The result was perhaps highly appropriate too, because the motorcycling weekend had been billed as “Ride with Rees – a weekend with Tony Rees”, with the tagline “celebrating a New Zealand champion”.
It was an action-packed two days of activity at the popular Taupo road-racing facility.
Saturday was the second of five Honda Ride Days being staged this season and offered an opportunity to ride with and learn from multi-time national superbike champion Tony Rees, 2018 national superbike No.2 Mitch Rees and also the younger sibling too, 2017 national 600cc supersport champion Damon Rees.
The activities on Saturday were a perfect lead-in to the racing proper on Sunday – a two-hour endurance race for under-600cc bikes and a three-hour endurance race for bikes over 600cc – and also included an entertaining drinks and dinner evening with Tony Rees and fellow superbike legend Aaron Slight on Saturday night.
However, the following morning and it all became a little more serious, with riders keen to use the separate endurance races as part of their warming up regimen for the upcoming road-race season, set to kick off at Taupo with the annual three-round Suzuki Series on December 9, followed by the five-round nationals that will start at Ruapuna, in Christchurch, on January 5-6.
Local favourite Scott Moir (Suzuki) was the fastest off the start line after the shotgun blast had signalled the start to Sunday’s premier three-hour race, but 25-year-old Whakatane man Mitch Rees (Honda) wasted no time, hunting down the Taupo man and snatching the lead near the end of the first of what would eventually become a 104-lap affair.
The Moir and Daniel Mettam (Glen Eden, Suzuki) rider combination ended up slipping to third position at the 90-minute (half-race) distance and eventually settled for fourth overall at the chequered flag.
Meanwhile, the Sloan Frost (Wellington, Suzuki) and Bailie Perriton (Asburton, Suzuki) pairing fought their way through to claim the runners-up spot, while 23-year-old Damon Rees, co-riding with Manukau’s Toby Summers, earned third step on the podium.
All those leading riders were on 1000cc bikes, apart from Summers, who raced a 600cc Kawasaki.
Hamilton’s Jordan Burley and Greymouth’s Ashton Hughes, both riding 675cc Triumph motorcycles, claimed fifth overall, finishing two laps behind the Moir/Mettam combo.
“My team-mate Mitch (Rees) produced faster lap times than me and Sloan Frost showed a bit of pace too, pegging me back near the end of the race, but also I was conserving my tyres at that stage and not wanting to take any risks,” said Tony Rees.
“I didn’t want to throw away all the good work and just did what was needed to win it. This weekend was my first time racing since I crashed and injured myself at Manfeild last December, so I wasn’t exactly race fit anyway,” said the 50-year-old from Whakatane.
“The weekend was not really about winning this race. For me, it was just important to see people enjoying themselves and the fantastic racing was a bonus.”
Co-winners of the earlier two-hour, under-600cc race were Whangamata’s Ben Rosendaal (Yamaha) and Auckland’s Matt Dunlop (Suzuki), crossing the finish line nearly a minute ahead of rival team Michael Patchett (Auckland, Suzuki) and Alex Butson (Kawakawa, Suzuki).
“It was a good turn-out for the ride day on Saturday. It was popular and I think the success of the weekend means there will likely be a few more entries in the endurance races next year too,” said Tony Rees.
Rees heads off to Australia shortly, where he will revert to the role of manager/mechanic for his two sons while they both compete in the seventh and final round of the Australian Superbike Championships at Phillip Island, near Melbourne.
“Damon is running fourth overall in the 600cc supersport class in Australia, while Mitch is running 15th in the superbike class, despite missing a round of the series. Mitch finished ninth at the previous round and we’ll be looking for another good result.”
It was interesting to note that, in addition to the father-and-son Rees family appearances on the Taupo race track, there were two other father-and-son combinations at the weekend, with commentator Neil Ritchie sharing duties on the microphone with son Brad and Clerk of the Course Chris Costello sharing officialdom duties with his son, Liam.
After the weekend’s two-day extravaganza at Taupo, the Honda Track Days will continue with three separate events at Hampton Downs – on December 1, February 23 and April 27.
The Rees Racing Team is supported by Blue Wing Honda, Carl Cox Motorsport, Darbi Accessories, Pirelli, K-Tech Suspension, BikesportNZ.com and Tony Rees Motorcycles.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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