Wellington’s Sloan Frost may be national superbike champion and Whakatane’s Tony Rees may be untouchable around the streets of Whanganui’s famous Cemetery Circuit, but neither rider can afford to rest on their laurels.
Riders such as Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam and Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem are waiting in the wings and showed with their Suzuki Series performances that they are ready to pounce for superbike class honours. So too will be Rees’ eldest son, Mitch Rees, and Auckland’s evergreen Ray Clee.
The Suzuki Series was the perfect competition for the latest model bikes to be aired, for new teams to present themselves and for riders to find out where they stand before the serious business of the national championships take their full focus in January, February and March.
This pre-nationals Suzuki Series competition, while light on South Island entries, did still serve as a useful litmus test, to reveal who might have the acid to capture titles in the 2017 New Zealand Superbike Championships, set to kick off with the Mike Pero New Zealand Grand Prix at Ruapuna, Christchurch, on January 7-8.
The second round follows swiftly afterwards, just one week later, at Teretonga, near Invercargill, on January 14-15.
But the question for many will be who can match Bay of Plenty’s Tony Rees?
There was no stopping the Honda-mounted Rees at Whanganui in the Formula One/Superbike class as he clinched the Suzuki Series crown for 2016, although the wonderful F1 debut performance by Auckland youngster Mettam certainly hinted that it will be no walk in the park for defending national champion Frost or for first-time Suzuki Series winner Rees when the four-round series kicks off in just over a week’s time.
Rees had started the final round of the Suzuki Series third in the standings, eight points behind the 2016 series leader and defending series champion Frost (Suzuki) and he was five behind visiting Liechtenstein rider Horst Saiger (Kawasaki), but Whakatane’s Rees was taking no prisoners at the traditional post-Christmas street fight.
Rees qualified fastest, and gained a valuable bonus point for the effort, then proceeded to bank maximum points by winning both Formula One/Superbike races later that afternoon, easily enough for him to surge past both Frost and Saiger in the standings and, for the first time, snatch the series win outright.
To add icing to the cake, Rees then also won the stand-alone Robert Holden Memorial feature race, shattering the track lap record in the process, making it three consecutive victories in this race and a career total of seven Robert Holden race wins.
Rees won the Suzuki Series F1 crown by nine points from Saiger, with Frost forced to settle for third overall, while Taupo’s Scotty Moir and Mettam rounded out the top five.
There were further celebrations too in the Tony Rees camp with his youngest son, 21-year-old Damon Rees, doing enough at Whanganui to wrap up the Suzuki Series Formula Two/600 Supersport class title.
His closest F2 rival, Wainuiomata’s Shane Richardson, narrowly won the day at Whanganui, but Rees twice finished third, behind Richardson and Lower Hutt’s Jay Lawrence, and this was sufficient for Rees to take the F2 crown by four points from Richardson, with Wellington’s Rogan Chandler claiming third overall.
Te Awamutu’s David Hall and Aucklanders Nathanael Diprose, Avalon Biddle, Aaron Hassan and Royd Walker-Holt will also be 600cc class contenders in 2017 and when a few of the South Islanders are added into the mix – riders such as Cam Hudson and Jake Lewis, for example – then the starting grids at the nationals will be overflowing with talent.
Other class winners for the Suzuki Series this year were Pukerua Bay’s Glen Skachill (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 (sidecars).
A live streamed, high-definition show of the New Zealand Grand Prix, capturing all the exciting race action live, be available from 9am on Sunday, January 8, covering all the races from the meeting including the support Bears (non-Japanese bikes) and development classes. The sign-on fee is $12 with Direct link here: LIVE STREAMING
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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