Sibling rivalry doesn’t get any more fierce than this, but it was probably always going to be a double Honda and Rees family celebration when the 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships wrapped up in Taupo at the weekend.
Reduced from four rounds to three because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the final showdown for the 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK) series at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park at the weekend became a fantastic history-making occasion for the high-powered and high-profile Rees Honda Racing Team.
Whakatane brothers Damon and Mitch Rees (both riding Honda CBR1000 bikes) were respectively first and second in the premier Superbike class standings after January’s two South Island rounds, the two sibling rivals first and second respectively and separated by just 16.5 points and well on target to make it a Honda 1-2 at the top of this premier class.
And after the first two of three superbike races at Taupo and with just one more clash to come, they were still the top dogs but they’d swapped positions and it was now elder brother Mitch in charge, 10.5 points ahead of Damon.
In the end, Mitch Rees’ 1-1-2 results over the weekend were enough to earn him the coveted title, the 28-year-old eventually winning it by 14.5 points from Damon Rees, who suffered brake problems in race two at Taupo, when he was forced to nurse his bike to an unaccustomed eighth placing, but his 3-8-3 score-card for the weekend was still enough to see him seal the runner-up spot overall.
Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem (Yamaha) came on strong at Taupo and climbed from fourth to third in the standings, his 2-2-1 score-card at Taupo earning him the final podium position.
With Mitch Rees winning his first national road-racing crown, and in the premier class no less, he followed in his 53-year-old father Tony’s wheel-tracks.
Motorcycling New Zealand Hall of Fame inductee Tony Rees was national superbike champion three times (in 2017, 2005 and 2001) and was also national open sports production champion three times (in 1997, 1998 and 1999). This is in addition to him claiming numerous race wins in the street racing environment, Tony Rees many times the top man around Whanganui’s fabled Cemetery Circuit and a multiple champion at the now-defunct Battle Of The Streets events in Paeroa.
But Mitch Rees’ crowning glory on Sunday was also the first time that both a father and son had clinched a New Zealand superbike championship title.
“It was a fantastic weekend,” said Mitch Rees afterwards. “Got pole and won the first two races. I knew what the mathematics were, although I obviously would have liked to win every race. To be fair, I was a bit lucky too because Damo had a really bad weekend.
“The bike was good in a vast range of set-ups for us here this weekend. Obviously Damo deserved to win the championship too, but only one rider can win and I stepped up this weekend and got the job done.
“I’ll be back on the new Honda Fireblade again next season to try to defend the title.”
It was a case of mixed emotions for his 25-year-old brother Damon, happy for his brother but obviously also disappointed to miss out on winning the title that could have been his this year, and also possibly could have been his last year too (he won five races from six starts last year before heading off-shore to honour international racing obligations).
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but if I had to lose to anyone, I’m glad it was my bother. It was a good result for the team and good for Honda too,” he shrugged.
“It’s been a trying weekend and I’ve never had such an awful weekend at a race track and that sounds stupid to say that when I still achieved two third placings.
“I head off to get stuck in now with racing overseas, in the United Kingdom. I have a two-week stand-down in isolation when I get there and then I get into bike testing. I’m happy that I head over to the UK happy and healthy and I know the competition there now and know the bike, so I’m looking forward to that.
“One day I hope I can put the No.1 on my bike and maybe it’ll be this year in Great Britain,” he smiled.
To put icing on the cake, brand new Rees Honda Racing Team rider and 600cc class rookie Zak Fuller, from Taupiri, also celebrated his first win of the series and with that claimed the No.3 spot on the championship podium in the Supersport 600 class.
The 19-year-old, making his debut in the 600cc class this year and with only a couple of seasons of any sort of road-racing experience, Fuller can be justifiably proud of himself in finishing the championship third overall behind vastly more experienced 600cc riders Dale Finch (Christchurch, Triumph) and Rogan Chandler (Upper Hutt, Yamaha).
“Not a bad effort eh?” said Fuller. “I’m stoked to wrap up third for the series and I’ll be back to do it all over again next season. Being part of Rees Honda Racing Team has been awesome.”
Class champions this season were Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (Superbikes), Christchurch’s Dale Finch (Supersport 600 class); Napier’s SJ Cavell (650 Pro Twins); Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 300 and Supersport 150); Tauranga duo Barry Smith and Stu Dawe (Sidecars).
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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