Using an analogy from another sport, if superbike racing was a tennis match, then Bay of Plenty’s Tony Rees is at match point.
Starting the day 18 points in front of fellow Honda rider Alastair Hoogenboezem, of Christchurch, in the premier superbike class, Whakatane’s Rees was in a comfortable position.
But, after round three near Taupo on Sunday, the 49-year-old Rees ended the weekend a massive 42.5 points ahead of the new No.2 rider in the series, defending national champion Sloan Frost, of Wellington.
That means the pressure is off for Rees for the fourth and final round at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, next weekend (March 4-5) and mid-pack finishes will be enough for Rees to add to his title haul this season.
He won his class at the pre-national Suzuki Series in December and also won the Battle of the Streets race meeting at Paeroa a week ago and now Rees looks well on target to win the national title next weekend.
The 4-1-1 score-card he achieved at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park at the weekend has propelled him into an almost unbeatable position.
“The track was very slippery because of the heat,” said Rees. “My aim was to not push too hard because I knew the tyres wouldn’t last.”
It was a amazing six-rider freight-train in the third and final superbike race of the weekend – Rees leading Taupo’s Scotty Moir, Pakuranga’s Daniel Mettam, Manukau’s Toby Summers, Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem and Frost (who was on his back-up bike after he’d won race one but crashed out of race two).
“I tried to be smooth on the throttle. Then I saw my gap back to the others had increased,” said Rees.
“We spent a 15-hour day freshening up the engine before the weekend but still struggled a lot with suspension settings. After Saturday’s first race on Saturday, we made a few changes to the bike’s handling with a firmer front end, forks and tyre, because I’d also crashed the bike during practice on Friday, so we knew it wasn’t quite right. The change made all the difference for racing on Sunday.
“With the championship points advantage I now have, I just have to ride sensibly at Hampton Downs.
“The championship hunt is not over yet, but at least it’s comfortable for me.”
In the 600cc supersport class battles, championship leader Shane Richardson managed to limit the damage as his main title threat, Whakatane’s Damon Rees, the youngest son of Tony Rees, came on strong at Taupo.
Damon Rees qualified fastest and then finished 1-1-2 in the races, while Richardson finished 2-2-1 at Taupo, meaning Rees shaved six points off Richardson’s lead.
But Richardson still leads by a comfortable 20.5 points as they head to Hampton Downs next weekend and a sensible approach there should see Richardson win his first national crown.
“I’m not out of the water yet, but the momentum is back in my favour after winning the last race at Taupo at the weekend). Put it this way, I don’t feel I can relax yet.”
There are now just three more races to go for each class, at the final round at Hampton Downs next weekend, and anything could still be possible.
Other class winners today were: New Plymouth’s Hayden Fitzgerald (superstock 1000); Taurmarunui’s Leigh Tidman (superlite); Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler (superlights); Opunake’s Campbell Grayling (250 production); Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett (pro twins); Christcvhurch’s Matthew Hoogenboezem (125 GP); Ashburton’s Paul Skinner (development seniors); Hastings’ Phillip Lowe (development juniors); Tauranga’s Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan (sidecars).
Class leaders after the third round of four in the nationals:
Superbikes: 1. Tony Rees (Whakatane, Honda) 191.5 points; 2. Sloan Frost (Wellington, Suzuki) 149; 3. Alastair Hoogenboezem (Christchurch, Honda) 140.
1000cc Superstock: 1. Jeremy Holmes (Invercargill, Honda) 190.5; 2. Chris Defiori (Te Kauwhata, Kawasaki) 76; 3. Hayden Fitzgerald (New Plymouth, Yamaha) 73.5.
600 Supersport: 1. Shane Richardson (Wainuiomata, Kawasaki) 202.5; 2. Damon Rees (Whakatane, Honda) 182; 3. Jake Lewis (Rangiora, Triumph) 134.
Superlites: 1. Leigh Tidman (Taumarunui, Yamaha) 188; 2. Gavin Veltmeyer (Auckland, Suzuki) 147; 3. Nathan Jane (Whangaparoa, Yamaha) 134.
Lightweight: 1. Andy McLaughlin (Christchurch, KTM) 188; 2. Sam Goulter (Ashburton, Yamaha) 141.5; 3. Brendan Booth (KTM) 112.
250 Production: 1. Campbell Grayling (Opunake, Kawasaki) 185.5; 2. Rob Gibson (Tauranga, Kawasaki) 152.5; 3. James Squire (Timaru, Kawasaki) 150.
Pro Twins: 1. Dennis Charlett (Christchurch, Suzuki) 228; 2. Josh Augustine (Auckland, Suzuki) 144; 3. Jordan Burley (Hamilton, Suzuki) 133.
125GP: 1. Matthew Hoogenboezem (Christchurch, Honda) 212; 2. Chris Wallinger (Christchurch, Honda) 157; 3. Matthew Reichenbach (Auckland, Honda) 109.
Development class (Senior): 1. Paul Skinner (Ashburton, Kawasaki) 156; 2. Phillip Lowe (Hastings, Suzuki) 153; 3. Vanessa Woodley-Gill (Christchurch, Suzuki) 119.
Development class (Junior): 1. Jacob Pierce 133; 2. Jack Condon 118; 3, Ben Wilson 98.
Sidecars: 1. Spike Taylor (Masterton) and Robbie Shorter (Tauranga) 213; 2. Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan (Tauranga) 175; 3. Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (Albany) 164.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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