Bay of Plenty brothers Damon and Mitch Rees will be looking ahead with confidence to the rest of the summer and well into 2020 too after stunning performances at the first major bike event of the new season.
The Honda duo from Whakatane went to war with visiting British rider Richard Cooper at the first round of three in the big annual Suzuki International Series at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park at the weekend and the Kiwi pair quickly demonstrated they were just as classy as their illustrious rival.
Cooper may have had impressive credentials – the man from Nottingham earning a podium finish at the prestigious North West 200 in Ireland earlier this season – but, at the end of it all, even he had no answer at the weekend for the sheer pace of the younger of the two Rees siblings, 24-year-old Damon Rees.
Damon Rees took his Honda CBR1000SP1 to gain pole position in the glamour Formula One superbike class, setting a blistering qualifying time of one minute 26.8 seconds, and he then roared away to impressive back-to-back wins over the weekend, leading his elder bother across the finish line in race one on Saturday and then besting Cooper in race two the following day.
Cooper’s 3-2 score-card for the weekend gave him the runner-up spot in the F1 class, while Mitch Rees registered 2-4 results and had to settle for third overall, albeit ending the weekend just two points behind Cooper.
“It was a good weekend. I was fast from the start,” Damon Rees smiled.
“I already knew what I was capable of. I had gone under lap record pace here last week, so I knew I was on target to win this weekend.
“But, to be honest, I didn’t think it would go this well. This is my second season on a superbike and I feel I’m riding well.”
The riders now head to Manfeild, on the outskirts of Feilding, for round two in the series this coming weekend (December 14-15).
The series wraps up on the public streets of Whanganui, with the riders tearing around the world-famous Cemetery Circuit, on Boxing Day (Thursday, December 26).
“I like Manfeild and I have the lap record there on a 600cc bike, so I know I can go fast there.
“I have not raced a 1000cc superbike on the Whanganui street circuit, so I’ll be a bit of a rookie there on a superbike. But I’m not too worried, because I love that place so much. When you enjoy racing on a certain track, it makes it a bit easier to go fast.”
Early in the New Year, Damon Rees will head off to the UK to race the British Superbike Championships in the stock 1000 class and that means it will be up to 26-year-old Mitch Rees to fly the family flag in the latter half of the nationals here.
The New Zealand Superbike Championships kick off with two rounds in the South Island, on January 11-12 and then a week later on January 18-19, before taking a month break and resuming at Hampton Downs, in north Waikato, in March.
Damon Rees will race the two South Island rounds of the nationals only, although Mitch Rees will contest the entire five-round domestic series, that competition wrapping up at Taupo in April.
“I have not done a lot of riding lately after spending about 10 months sidelined with injury, so I’m pretty happy with my results here at Taupo this weekend,” said Mitch Rees.
“I’m still working on my fitness. I need to gain strength and lose a bit of weight. When I’m back to full fitness I’ll be even faster. I’m in a good head space heading towards the nationals.
“I didn’t expect to be where I’m at already, going this fast this early in the season.
“The bike is handling really well and I’m feeling confident,” he said.
Other class leaders after round one in Taupo are Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler (Formula Two); Taumarunui’s Leigh Tidman (Formula Three); Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud (GIXXER Cup); Whanganui’s Ashley Payne (Formula Sport/Bears, senior); Palmerston North’s Robert Lammas (Formula Sport/Bears, junior); Napier’s Eddie Kattenberg (Post Classics, Pre 89, senior); Woodville’s Kieren O’Neill (Post Classics, Pre 89, junior); Auckland’s Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (F1 sidecars); France’s Estelle Le Blond and Belgium’s Frank Claeys (F2 sidecars).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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Leading standings after the opening round of the 2019 Suzuki International Series at Taupo at the weekend:
Formula One Superbikes: 1. Whakatane’s Damon Rees 51 points; 2. UK’s Richard Cooper 42; 3. Whakatane’s Mitch Rees 40.
Formula Two (600cc): 1. Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler 45 points; 2. Te Awamutu’s David Hall 44; 3. Palmerston North’s Ashton Hughes 38.
Formula Three: 1. Taumarunui’s Leigh Tidman 51 points; 2. France’s Xavier Denis 42; 3. Clive’s SJ Cavell 38.
GIXXER Cup: 1. Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud 51 points; 2. Australia’s Lachlan Epis 37; 3. Hamilton’s Andrew Stroud 34.
Formula Sport/Bears, senior: 1. Whanganui’s Ashley Payne 48 points; 2. Ngaruawahia’s Steve Bridge 45; 3. Whanganui’s Dwayne Bishop 40.
Formula Sport/Bears, junior: 1. Palmerston North’s Robert Lammas 47 points; 2. Whanganui’s Blane Hannah 45; 3. Auckland’s Gui Mendes 43.
Post Classics, Pre 89, senior: 1. Napier’s Eddie Kattenberg 51 points; 2. Hastings’ Gian Louie 44; 3. Invercargill’s Jon Rawcliffe 38.
Post Classics, Pre 89, junior: 1. Woodville’s Kieren O’Neill 50 points; 2. Auckland’s Scott Findlay 45; 3. Lower Hutt’s Dean Bentley 40.
F1 sidecars: 1. Auckland’s Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop 50 points; 2. Australia’s Jeremy Joyce and Whanganui’s Louise Blythe 39; 3= Auckland’s Chris and Richard Lawrance 38; 3= Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett and Dan Jenkins 38.
F2 sidecars: 1. France’s Estelle Le Blond and Belgium’s Frank Claeys 51 points; 2. Tauranga’s Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan 44; 3. Auckland’s Mark Halls and Darren Prentis 40.
Supermoto: 1. Whanganui’s Richie Dibben 51 points; 2. Tauranga’s Duncan Hart 44; 3. Taumarunui’s Jette Josiah 40.