A New Zealand sporting title may shortly be heading across the Tasman unless the Kiwis come on strong this weekend.
It is the third round of five in the New Zealand Superbike Championships at Invercargill’s Teretonga Park this weekend and Australian Robbie Bugden is tipped to extend his lead in the premier superbike class.
The Triple R Suzuki team rider from Brisbane – the New Zealand superbike champion for three consecutive years between 2007 and 2009 – has been in blistering form in the opening two rounds and another good day’s racing at Teretonga on Sunday will see him head to the North Island phase of the contest with an unassailable advantage.
Bugden leads Christchurch BMW rider John Ross by more than 30 points and he leads defending nine-times champion Andrew Stroud (David Reid Homes Waikato Mobil 1 Suzuki) by a whopping 38.5 points.
Hamilton’s Stroud realises this weekend is make or break time for him.
Stroud produced a solid showing at Timaru last weekend, bagging second and third place results, but he is still playing catch-up after a nightmare start to the season at Christchurch’s Ruapuna circuit earlier this month.
In the opening race of the round, Stroud suffered fuel problems and was forced to settled for fourth place.
Controversy then struck in the final race of the weekend, which had to be rerun following multiple crashes, which left debris all over the track.
In the rerun, Stroud was able to shoot from last place on the grid to snatch the lead, and eventually claim the chequered flag in a stunning display of racing, but he was later disqualified.
It was deemed he had not completed enough of the abandoned first edition to be eligible to start in the second leg.
“That’s the way the rulebook is. It just took a bit of working out,” he said.
But the 44-year-old father-of-eight is not prepared to concede to Bugden just yet.
“I’ve always liked Teretonga. It’s a great fast, flowing track with plenty of grip. I’ve got some pretty good friends in Invercargill and the fans are always enthusiastic.”
Stroud said he was happy with the speed of his GSXR1000 bike this summer, but conceded they had struggled with the set-up, which had cost them serious time already this year.
He is best known for competing in 41 World Superbike Championship races and also for winning four Battle of the Twins titles at Daytona during the 1990s. He won the inaugural BEARS (non-Japanese bikes) World Championship in 1995.
Stroud said his competitive motorcycling days are winding down and he admitted that next season could be his last.
His 13-year-old son, Jacob, is following in his father’s footsteps and will be racing at Teretonga this weekend in the 150cc streetstock class.
Qualifying for the superbikes will be held on Saturday at Teretonga, with the two superbike championship races being contested on Sunday.
The superbikes share the programme with the 600cc supersport and 600cc superstock classes, as well as races for the Prolite 250, Superlites, 650 Pro Twin, 125 GP and 150 Streetstock categories.
New Zealand Superbike Championship after round two:
1. Robbie Bugden (Australia) Suzuki GSXR 1000 87.5
2. John Ross (Christchurch) BMW 1000 53
3. Andrew Stroud (Hamilton) Suzuki GSXR 1000 49
4. Dan Stauffer (Australia) Yamaha R1 42.5
5. Sloan Frost (Wgtn) BMW 1000RR 41.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com