A 10-point surplus turned into a 26-point deficit for defending national superbike champion Sloan Frost at the weekend, but the Suzuki man is still putting on a brave face.
The Wellington refrigeration engineer and father-of-three suffered a disastrous weekend at the second of four rounds of the New Zealand Superbike Championships near Invercargill on Saturday and Sunday.
It was certainly a mixed bag of results for Frost on the track at Teretonga, the 35-year-old qualifying his Fujitsu Heatpumps TSS Red Baron Suzuki GSX-R1000 fastest to secure pole position ahead of race one on Saturday.
But Frost was then beaten across the finish line in that first race, Whakatane’s Tony Rees taking the win by less than half a second from the Suzuki hero.
It was a bitter blow for Frost and he regrouped for race two the next day and attacked again, although this time he found himself locked in a high-speed freight train of four riders battling for the lead and, to make matters worse, Frost’s helmet visor was fogging up.
Rees won again, this time ahead of Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem and Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam, with a visibility-impaired Frost forced to accept fourth place as the chequered flag flew.
So close was the racing that there was less than three seconds between these top four finishers.
The weekend’s third and final superbike race was Frost’s last chance to make amends, but a desperate last-lap lunge to pass race leaders Rees and Hoogenboezem ended in disaster with Frost crashing out.
The resulting non-finish has proved costly, with Frost losing points for a top-three finish – anywhere between 16 and 25 points – and he’s slipped back to third overall in the championship chase, 26 points behind new leader Rees and eight behind Hoogenboezem.
Fellow Suzuki rider Mettam, who was the 600cc Supersport class champion last season, is still fourth overall, 27 points adrift of Frost.
With his favoured North Island tracks next on the schedule, Frost is determined to fight back.
Round three is set for Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on February 25-26, with the fourth and final round at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, on March 4-5.
With six superbike class races left to run – three at each of these two remaining events – and 150 points on offer, anything could still be possible.
“I’m not holding anything back,” said Frost. “I’ve been first in qualifying at both rounds so far, but congratulations to Tony (Rees) and Al (Hoogenboezem) … they’re riding strong. But I’m not going to accept third place for this championship.
“I struggled at bit at Teretonga with the bike wanting to wheelie out of every corner and so then the front wheel was catching the wind. The bike is great and I couldn’t be happier. I guess it’s just so powerful.
“My whole game plan in the last race was to make a pass on the last lap, but it didn’t work out. I was hurt a little bit, but it’s nothing too serious and I’ll be fine for Taupo.
“I love the Taupo and Hampton Downs tracks and I’ve been on lap record pace there. I will just work now on being as prepared as I can be and, although I guess I’m now in the position of underdog, I’ll just ride as hard as I know how in every race that’s left.”
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here