The New Zealand Superbike Championships go down to the wire at Taupo this weekend.
It had seemed as if Australian Robbie Bugden – who was superbike class champion here three times consecutively between 2007 and 2009 – was going to run away with the crown again this season, snatching it away from defending 2011 champion and nine-time winner Andrew Stroud, but the points were given a massive shake-up at Hampton Downs last weekend and now nothing seems certain at all.
The points standings at the top of the glamour superbike class are now deliciously tight indeed.
Stroud (David Reid Homes Waikato Mobil 1 Suzuki GSX-R1000) was the day’s big winner at Hampton Downs – finishing first in both superbike outings – and he is now just 10.5 points behind Bugden (Triple R Suzuki GSX-R1000) with just the racing at Taupo on Sunday to wrap up the series.
Only fifth in the standings at the start of the day at Hampton Downs, Stroud’s pair of wins have put him right back in the hunt.
Hamilton’s Stroud had suffered a miserable campaign leading up to the weekend, thanks to dirty fuel and a crash at round one in January and his choosing the wrong tyre compound in the wet at round three, but Stroud’s fighting attitude has seen him claw his way from fifth to second in the championship standings.
But Stroud is not counting his chickens just yet and he knows that, realistically, he’ll need another perfect weekend and he’ll possibly also need Bugden to strike a few more problems.
One of those “problems” could come in the form of fellow Australian Dan Stauffer, the Yamaha ace from the Gold Coast who won the season opener but who has significantly been a no-show at the three rounds that followed.
Stauffer will race at Taupo’s finale and could throw a spanner in the works for Bugden or Stroud.
“Even if I can win both races at Taupo, and Robbie (Bugden) finishes second each time, he’d still win the title by half a point,” said Stroud.
“But the championship is wide open again and anything can happen,” said the 44-year-old.
In addition to Stauffer, others fast riders such as Hamilton’s Nick Cole (Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX-10), Wellington’s Sloan Frost (M1 Motorsport BMW 1000RR), Christchurch’s James Smith (Triple R Suzuki GSX-R1000), Auckland’s Ray Clee (Team RCM Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Hawera’s Hayden Fitzgerald (Blue Wing Castrol Honda CBR1000), to name just a few, could jam up the works and make it very hard indeed for any one rider to dominate.
Rain is forecast for the weekend and this could be a deciding factor too.
And there’s more than just the superbikes to catch the attention of race fans. All but one of the championship classes will be decided this weekend.
Where the trophies go for the 600cc Supersport , 600cc Superstock , 650 Pro Twins, Prolite 250cc and 125GP classes are still to be determined.
The Superlite championship was decided last weekend at Hampton Downs when Palmerston North’s Glen Williams (Redpath Greenhouses Suzuki SV650) wrapped up his fourth championship title, but anything could happen in the other categories.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com