With the preliminary battles now out of the way, it sets up the Boxing Day finale for another sensational afternoon of high-octane bike action.
Suzuki team-mates Daniel Mettam, Scotty Moir and Sloan Frost, along with Honda’s Mitch Rees, Yamaha’s Hayden Fitzgerald and Kawasaki’s Glen Skachill went head-to-head in pursuit of Formula One class glory at the second round of three in the 2017 Suzuki Series at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding on Sunday.
There was virtually nothing between them at the end of the day, just 11 points to separate the top five F1 riders at Manfeild, and there is everything to fight for as they now head to the public streets of Whanganui for the third and final round of the Suzuki Series on Boxing Day.
Bay of Plenty’s Moir dominated the opening round of the popular annual series on his home track at Taupo a week ago and the 33-year-old Suzuki star managed to maintain his F1 class lead after he bravely fought to achieve a 4-3 score-card at Manfeild on Sunday.
But the day really belonged to fellow Suzuki team rider Mettam, who finished 1-2 in the two F1 outings at Manfeild.
Those results mean Glen Eden’s Mettam has surged up the series standings, from fourth overall and a distant 16 points behind Moir, the 21-year-old Mettam is now second-equal, level with Rees, the two men just seven points adrift of Moir.
A third Team Suzuki rider, Wellington’s former national superbike champion Frost, qualified fastest in the F1 class early on Sunday, but he then struck trouble in the opening F1 race, missing a gear change and running off the track. He managed to recover from last position to claim tenth at the chequered flag, but the slip-up was costly and the 2015 Suzuki Series winner now has only a remote chance of claiming the main trophy this year.
However, it was certainly some consolation for Frost when he bounced back to win the day’s second F1 race, edging out Mettam, with Moir third across the line in a thrilling Suzuki 1-2-3 finish.
“I had a big crash at Taupo and now my first-race incident here means that the (chance of winning the) series has gone for me now,” said the 36-year-old Frost.
“We made a few changes to the bike after race one and that seemed to do the trick. I’m certainly happy to get a race win.”
Mettam said he was “gutted” he couldn’t win both F1 races at Manfeild.
“I think the organisers made a mistake and cut the race short by two laps.
“I was getting a pit signal that there were three laps to go when the white (last-lap) flag was shown. The F1 class races were eight laps at Taupo but supposed to be 10 laps here at Manfeild. I would have had a go at passing Sloan (Frost) with two laps to go, but the chequered flag came out.
“I started the day fourth in the standings, but now I’m up to second, so I can’t complain too much.”
It was a “good solid weekend” for Moir, who was grateful to still be leading the title chase after a “scary moment” in race one.
“I was lucky to finish that first race,” said Moir.
“I was in the lead when I high-sided and got flicked high off the bike seat. I managed to save it and not crash, but I was dropped back to eighth. Then I overshot a corner while trying to catch up and lost three more places. These were simply mistakes and I had nobody to blame but myself.”
For Moir to fight his way back to eventually finish fourth in that race speaks volumes for the man’s talent.
Sadly, the series lost its defending champion, Whakatane’s Tony Rees (Honda).
The multi-time former Cemetery Circuit winner and national superbike champion crashed out in the first of the weekend’s two F1 races.
With a broken right wrist, it rules the 50-year-old out of the Suzuki Series and also from defending his national superbike crown, with that four-round championship kicking off in Christchurch in just three weeks’ time.
His 24-year-old son Mitch, however, continued to wave the flag for the team, finishing second and fourth on Sunday. He remains in trophy contention, now second equal with Mettam in the series standings.
Meanwhile, the newly-created GIXXER Cup class, set aside for riders aged between 14 and 21 and all on identical Suzuki GSX150F bikes, continued to thrill the large crowds following the series.
The class has a new leader after Hamilton’s round one winner Jesse Stroud crashed heavily during his qualifying session in the Formula Three class. He was taken to hospital for a check-up and took no further part in the day’s racing.
