It was edge-of-the-seat stuff for the riders and for the spectators too as three or four riders cut and thrust for an advantage on the race track in each of the three superbike races held over Saturday and Sunday, Timaru’s Levels International Raceway the host venue for this second round of five in the Yamaha-sponsored 2020 New Zealand Superbike Championships.
In the end, there was room only for three riders on the podium and it was Whakatane’s Damon Rees (Honda), visiting Australian rider Lachlan Epis (Suzuki) and Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem (Yamaha) who claimed those coveted top spots.
Taupo’s Scott Moir (Suzuki), Wellington’s Sloan Frost (Suzuki) and Rees’ elder brother Mitch Rees (Honda) rounded out the top six in the superbikes class at Timaru.
Championship leader Damon Rees also smashed the superbike lap record at Timaru, in his first race on Saturday, taking his Honda CBR1000SP1 to set a blistering time of one minute 2.529 seconds.
Sadly, Rees won’t be able to win the national title this summer.
Timaru was his farewell performance at home and he shortly heads off to tackle the British Superstock 1000 championships, therefore committed overseas while the Kiwi domestic series continues on without him, the latter three rounds of the championships set for the North Island in March and April.
It’s interesting to note that his father, Tony Rees, was the previous Honda winner of the premier title, winning the Superbikes class crown in 2017.
With Damon Rees gone, however, it means the scrap for the 2020 superbike class crown could become even more intense, with just 33 points to separate the next four riders in the standings after round two – Hoogenboezem, Epis, Rangiora’s Jake Lewis (Yamaha) and Taupo’s Scott Moir (Suzuki).
“It wasn’t a perfect weekend, actually … I didn’t get the fastest time in qualifying,” he laughed.
“But I’m happy with my results and feeling really confident ahead of my overseas trip.”
He leaves in late February and will be based in the East Midlands.
“I believe I’m riding the best of my career and felt I was able to pass riders at will. I think I might need to develop a bit more of a mongrel attitude in the UK though. It will be more intense over there.”
Rees was a class act at Timaru, snatching the lead in race three just two laps from the end of the 15-lapper, zipping from third to first in two quick-fire passes on the riders ahead of him.
“That last race win was not easy,” Rees admitted. “Those guys were pushing really hard and I just bided my time a bit before making the move and it paid off. The Honda was awesome all weekend.”
It was a similar story of high intensity too in the other classes, with multiple race leaders and constant positional changes right through the racing in all classes, the two-day affair at Timaru dishing up unrivalled motorsports entertainment.
The series will almost certainly go right down to the wire at the final round in April and there’s a lot that could still happen between now and then.
No rider can afford to rest on his or her laurels, although there is a short break now before the series resumes with round three at Hampton Downs on March 7-8 and then the nationals continue on at Manfeild, on the outskirts of Feilding, on March 28-29, before wrapping up at Taupo on April 4-5.
Motorcycling New Zealand road-race commissioner Grant Ramage said it was “an absolutely awesome weekend of racing” at Timaru.
“The conditions were perfect … the track surface was good and there were no dramas,” he said.
“The points tallies in every class were given a bit of a shake-up at Timaru, with different riders standing out this week (from the previous week at round one in Christchurch), and there really are no clear leaders in so many of the classes. The championship titles are still wide open and that’s great for the competition going forward.”
Class leaders after the weekend’s second round of racing at Timaru are Rees (Superbikes, Honda); Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Supersport 600, Suzuki); Whangarei’s Jason Hearn (Supersport 300, Yamaha, provisional); Whangaparoa’s Nathan Jane (650 Pro Twins, Suzuki); Taupo’s Andy Scrivener and Tina McKeown (Sidecars); Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 150, Yamaha) and Nelson’s Tyrone Kuipers (GIXXER Cup 150, Suzuki).
Meanwhile, Timaru’s Harry Parker (Yamaha) repeated his Allan Ramage Memorial trophy success from 2019 by winning the special tribute event for a second time on Sunday.
He scored 1-2-1 results to take the memorial race honours ahead of Auckland’s Nathanael Diprose (KTM) and Hamilton’s Jacob Stroud (KTM) in the separate series of three quick-fire, three-lap races that wound up the weekend. The threesome shared the race wins – Diprose finished 3-2-1 in the three memorial races, while Stroud finished 1-4-4.
Entries for the Allan Ramage Memorial races were by invitation only, comprising the fastest 12 qualifiers from the Supersport 300cc class.
The 2020 New Zealand Superbike Championships are supported by Yamaha New Zealand, Aon Insurance, ICG and Pirelli, Trust Aoraki, Blue Wing Honda, NZ Racing Board, Timaru District Council, Bike Rider Magazine and Sky Sport Next.
2020 NZ Superbike Championships calendar:
Round 1 – January 11-12, Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch;
Round 2 – January 18-19, Levels International Raceway, Timaru;
Round 3 – March 7-8, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, North Waikato, Mike Pero MotoFest;
Round 4 – March 28-29, Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild, Feilding;
Round 5 – April 4-5, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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