The 31-year-old’s first foray into Superbikes will be the upcoming Suzuki Series – round one at Taupō is scheduled for December 6, round two at Manfeild is a week later, and the final round is on the Cemetery Circuit in Whanganui on Boxing Day.
While the series can only run under COVID-19 alert Level 1 or better, the global pandemic may prevent international stars from competing and even make life difficult for Kiwi stars Damon Rees and Shane Richardson to return from Britain to compete in the series.
Both top-level F1 riders are in Britain to race in the BSB Superstock series and it is unclear whether they will even contemplate returning home for the summer events.
That gives Dibben, fellow Whanganui F1 racer Jayden Carrick and other Kiwi hopefuls a serious shot at the title without international interference.
Dibben, a multiple Suzuki Series super motard class champion who had his first full season in the F2 Supersport 600 class last summer, easily won the title at the truncated New Zealand Superbike Championships that were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
Dibben had made such an impact on the Supersport 600 class there is little doubt he would have won even without coronavirus lockdown.
Three of the five rounds of the 2020 New Zealand Superbike Championships had been completed before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the final two rounds to be postponed.
A nationwide lockdown was then imposed, and while the competitors continued their training regimens as best they could behind closed doors, most of them anticipated a resumption of the series later in the year.
But a Motorcycling NZ announcement soon came confirming the series had “been called”.
Dibben received news he had won his class while lying on his couch at home on his 31st birthday.
It was no hollow victory for Dibben – just confirmation he was the best rider in his class for 2020.
In all, the Suzuki star won five of the nine races – three races at each of the three rounds that were run – and he finished runner-up in each of the other four races.
In addition to that, he qualified his Suzuki GSX-R600 fastest, therefore earning pole position, at two of those three events.
Dibben is the star turn in the Barracks Sports Bar Racing Team, while a new rider has joined the stable this season. Luca Durning, 16-year-old son of Whanganui dentist Adam Durning, will ride Dibben’s Suzuki GSXR 600 in the Supersport F2 series. Durning has risen from the GIXXER class.
Meanwhile, Mick Paul, co-owner of Barracks Sports Bar along with life partner Denise Vincent, has bought Suzuki GSXR 1000 machines for Dibben’s debut F1 season and with just one practice run under the belt, things are shaping well.
Former national Superbike champion and Dibben’s mentor Brian Bernard said his protege had posted sensational times at Manfeild just last weekend on a 1000cc machine not yet set-up for the lightweight rider.
“Richie went out on a bike we’ve bought from another rider,” Bernard said.
“It was set up for someone probably 25kg heavier than Richie and he posted some really good times around Manfeild. I have sent it away to get the suspension set up for Richie and hopefully we’ll have it back for another session around Manfeild this weekend.”
Dibben said he felt comfortable on the new machine last weekend even though the set-up had yet to be completed.
“It felt great to have a wee squirt around Manfeild, way more power than the 600, but that’s what I love – the faster the better,” Dibben said.
“Once we get the set-up right, we’ll be away. I hope it doesn’t take too long to adjust to F1. Some take a few seasons, while others adjust straight away.”
Suzuki Series promoter Allan “Flea” Willacy is predicting close racing this summer without the international stars.
Words courtesy Iain Hyndman
Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here