this year’s edition of the series. A strong performance on Boxing Day could see Unsworth and Dawe turn the tables on their rivals.
Action kicks off early on the Wanganui streets, with practise and qualifying set to begin at 7.45am. The first race proper is due to start at 11am.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com