Kawasaki’s Horst Saiger won the annual Suzuki Series on debut in New Zealand in 2014, and came agonisingly close to winning it again last season, only to be denied at the final hurdle.
But the man from Liechtenstein is back in New Zealand this summer and up to his same old tricks on his the Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R, winning both the premier Formula One/Superbike races at the second of three rounds in the series at Manfeild on Sunday and setting himself up for another glorious finish when the series wraps up on the streets of Whanganui on Boxing Day.
The pre-nationals series kicked into life at a sun-baked Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park near Taupo a week ago and carried on, this time under rain clouds, with more cut-and-thrust racing at Manawatu’s Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, on the outskirts of Feilding, on Sunday.
Saiger qualified second fastest at Manfeild, just a nudge over 100th of a second slower than defending series champion and national superbike champion Sloan Frost, of Wellington.
But when race time arrived, it was a fiercely determined Saiger who took to the track, out-braking his rivals and grabbing the lead and both race wins with clinical passes each time.
It was a modest Saiger who chatted after his win in race one, the decisive pass on Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam coming late in the race.
“I think I was just a bit lucky,” said the 45-year-old. “The other rider made a mistake, otherwise there would have been no way past.
“We made some minor adjustments to the bike because I was struggling to find grip on the track,” said Saiger.
It seemed to make a difference because in race two he snatched the lead from Mettam on the second lap and never looked back.
The back-to-back wins allowed Saiger to zip up from third equal to second in the series standings, while two runner-up finishes were enough for Frost on take over the series lead.
Just three points separate Frost and Saiger as the riders now take a two-week break before the Boxing Day showdown.
Whakatane’s Tony Rees (Honda CBR100RR) had led the series standings in this class after round one in Taupo and, although he didn’t have a disastrous day at Manfeild – finishing fourth in both the F1 races – he has slipped back to third overall, albeit still only five points behind Saiger and just eight adrift of Frost.
Meanwhile, in the Formula Two/600cc supersport class, the distinctive green Kawasaki in the hands of Wainuiomata’s Shane Richardson was to the fore at Manfeild, although Whakatane’s Damon Rees holds a solid points advantage as the riders head to Whanganui.
Richardson qualified his ZX6R fastest at Manfeild, and gained a valuable point for that achievement, but it was 21-year-old Rees who won the two races, Richardson settling for runner-up position both times.
Rees (Honda CBR600RR) leads Richardson by 12 points with just two 600cc class races to come at Boxing Day’s finale.
“Anything could still happen at Whanganui,” said Richardson, the irony of that statement not lost on the 21-year-old joiner as he recalls his disastrous outing at Whanganui last season when he crashed in the first of the two 600cc races and, with that, he slipped from first to an eventual third in the series standings.
“I’ll still be fighting hard and, who knows, a couple of race wins at Whanganui could change everything,” he said.
Other class leaders after racing on Sunday are Taumarunui’s Leigh Tidman (F3/sport bikes); Tauranga’s Duncan Hart (super motard); Tauranga’s Colin MacGregor (Bears, non-Japanese bikes, seniors); Bulls’ Ashton Hughes (Bears, non-Japanese bikes, juniors); Pukerua Bay’s Glen Skachill (Post Classic, Pre-89, senior); Auckland’s Scott Findlay (Post Classic, Pre-89, junior); UK’s John Holden and Tauranga’s Robbie Shorter equal first with and Te Puke’s Barry Smith and Tauranga’s Tracey Bryan.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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