There will most likely be a fresh name on the premier trophy when the 2016 New Zealand Superbike Championships wrap up in early March next year.
Motorcycles are being tuned up all around the country in anticipation of another stunning season of road-racing ahead in 2016, although that competition will all be happening without the reigning national superbike champion.
At age 20, Auckland’s Jaden Hassan became one of the youngest ever riders to win the New Zealand superbike championship when he collected the title earlier this year, but he now plans to instead “take a sabbatical and travel overseas”.
The Suzuki rider from Westmere has just turned 21 and he and his girlfriend, Paige, are leaving shortly to travel through Mexico and the United States and he says he definitely won’t be defending his crown.
Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) recently announced the dates for the 2016 New Zealand Superbike Championships and the series will again be spread over four rounds, with three meetings in the South Island and a double-header round in the North Island to wrap it up.
The dates and venues are: Round one at Ruapuna on January 9-10, round two at Teretonga on January 16-17, round three at Levels on January 23-24 and round four at Hampton Downs from March 4-6.
There are several bike class titles to be won, but, with Hassan overseas, the battle for superbike class honours is expected to be between the same riders who chased Hassan to the chequered flag this season.
“I think it will be a battle between Dennis Charlett, Jimmy Smith, John Ross (all from Christchurch) and Sloan Frost (of Wellington),” said Hassan. Charlett is the only one of these riders to have previously won the superbike class title.
“I won’t be defending my title in 2016 and I don’t know whether I’ll be coming back to race again in 2017 either,” said Hassan. “It’s a huge commitment to make and my life plans may have changed by then.”
But the national championships are about more than one rider, or group of riders, in just the glamour 1000cc superbike class, and MNZ road-racing commissioner Greg Percival said he was looking forward to an exciting 2016 series.
“With Hampton Downs now under new ownership, it will be interesting to see if the planned upgrades there will be completed in time for our final round. The full, new, extended track may be ready for us to use by March and that will be exciting.
“We are really looking forward to another great season ahead.
“With three of four rounds being held down south, it may favour the South Island riders, so we have tried to balance things up a little bit by having a double-header final round at Hampton Downs.”
The series boasts 14 races in total for each class.
In other news, Percival said the popularity of twin and single-cylinder 300cc motorcycles has encouraged MNZ to add a “lightweight production class” to the programme next season.
The new class caters for riders of the Honda CBR300R single, Kawasaki Ninja 300 twin, KTM RC390 single and Yamaha R3 twin bikes. The 250cc production bikes would be raced at the same time but scored separately.
“It this way we are following the trend worldwide to cater for these bikes.
“In addition, we have been asked to resurrect the 1000cc street-stock class, a championship class to run alongside the superbikes and also to be scored separately. It is a lower-cost option for those who want to race the bigger capacity bikes and will help boost the size of the superbike starting grid.”
The 1000cc stock bikes will be permitted minimal changes only, to such items as race fairings, exhaust catalytic converters being removed, plus allowing for a slip-on muffler and suspension springs.
“Hopefully this will put more bikes back on to the superbike grid and might even encourage the 600cc guys to move up.”
THE 2016 NZ SUPERBIKES CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR:
Round One: Motorcycling Canterbury, Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Ruapuna, January 9-10, 2016;
Round Two: Southland Motorcycle Club, Teretonga Park Raceway, Teretonga, January 16-17, 2016;
Round Three: South Canterbury Motorcycle Club, Timaru International Motor Raceway, Levels, January 23-24, 2016;
Round Four: Auckland Motorcycle Club, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, Hampton Downs, March 4-6, 2016 (3-day meeting).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here