Paeroa’s Blake Ross finished 1-2 on Sunday and he now leads the GIXXER Cup standings, seven points ahead of the “West Coast Warrior”, 14-year-old Greymouth rider Clark Fountain, with Whanganui’s Tarbon Walker, Invercargill’s Michael Wilson and Pukekohe’s Thomas Newton completing the top five.
As well as being an integral part of the three-round Suzuki Series, the GIXXER Cup grade of competition will also be a feature of the four-round 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships, beginning at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch, on January 6-7, with rounds to follow at Timaru, Hampton Downs and Taupo.
Riders will count six of seven rounds from these two separate competitions, discarding points from their one worst round, to determine the inaugural GIXXER Cup champion for 2017-18.
The third and final round of the 2017 Suzuki Series is set for the public streets of Whanganui, the famous Cemetery Circuit, on Boxing Day.
Other class leaders after round two of the Suzuki Series are:
Wainuiomata’s Shane Richardson (Formula Two); Auckland’s Nathanael Diprose (Formula Three); Paeroa’s Blake Ross (GIXXER Cup); Lower Hutt’s Glen Skachill (Post Classics Pre-89, senior); Lower Hutt’s Dean Bentley (Post Classics Pre-89, junior); Whanganui’s Dwayne Bishop (Bears, senior); Hamilton’s Zurrin Wiki (Bears, junior); Tauranga pair Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan (sidecars, F1); UK pair Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes (sidecars, F2); Whanganui’s Richard Dibben (Super Motard).
Leading standings after round two in this year’s annual Suzuki Tri-Series:
Formula one: 1. Scott Moir (Taupo, Suzuki) 89 points; 2. Daniel Mettam (Glen Eden, Suzuki) 82; 3. Mitchell Rees (Whakatane, Honda) 82.
Formula two: 1. Shane Richardson (Wainuiomata, Kawasaki) 98; 2. Rogan Chandler (Upper Hutt, Yamaha) 79; 3. Avalon Biddle (Orewa, Kawasaki) 70.
Formula three: 1. Nathanael Diprose (Auckland, Suzuki) 102; 2. Gavin Veltmeyer (Auckland, Suzuki) 84; 3. Ashley Payne (Whanganui, Suzuki) 64.
GIXXER Cup: 1. Blake Ross (Paeroa, Suzuki) 83; 2. Clark Fountain (Greymouth, Suzuki) 76; 3. Tarbon Walker (Whanganui, Suzuki) 70.
Post Classics Pre-89 (senior, over-600cc): 1. Glen Skachill (Lower Hutt, Bimota) 102; 2. Matt Eggleton (Rotorua, Yamaha) 88; 3. S.J. Cavell (Napier, Yamaha) 80.
Post Classics Pre-89 (junior, under-600cc): 1. Dean Bentley (Lower Hutt, Yamaha) 98; 2. Scott Findlay (Auckland, Kawasaki) 92; 3. Terry Moran (Wellington, Kawasaki) 78.
Bears (senior): 1. Dwayne Bishop (Whanganui, Aprilia) 87; 2. Steve Bridge (Ngaruawahia, Ducati) 80; 3. Eddie Kattenberg (Te Awanga, Ducati) 72.
Bears (junior): 1. Zurrin Wiki (Hamilton, Triumph) 102; 2. Glen Eggleton (Rotorua, Ducati) 76; Robert Lammas (Palmerston North, Triumph) 72.
Super Motard: 1. Richard Dibben (Whanganui, Honda) 102; 2. Duncan Hart (Tauranga, Yamaha) 88; 3. Aden Brown (Whanganui, Suzuki) 76.
Sidecars (F1): 1. Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan (Tauranga, LCR) 102; 2. Adam Unsworth and Bryce Rose (Auckland, Windle Honda) 81; 3. Chris and Richard Lawrance (Auckland, LCR Suzuki) 68.
Sidecars (F2): 1. Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes (UK, LCR Honda) 77; 2. Tony Baker and Shelly Smithies (Penrith, UK, Baker Suzuki) 65; 3. Corey Winter and Whitham (Whanganui, DMR600) 49.5.
Full results can be found HERE
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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