Honda’s Tony Rees may be down, but he won’t be out for long and, besides that, there’s plenty more Rees genetics keen to step forward and keep the team’s flag flying .
The 2017 national superbike champion crashed out at the midway stage of the annual pre-nationals Suzuki Series competition, the broken finger that resulted from that spill also sidelining him from the upcoming four-round national superbike championships.
While that may prevent the 50-year-old Whakatane bike shop owner from defending his national superbike crown, he still fancies his chances of keeping the Rees name etched on New Zealand’s premier road-racing trophy.
His eldest of two road-racing sons, Mitchell Rees, has been something of a revelation this summer.
In just his second season of road-racing and with barely 20 races in total under his wheels, the virtual novice has clinched third overall in the Formula One class in the 2017 Suzuki Series, which wrapped up with the third and final round at Whanganui on Boxing Day Tuesday.
The 24-year-old Rees twice finished sixth on the famous Cemetery Circuit streets circuit at this traditional post-Christmas race meeting, earning himself a podium position for the series, a competition that his father had won the previous season.
While his dad, Tony, and his younger brother, Damon, were both sidelined with injury, Mitch Rees ensured there was still plenty for the Rees camp to smile about.
“It’s disappointing for me, naturally, that I could not defend my Suzuki Series crown and that I’ll also be unable to defend my national superbike championship, but that’s what happens in racing sometimes, ” said Tony Rees.
“It was the year 2000 that I last broke a bone in racing. I got cleaned out in the first corner in one of the races (at the Suzuki Series opener) in Taupo and then I crashed … my own fault really … and had my hand run over by another rider (at round two) at Manfeild. With two DNFs in a six-race series, I didn’t stand a chance of winning it again.
“But I have a replacement now don’t I? I’m very proud of what Mitch had achieved and he’s come on very strong in a very short time.
“Last season was his first ever doing road-racing, so it’s been a pretty steep learning curve, but he’s come close to winning races a few times now. I’m pretty proud of him really.
“Mitch and Damon both learned a lot from racing in Australia this year and they’ve both really gelled with the new-model Honda.”
Rees said he expects to be back in action in six to eight weeks, but, in the meantime, he has “lots still to organise” for Mitch and Damon to tackle the 2018 Australian Superbike Championships, kicking off at Phillips Island in February.
“I’m not sure at what extent Damon will be in terms of fitness by then, but he’s raring to go.
“We shared a pretty remarkable season at the end of 2016 and start of 2017 … father and sons competing together, with me winning the Suzuki Series and then the national superbike crown and Damon winning the 600cc Supersport title at the nationals.
“The boys are very focussed and we have had great support from Honda New Zealand. There’s been a lot of commitment shown by all parties.”
The four-round 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships kick off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch, on January 7, with rounds to follow at Timaru, Hampton Downs and Taupo.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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