The second round of three in the popular Suzuki International series in the Manawatu at the weekend would be crucial for all the various title hopefuls, the racing on Saturday and Sunday representing the halfway stage of the competition that would be going on to wrap up with round three on the public streets of Whanganui, the traditional Boxing Day spectacle on the world-famous Cemetery Circuit.
So it was important for all concerned that they made the most of the two days at Manfeild, an opportunity to either cement their series positions or perhaps to enhance them still further.
A first-time road-racer this season, Kuipers arrived at Manfeild ranked eighth overall in the GIXXER Cup class – a “nursery” class created in 2017 with the aim of providing a starting place and a pathway towards “growing future champions”, with all riders astride identical Suzuki GSX150F bikes.
But Kuipers (pictured above, on bike No.33) came on strong early in the weekend at Manfeild.
The just-turned 20-year-old qualified fastest with a scorching time of one minute 35 seconds, to give himself best pick of starting positions on the front row.
He then quickly converted that into maximum points when he won the weekend’s first GIXXER Cup race later that afternoon, finishing ahead of Australian Lachlan Epis and Whanganui’s Caleb Gilmore in a typically frenzied 10-bike jostle across the finish line.
However, the fairytale start did not have a happy ending for Kuipers and he failed to finish the next race, held early on Sunday. He bounced back to finish 11th in the final GIXXER Cup race later that afternoon and settled for ninth overall for the weekend and he remained eighth out of 24 riders in the series standings.
“I have thrashed a road bike up and down the hills near home, which is probably not the best decision at the time, but I experienced my first official road race in June this year,” said Kuipers.
“I had a 600cc bike and had a couple of accidents on it, then a mate of mine said ‘you know, you should probably go back and start on a 150 and learn how to ride properly’, so that’s what I’ve done,” said the apprentice builder.
“At first I thought it was a bit lame to race a 150, but it’s honestly been the best thing for me, learning the lines, race craft and all that. The close racing in the GIOXXERS has been so much fun and the cool thing about the GIXXERS is that we’re all out there on the same bikes. It’s not about who has the best kit or the most money.
“There was a moment coming into the last turn onto the start-finish straight and someone came diving down the inside of me and someone was coming around the outside of me and they were coming closer together and putting me in a sandwich. I had to touch the brakes.
“I was pretty wrapped to get a win, but it was pretty close across the finish line. I didn’t come here expecting to win a race. I just came for the experience and to meet people. The superbike racers that I’m riding alongside have taught me heaps.”
The GIXXER Cup class has typically produced the closest racing on the event programme and should also deliver drama at Whanganui, with as many as a dozen riders bunched up and challenging for the win in all races at both rounds thus far.
Now into its third season, the GIXXER Cup has proven to be a runaway success and it will be impossible to pick a winner this year until the final races are run on Boxing Day.
Currently it is Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud, son of Suzuki’s record nine-time former New Zealand superbike champion Andrew Stroud, who leads this class, 16 points clear of Gilmore, with Epis third overall and Waiuku’s Hamish Simpson and Whanganui’s Luca Durning rounding out the top five.
It’s also worth noting that Whanganui GIXXER Cup racer Lucy Dowman achieved a rarity when she became one of the very few females ever to achieve a solo bike lap record at Manfeild, a position she held briefly on Sunday before Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam eclipsed her later in that same GIXXER Cup race on Sunday.
Dowman will also be racing on the Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day, no doubt again giving the boys a hurry-up.
Meanwhile, the other class leaders after the series’ second round of three at Manfeild are England’s Richard Cooper (Formula One); Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler (Formula Two, 600cc); Taumarunui’s Leigh Tidman (Formula Three); Whanganui’s Ashley Payne (Formula Sport/Bears, senior); North Shore’s Gui Mendes (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); Tauranga’s Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan (F2 sidecars); Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Supermoto).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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