The Honda Motul Racing Team rider won his first New Zealand Superbike Championships title in the 2021 season and, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has had to wait nearly two years before he can reaffirm his hold on the coveted 1000cc superbike title.
With the 2022 season abandoned due to the pandemic, organisers came up with a fantastic new-look six-round series that straddled the end of 2022 and continued on into the first few months of 2023.
And so, when the fourth round of six in the 2022-23 New Zealand Superbike Championships wrapped up in the deep south at the weekend – two days of racing at Invercargill’s popular Teretonga Park Raceway on Saturday and Sunday – the 30-year-old Rees found himself an impressive 51 points in front of his nearest rival with just two rounds (six superbike races, three at each round) left to run.
Rees has taken his distinctive red Honda CBR1000RR-R superbike to qualify fastest at each of the nationals rounds so far and he’s also won seven of the nine races he’s started.
His first “glitch” came come at round three at Ruapuna in Christchurch when his bike suffered a fuel pump malfunction as he sat on the start line for race one that weekend.
Even so, he opted to start that race and still nursed his sick bike home in ninth place, easily enough for him to retain the series lead that he’d established by being unbeatable at the previous event.
His only other “set-back” was being forced to accept runner-up spot behind his main rival – Christchurch’s former national superbike champion Alastair Hoogenboezem – in his second outing at Teretonga at the weekend.
But Rees responded emphatically in his weekend’s third and final race on Sunday, shrugging off the unwelcome attention early on from Hoogenboezem and then building a lead and racing away to arrive at the chequered flag a comfortable six seconds ahead of his long-time friend and rival.
So, with a 1-2-1 score-card for the event, Rees to not only won the weekend, but also extend his series lead to a massive 51 points over Hoogenboezem.
He’s therefore well on target to successfully defend his title, particular with the series now headed back to the North Island and Rees’ favourite circuits.
“It’s always good to get the win, but it’s so much fun to race with Al (Hoogenboezem). We have so much respect for one another. Obviously we put on a good show with a few passes going on, but I got the important result in the end.
“The bike is great and obviously me and Al are so equal. I don’t know what will happen from here on, but I’m in a good position for sure.”
Class leaders after round four at Teretonga at the weekend are Rees (F1 Superbikes class); Rangiora’s Jake Lewis (F2 Supersport 600); Waiuku’s Bob Irving (Pro Twins, pre-2020 bikes); Nelson’s Jonny Lewis (Pro Twins, post-2020 bikes); Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 300) and Christchurch’s Hunter Charlett (Supersport 150).
There is now a seven-week break before the series resumes in the North Island, round five set for the Hampton Downs-promoted Star Insure MotoFest event on the weekend of March 4-5.
The sixth and final round is set for a second visit to the Taupo International Motorsport Park and Events Centre on March 11-12.
DATES FOR 2022-23 NZ MOTORCYCLE ROAD-RACE SEASON:
Suzuki International Series (and first two rounds of nationals):
- Round 1, Taupo, Dec 3rd and 4th (ABANDONED)
- Round 2, Manfeild, Dec 10th and 11th
- Whanganui’s Cemetery Circuit, Dec 26th (third and final round of Suzuki International Series, but not part of the nationals)
- Round 3, Ruapuna, Jan 7th and 8th
- Round 4, Teretonga, Jan 14th and 15th
- Round 5, Hampton Downs, part of Moto Fest, Mar 4th and 5th
- Round 6, Taupo, Mar 11th and 12th
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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