It’s the fourth (and final round) of the 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships in Taupo this weekend and so, in BikesportNZ.com’s occasional “Weekend Wind-back” feature, we turn the clock back 10 years to have a look at what went on at that corresponding event in 2008.
Here we go … back in 2008, the fourth round (of five that year) of the superbike nationals were at Manfeild, on the outskirts of Feilding. The final round was set to be a fortnight later at Pukekohe.
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Anyway, let’s climb in the time machine and head back to 2008, round four of the nationals that year being staged at Manfeild …
AUSSIE MAN BUGDEN DEFENDS NZ SUPERBIKE TITLE
Australian Robbie Bugden successfully defended his 2007 New Zealand Superbike title in 2008 and he did it with two races to spare.
His season-long dominance continued at the fourth of five rounds at Manfeild on Sunday, with back-to-back wins, and the 27-year-old will now not even need to race at Pukekohe’s final round in a fortnight.
“The pressure is off now and I’ll just go to Pukekohe and enjoy the day,” said Bugden, who has been unbeaten thus far in the championship.
“Absolutely I’ll still be going hard at Pukekohe, though. Every time the red light goes out (to signal the start of a race), I go hard and don’t think of anything but winning.”
Though there’s mathematically nothing for Bugden to ride for now, the Suzuki GSX-R1000 rider is determined to turn up and thrill the crowds at Pukekohe anyway and, with the high-speed duelling that’s been seen here all season, the final round promises to be another nailbiter, especially if fellow Suzuki stars Andrew Stroud (Hamilton) and Craig Shirriffs (Feilding) and Australian first-time visitor Gareth Jones (Yamaha) have anything to do with it.
Bugden, Stroud, Jones and Shirriffs have been locked in a four-rider freight train all season and, although it was again Budgen who finished each race in front on Sunday, there was really nothing to separate these men.
Jones was celebrating his 21st birthday at Manfeild on Sunday and came close to giving himself the best present ever, another race win in New Zealand. He had dominated the street racing at Paeroa a week earlier and led for a period during Sunday’s races at Manfeild, but Bugden was eventually too good for them all.
Pride will be on the line at Pukekohe with many-times former champion Stroud determined to put an end to Bugden’s win streak and gain some consolation for what has been for him a particularly brutal season.
“It might have been like the old days (with Stroud winning everything) if Robbie hadn’t been here,” joked Stroud.
“He’s costing me a bit now,” said the 40-year-old father-of-six.
“But I am enjoying the good, clean but hard racing. He’s done better this season because he’s learned our tracks now and he’s just finished a tough season in Australia, while I haven’t been doing anything.
“I’ll be going hard at Pukekohe though,” he said.
It is the second consecutive season that New Zealand’s most prized motorcycling silverware has gone back across the Tasman as hand luggage on Bugden’s flight.
The racing was similarly fierce in the other glamour division, the 600 Sports Production class, with another Suzuki rider edging relentlessly closer to sealing the title at Manfeild.
Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett (Suzuki GSX600) crashed spectacularly while leading the day’s first race but recovered himself to finish 11th. He then battled through to finish runner-up in the next race, run in two parts after it was restarted following a crash.
That was enough for Charlett to maintain a healthy 42-point lead over his nearest challenger this season, fellow Christchurch Suzuki rider James Smith, and it now seems unavoidable now that it will be a Suzuki 1-2 in this class when the series wraps up at Pukekohe on March 9.
Smith finished 2-3 at Manfeild, further cementing himself on the second step of the podium, while Wellington’s Jay Lawrence (Kawasaki ZX-R6) remains third in the series standings.
But the hero of the day in this class was Yamaha’s Midge Smart, the Kiwi-born UK-based rider who won every 600 sports production race on Sunday. Unfortunately for him, injury prevented him from contesting the earlier rounds, although he’s now slotted in at 10th in the series standings after his wins on Sunday.
In the formula three battle, Palmerston North’s Glen Williams (Suzuki SV650) suffered a set-back on his home track, finishing an unaccustomed third overall at Manfeild.
However, Williams still leads the standings, 61 points ahead of new No.2 rider Terry Fitzgerald (New Plymouth, Suzuki SV650), who won the day with a hat-trick of wins.
