And so will begin the battle to find the nation’s best motorcycle road racers across half a dozen separate bike categories.
Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem may be the defending national superbike champion and Whakatane’s Mitch Rees may have ruled the 1000cc class during the three-round pre-nationals series in December, but neither rider can afford to rest on their laurels.
Riders such as Taupo’s national No.2 Scott Moir, Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam, Rangiora’s Jake Lewis and Wellington’s Sloan Frost are poised to strike, along with Whanganui duo Richie Dibben and Jayden Carrick.
The pre-nationals Suzuki International Series in December was the perfect competition for the latest model bikes to be aired, for new teams to present themselves and for riders to find out where they stand before the serious business of the nationals.
The four-round 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships kick off with the Underground Brown-sponsored opening round at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, at Ruapuna, Christchurch, this Saturday and Sunday, January 9-10, with the FabTech and Trust Aoraki-sponsored second round following swiftly afterwards, just one week later, at Levels International Raceway, near Timaru, on January 16-17.
There is a month-long break after this South Island phase of the series, with racing set to resume in the North Island, with the Mike Pero-sponsored MotoFest, round three at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, near Meremere, on March 6-7, before wrapping up with round four at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on March 13-14.
The Supersport 600 class will also be fizzing this season, the competition in December highlighting a few names to watch for in 2021, perhaps Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler most of all. Chandler dominated the 600cc racing pre-season.
Rangiora’s Avalon Biddle and Taupiri’s Zak Fuller should also be 600cc class contenders in 2021 and, when a few of the South Islanders are added into the mix – riders such as Christchurch trio Dale Finch (pictured above), Jacob Pearce and Nick Cain, for example – it’s obvious the starting grids for the nationals will be overflowing with talent.
The Supersport 300 class should be another bubbling cauldron, with riders such as Whangarei’s Jason Hearn, Sanson’s Shane Miller, Christchurch trio Tyrone Kuipers, Andy McLaughlin and Caleb Gilmore, Timaru’s Harry Parker, Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan, Auckland’s Alastair Wilton and Feilding’s Justin Maunder among the likely stand-outs.
This is a growth area for the sport, where riders will develop and hone their craft, possibly to later become champions on 600cc and 1000cc machines.
Motorcycling New Zealand road-race commissioner Grant Ramage said he was looking forward to what he expects will be another closely-fought season.
“It’s almost impossible to predict class winners, such is the depth of talent we have in this country,” he said. “We know also that, now unrestrained by pandemic lock-down conditions, the riders will be thrilled to be able to commit and express themselves on the race track as best they know how.”
He said he was grateful also for the support the road-race community was again receiving from New Zealand businesses and from the wider community too.
The various other classes in the nationals this year are: Superbike B (support class), Supersport 300, 250 Production (support class, round one only), 650 Pro Twin, GIXXER Cup 150, Supersport 150 and Sidecars.
The 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships are supported by Sky Sport Next, Aon Insurance, Pirelli, Trust Aoraki, Redpath, CTAS, MX Timing, BikesportNZ.com and commentators Neil and Brad Ritchie.
2021 NZ Superbike Championships calendar:
Round 1 – January 9-10, Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch;
Round 2 – January 16-17, Levels International Raceway, Timaru;
Round 3 – March 6-7, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, North Waikato, Mike Pero MotoFest;
Round 4 – March 13-14, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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