Back-to-back race wins have propelled Australian Robbie Bugden to the top of the standings in this year’s New Zealand Superbike Championships.
The Suzuki star from Brisbane was unstoppable at the second round of five in the series at Levels Raceway, near Timaru, on Sunday, giving him a massive 34.5-points lead over his nearest rival for the title, Christchurch rider John Ross (BMW 1000).
Bugden (Triple R Suzuki GSX-R1000) now looks well on track to regain the Kiwi crown he last held for three consecutive seasons between 2007 and 2009.
Defending national superbike champion Andrew Stroud, on the David Reid Homes Waikato Mobil 1 Suzuki GSX-R1000, also had a productive day at Levels but, after a difficult opening round at Christchurch’s Ruapuna Park a week earlier, he looks resigned to playing catch-up all series long.
Hamilton’s Stroud finished 2-3 at Levels and has rocketed from a distant ninth to third overall, albeit still 38.5 points behind Bugden.
“It was a perfect day really. Everything came together for me today,” said Bugden.
“Both race wins were pretty comfortable and I feel I could have stepped up the pace some more if I had needed to.”
With Bugden sounding as confident as that, the writing may already be on the wall for this year’s championship, although Triple R team boss Red Fenton was keeping the champagne bottle firmly corked.
“One non-finish can stuff everything up, so it’s too early yet to be counting our chickens,” he said.
“We have already had a DNF (in the split second race at Ruapuna week ago) and we’re just fortunate that other riders have had major problems too, so we can take nothing for granted.
“I won’t be entirely happy until Robbie has the cup in his hands.”
Round three is set for Teretonga Park, Invercargill, next weekend with the series then heading north for the final two rounds in the North Island, at Hampton Downs on March 18 and at Taupo on March 25.
The battle for 600cc class honours remains very tight indeed with dual-class campaigner Ross taking his Suzuki GSX-R600 to 1-3 results at Levels, just enough to shade arch rival Dennis Charlett (Avon Suzuki GSX-R600) by a single point on Sunday.
Defending 600 supersport champion Charlett twice finished runner-up on Sunday and, from being first equal with Ross after round one, he has now slipped to second, although just one point behind Ross.
The 600cc championship is shaping up for a fiery drawn-out series-long battle between these two Christchurch men.
Wellington’s Glen Skachill (Suzuki GSX-R600) came on strong to share 600 supersport honours on the day at Levels – finishing 3-1 in the two races – and he remains third in the championship standings.
Meanwhile, Rangiora’s Jake Lewis (Yamaha) continues to lead the 600 superstock class, while Palmerston North’s Glenn Williams (Suzuki) heads the supalite class; Ashburton’s Bryan Hill (Suzuki) leads the Pro Twins class; Paraparaumu’s Sam Croft (Kawasaki) leads the Prolites category; Christchurch’s Phil Denovan (Suzuki) leads the Senior Streetstock class; Auckland’s La Sale Carr (Suzuki) leads the Junior Streetstock class and young Malaysian rider Amirul Azmi (Honda) continued his unbeaten run at Timaru to consolidate his position at the top of the 125GP class.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com