A gap is starting to open up at the top of the New Zealand Superbike Championship standings after another scintillating performance from former national champion Sloan Frost at the weekend.
The conclusion of racing at Timaru’s Levels Raceway on Saturday and Sunday marked the halfway stage to the 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships and an end to the South Island section of the calendar.
This probably allows Wellington’s Frost to breathe a little easier as the series now takes a nearly two-month break before the second half of the season, the final two rounds on his preferred North Island tracks.
The Suzuki man had a massive fight on his hands at the opening round of the series in Christchurch a week ago and he emerged from that with a narrow one-point lead over his chief rivals, Whakatane’s Mitch Rees and Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam.
But he came on strong at Timaru at the weekend, qualifying fastest and then scoring a hat-trick of wins, boosting his advantage to 24 points over Honda rider Rees, with Suzuki man Mettam slipping back to third overall, now 15 points behind Rees.
“It has been a tough couple of months for me and we struggled a bit in the (pre-nationals) Suzuki Series, but it’s certainly a huge boost to my confidence getting three wins this weekend,” said the 36-year-old Frost.
Meanwhile, in the 600cc Supersport class, the war intensified between Triumph team-mates James Hoogenboezem and Jake Lewis the two Canterbury men sharing race wins and strengthening their respective positions at the top of the standings.
There was rarely more than a wheel-width between these two men, Lewis winning the first two 600cc races of the weekend, but Hoogenboezem pouncing late to win the third race.
Hoogenboezem has a 10-point lead over Lewis at this halfway stage of the championships, with Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler (Yamaha) holding third position overall, albeit a massive 44 points further back.
There is a new leader in the fledgling GIXXER Cup competition after 20-year-old Pukekohe rider Thomas Newton scored two wins and a runner-up finish at Timaru.
This inaugural GIXXER Cup class is reserved exclusively for riders aged between 14 and 21 years and it is a seven-round affair, the first three rounds having been an integral part of the Suzuki Series pre-nationals competition, which wrapped up on Boxing Day, and it continues on as a feature of the four-round superbike nationals.
Racing at Timaru was therefore considered the fourth of seven rounds, although riders will count only six of the seven rounds, each discarding their worst result.
So Newton is the provisional leader only and it won’t be until after the final round, and riders have their points adjusted, that the trophy winner will be decided.
It wasn’t such a good weekend for local hero Harry Parker, the 17-year-old from Timaru managing only fifth, sixth and seventh in his three GIXXER Cup outings, positioning him seventh overall in the series.
Other class leaders after the weekend’s second round of four in the series are: Tauranga’s Regan Phibbs (Supersport 300); Hamilton’s Jordan Burley (650 Pro Twins); Christchurch’s Nick Cain (250cc Production); Huia’s Nathanael Diprose (Superlites); Rodney’s Blayes Heaven (125GP); and Auckland’s Peter Goodwin and Kendall Dunlop (Sidecars).
Bay of Plenty’s Phibbs won the Allan Ramage Memorial trophy, topping the points ahead of Dunedin’s Josh Goddard and Christchurch’s Andrew McLaughlin in the separate series of three quick-fire races that wound up the weekend.
There will be an extended break now before the championship resumes, with North Waikato hosting round three at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, near Meremere, on March 3-4, before it all wraps up at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo on March 17-18.
The 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships are supported by Honda Cars, providing safety/medical vehicles, Pirelli tyres, Corprint, CTAS and MX Timing and the inaugural GIXXER Cup is supported by Suzuki New Zealand.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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