It’s been two years since Taranaki’s Hayden Fitzgerald last threw his leg over a superbike, but you wouldn’t have known that by watching him race in Taupo on Sunday.
The 32-year-old new dad showed that his two-year hiatus from the sport was no handicap, taking his Yamaha bikes to finish inside the top six in both the two premier classes at the opening round of the annual Suzuki Series at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park.
Fitzgerald took two years away from the sport as he grieved the loss of his road-racing legend father, Terry, he then got married to his long-time sweetheart Lisa and they started a family, with son Liam now just about to turn one.
But Fitzgerald showed at the weekend he’d not forgotten how to twist a throttle.
Riding a stock-standard bike in the talent-laden Formula One/Superbike class, Fitzgerald took his Yamaha R1 to twice finish seventh, good enough for sixth overall in the class.
He also raced a Yamaha R6 in the Formula Two/600 Supersport class, this time finishing sixth and fifth in the two outings and that was sufficient for him to claim fifth overall for the day.
“It was a good, positive weekend for me,” said Fitzgerald afterwards.
“This was my first race on the new Yamaha bikes and we made a bit of a dent in the job of getting the machines set up for me. I had some good battles with (visiting British rider) James Flitcroft and, although nothing is planned yet, I might consider racing at least two rounds of the nationals now.”
Whakatane’s Tony Rees (Honda) leads the F1/Superbike class after this opening round, one point clear of Wellington’s defending series champion Sloan Frost (Suzuki) with Liechtenstein rider Horst Saiger (Kawasaki) and Taupo’s Scott Moir (Suzuki) third equal.
The Suzuki Series now takes riders to Manfeild for round two this Sunday, December 11, before its traditional Boxing Day finale on the public streets of Whanganui.
The four-round New Zealand Superbike Championships are set to kick off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park (formerly Ruapuna Raceway), on the outskirts of Christchurch on January 7-8, with rounds to follow at Teretonga on January 14-15, Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on February 25-026 and, finally, it all wraps up at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, on March 4-5.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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