Blenheim Suzuki rider Stephen Wood slipped back in the standings but he is just two points behind Fitzgerald and it reinforces the likelihood of a Suzuki 1-2-3 in the class this year.
It could be even better for Suzuki in the pro twins class where Auckland’s Karl Morgan (Suzuki SV650) pumped his advantage out to 118 points over fellow Suzuki riders Geoff Booth (Dannevirke), Anthony Stephens (Invercargill) and Alasakan visitor Alan Zitnik.
Morgan already has the class wrapped up but, if it stays like this at Pukekohe, it will be a Suzuki 1-2-3-4 for the pro twins championship.
Each of the three sidecar races at Manfeild were won by Taupo pair Stephen Bron and Dennis Simonsen (Suzuki) and they have now taken over the points lead from Andy Scrivener and Steve Bryan, also from Taupo.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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RESULTS (from 2008):
Provisional results, round four of the 2008 Castrol New Zealand Superbike Championship at Manfeild:
Race One: Robbie Bugden (Australia) Suzuki, 1; Andrew Stroud (Hamilton) Suzuki, 2; Gareth (Australia) Yamaha, 3; Craig Shirriffs (Feilding) Suzuki, 4; Damian Cudlin (Australia) Yamaha, 5.
Race two: Bugden, 1; Stroud, 2; Jones, 3; Shirriffs, 4; Cudlin, 5.
Points after four rounds: Bugden 200, Stroud 138, Jones 134, Shirriffs 116, Cudlin 81.
600 Sports Production:
Race One: Midge Smart (UK) Yamaha,1; James Smith (Christchurch) Suzuki, 2; Matt Sadowski (USA) 2 ; Jason Hulme (Marton) Yamaha, 3; Kyle Key (Tauranga) Suzuki, 4; Dave Sadowski (USA) Yamaha, 4.
Race Two part one: Smart, 1; Charlett, 2; Smith, 3; Matt Sadowski, 4; Nick Cole (Hamilton) Kawasaki, 5.
Race Two part two: Smart, 1; Charlett, 2; Smith, 3; Matt Sadowski, 4; Hulme, 5;
Points after four rounds: Charlett 172.5, Smith 130.5, Lawrence 106, Matt Sadowski 97.5 Hulme 75.
Race One: Terry Fitzgerald (New Plymouth) Suzuki, 1; Glen Williams (Palmerston North) Suzuki, 2; Steven Wood (Blenhiem) Suzuki, 3.
Race Two: Fitzgerald, 1; Wood, 2; Williams, 3.
Race Three: Fitzgerald, 2; Wood, 2; Williams, 3.
Points after four rounds: Williams 262 points, Fitzgerald 203 points, Wood 201 points.
Race One: Karl Morgan (Auckland) Suzuki, 1; David Cook (Taupo) Suzuki, 2; Tom Bos (Christchurch) Kawasaki, 3.
Race Two: Morgan, 1; Bos, 2; Geoff Booth (Dannevirke) Suzuki, 3.
Race Three: Morgan, 1; Cook, 2; Bos, 3.
Points after four rounds: Morgan 300, Booth 182, Stephens168.
Race One: Stephen Bron/ Dennis Simonsen (Taupo), 1; Peter Goodwin/ Dave James (Bay of Islands) LCR Yamaha, 2; Andy Scrivener/ Steve Bryan (Taupo) Sowersby Hyabusa,3.
Race Two: Bron/ Simonsen, 1; Leighton Minnell/ Louise Blythe (Wanganui) LCR, 2; Chris & Ritchie Lawrance (Auckland) Yamaha, 3.
Race Three: Bron / Simonsen, 1; Minnell /Blythe, 2; Scrivener/ Bryan, 3.
Points after four rounds: Bron 195, Scrivener 182, Goodwin 126.
Race One: Jason Easton (Foxton) Honda, 1; Kenneth Jones (Cambridge) Yamaha, 2; James McKay (Hamilton) Honda, 3.
Race two: Cameron Jones (Christchurch) Honda, 1; Tim McArthur (Dunedin) Honda, 2; Easton, 3.
Race Three: Kenneth Jones, 1; Easton, 2; Cameron Jones, 3.
Points after four Rounds: Cameron Jones 238, Tim McArthur 200, Kenneth Jones 153.