Superbike star Dennis Charlett is upset that his main championship rival will not be able to race in the final round of the series starting at Manfeild tomorrow.
Christchurch racer Charlett heads into the double-header meeting with a 24-point lead over Hamilton’s Nick Cole. With five races over the weekend, and a win worth 25 points, fans were hoping to see a battle royal as each strived to win the top title for the first time.
But Cole and his Kawasaki will not be there – he is in hospital as the result of an assault in Taupo on Sunday night.
“I’m very disappointed,” Charlett, who had won two of the three previous rounds on his Suzuki, said after testing at the track today. “I was looking forward to the showdown.”
He knows he still needs good finishes to clinch the title, no easy task in a highly competitive field.
“I’ll just put it out of my mind and keep on doing what we do and do the best we can and if I’m in front that’ll be good,” he said.
“I definitely feel more comfortable here than I did at Taupo last weekend; I’ve done a lot more laps around here.”
The meeting sees one race for each class tomorrow, then two each on Saturday and Sunday. One of the Sunday races is a long one, 20 laps.
“That’ll weed out the fit ones from the not-so-fit ones,” Charlett, who is extremely fit himself, said.
Cole‘s withdrawal leaves Charlett with an effective 47-point lead over Taupo rider Scott Moir. Moir won a race at Taupo and so did Wellington’s Sloan Frost, also on a Suzuki.
The depth of strength in New Zealand racing is now such that any of about 10 riders are capable of racing right at the front.
The fierce competition over the last seven seasons between nine-times champion Andrew Stroud and Australian Robbie Bugden has forced the rest to lift their game. Now Stroud has retired and Bugden is not here this season, and the field is wide-open.
Christchurch rider James Smith, who races for Honda, is also a race-winner this season. Fast Australian Linden Magee, on a BMW, adds an international flavour to the championship and other riders expected to be dicing at the front include Tony Rees (Whakatane, Honda), Ryan Hampton (Christchurch, Honda) and four more Suzuki racers – Craig Shirriffs (Feilding), Hayden Fitzgerald (Taranaki), Ray Clee (Kumeu) and Jaden Hassan (Auckland).
Hassan, 19, is in his first Superbike season after showing great speed in 600cc Supersport. He has not taken long to get the hang of the high-power Superbike and posted a fourth and fifth at Taupo.
In Supersport defending champion John Ross (Christchurch, Suzuki) enjoys a 28-point lead over Toby Summers (Taupo, Yamaha) with young Alastair Hoogenboezem (Christchurch, Suzuki) not much further back. Ross will have to keep his pace up to clinch the title as the hard-riding Hoogenboezem won two races at Taupo and Summers one.
Leaders in other championship classes are: Superlite, Hayden Fitzgerald (Taranaki, Suzuki); Pro Twins, Royd Walker-Holt (Kawakawa) Suzuki; 125 GP, Tyler Lincoln (Hawke’s Bay, Honda); 250 Production, Bailie Perriton (Ashburton, Kawasaki); and Sidecars, Spike Taylor-Astrid Hartnell (Masterton, LCR).
Superbike class championship points:
Dennis Charlett (Christchurch, Suzuki) 157, Nick Cole (Hamilton, Kawasaki) 133, Scott Moir (Taupo, Suzuki) 110, Sloan Frost (Wellington, Suzuki) 94, James Smith (Christchurch, Honda) 79.
© Words by Bernard Carpinter
© Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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