It’s always a real family affair on the New Zealand motorcycle racing scene, with husbands and wives racing together, fathers and sons swapping positions, brothers and sisters sharing the tarmac and even parents competing alongside their offspring.
A case in point is that of Christchurch’s young Hunter Charlett, who battled to his first national title at the sixth and final round of the AON Insurance and Pirelli-sponsored 2022-23 series at the Taupo International Motorsport Park at the weekend.
The 12-year-old is the son of multi-time former national road-racing champion Dennis Charlett, the 54-year-old who was himself also in action this season and finished third in the Supersport 300 classification.
It was a special weekend for the Charlett family – bearing in mind that wife and mum Angela Charlett is also a regular competitor on the racetrack – with the father and son, Dennis and Hunter, also now sharing a special milestone.
Dennis won his first New Zealand Superbike Championship title when he clinched the 125GP title at Taupo in 1998 and now, 25 years later, Hunter was winning his first, also at Taupo.
For the record, Angela Charlett managed to finish 29th overall in the Supersport 300 class, despite missing the final two rounds of the series.
“This is his first year racing at this level of competition and he’s just become the youngest ever road-racing champion that New Zealand has ever produced,” said an obviously proud Dennis Charlett.
“It was not previously permitted for riders to race at this level younger than 13 or 14, but the eligibility rule was changed this year and that’s a great thing. It’s just what this sport needed, to get the kids on track at a younger age. It’s what they do overseas.
“He improved every time he went out on the bike. He doesn’t say very much … he’s very quiet. But he’s very attentive. Sometimes you look at him and think ‘he’s not listening’ but he is taking it in and also applying it on the track.
“He had never before raced at Taupo, but he improved his times by four seconds a lap over the weekend.”
Meanwhile, the young man with whom Hunter battled all series long in the Supersport 150 class was Wellington’s Nixon Frost, a young man who is also the 12-year-old son of a former national superbike champion, Sloan Frost.
The sport is indeed in a healthy state and a solid foundation of young talent is growing all the time, with 12-year-olds Hunter Charlett, Nixon Frost and Rolleston’s Lucas Guthrie, along with dozens of rapidly-developing teenagers, all showing race-winning potential during the series.
A few other of examples of “family affair” racing that popped up this season include Rangiora husband and wife Jake Lewis and Avalon Biddle, Whakatane father and son Tony and Mitch Rees, Taupiri brother and sister Zak and Billee Fuller and Whanganui sisters Emma and Lucy Dowman, with brother James Dowman and father Peter Dowman.
Lewis finished overall runner-up in the Supersport 600 class, while his spouse Biddle clinched fourth overall in the same class. It’s interesting to note that both these two riders were formerly champions in this bike class.
Mitch Rees won the glamour 1000cc superbike class, while his 55-year-old multi-time former champion dad, Tony, finished fourth overall in the same class, even though he skipped both of the South Island rounds of the series.
Zak Fuller finished fifth in the Superbikes class at his first attempt, while his younger sister Billee managed 20th in the Supersport 300 class and overall runner-up in the Carl Cox Motorsport Ninja Cup class.
Emma Dowman finished ninth in the Supersport 150 class, despite missing rounds two and three of the series, and Lucy Dowman teamed up with her dad Peter to finish third overall in the Formula Two Sidecars class. James Dowman finished 34th in the Supersport 300 class, also without contesting rounds two and three.
Other title winners this season were Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 600 & Supersport 300); Whitby’s Dave Fellows (Pro Twins, post-2020 bikes); Waiuku’s Bob Irving (Pro Twins, pre-2020 bikes); Panmure’s Adam Unsworth with Whanganui’s Bryce Rose (F1 Sidecars) and Albany’s Mark Halls with Geoff Davies (F2 Sidecars).
This season’s national championship competition was supported by the following groups: Victoria MCC, Hampton Downs, Auckland Motorcycle Club, MCI, Hamilton MCC, Southland MCC, South Canterbury MCC, Cemetery Circuit and Motorcycling New Zealand.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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