New Zealand’s richest motorcycle series got underway at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on Sunday where local rider Scott Moir won both F1 Superbike races on two different Suzuki GSXR1000s.
Large crowds flocked to Taupo for what turned out to be a sizzling opening round of the 2017 Suzuki Series where few things went to plan for the top riders, with many still adjusting to their new machines.
Starting from Pole position Moir shot into the front on his CD van der Meer Builders GSXR1000 however rising star Mitch Rees quickly snatched his first race lead at premier level. His lead didn’t last long as the Whakatane-based Honda Rider Insurance CBR1000RR mounted racer almost fell several corners later which allowed Moir into the front, and held to the finish.
It was all high-speed action behind him though as defending Suzuki Series champion Tony Rees, 50, passed Mitch Rees early in the race and carried on to take second place ahead of his 24 year old son, with Sloan Frost a threatening fourth.
Frost’s Suzuki NZ team rebuilt his number one Fujistu TSS Red Baron Suzuki GSXR1000 overnight after Frost had a fast tumble during Saturday practice. Fourth place was the best the Wellington-based racer could do as Frost said he didn’t have the pace to make a pass.
Race two began with a huge crash at turn one involving several riders, with four falling including front-runners Moir, Rees and Christchurch rider Alastair Hoogenboezem on an M1 Motorsport BMW S1000RR. Fortunately no one suffered injury and the restart got underway shortly after with Rees on his spare bike and Moir on Sloan Frost’s spare GSXR1000.
Despite the odds and some bruising Tony Rees rocketed into the lead until an under-charged battery failed, allowing Mitch Rees to lead the flying pack. Moir held second by the third lap but had some catching up to do as he became used to someone else’s Suzuki – which had a normal ‘road shift’ gear change pattern to get used to instead of his favoured ‘race pattern’. Not an easy task to deal with and the consequences of changing gear the wrong way are massive – especially when you’re topping 300kmh plus down the back straight!
As the race progressed Moir caught then past Mitch Rees on the last lap when Mitch ran wide at turn one, gifting Moir a well deserved second F1 Superbike win for the day.
Moir says, “I was lucky to get where I got in the last race, I didn’t expect that win. Thanks to Sloan [Frost] for giving me his spare bike to use, it shows you how good the new GSXRs are! I’m over the mood really, that last race was one of the best wins of my career, on a bike I had never ridden – to win. And I did good times, I went faster in the second race [on the borrowed bike] than I did in the first race!”
With Frost starting slow as he worked to understand some bike issues he kept his cool and crept up to fourth when the chequered flag came out. But the attention was on the battle for third place which was more often than not lead by New Plymouth’s Hayden Fitzgerald (Yamaha YZF-M1) who was scrapping with Daniel Mettam, Hoogenboezem and a lively Connor London on a Wil Sport ZX-10R. Not necessarily in that order.
That battle was won by Mettam who neatly slotted his 2017 Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 into third on the last lap. Defending Suzuki Series champion Tony Rees dropped out of contention and eventually retired near race end.
Shane Richardson of Wainuiomata easily won both F2 600 races on his Wainui Joinery Kawasaki ZX-6R. The 23 year old took the holeshot in each heat and was never challenged in either race and takes a handsome points lead heading to Manfeild on Sunday.
Richardson spent several months this year racing in the US with some success, “It was good to get back on my own bike and get back into the flow of our little NZ tracks.” Richardson said. “I was confident and knew I could run a good pace here, but we are just taking it race by race and round by round.”
2014 F2 600 winner Toby Summers (Auckland) was sent off the track while holding third position behind Rogan Chandler (Yamaha R6) during the opening race after David Hall crashed and then tapped the rear of Summers Carl Cox Motorsport Kawasaki ZX-6R at turn one. Chandler, of Wellington, placed second with Nathan Jane filling the podium.
Summers came back strong for race two and crossed the line second, ahead of Suzuki GSXR600-mounted Hall. Richardson leads the F2 600 Suzuki Series by 13 points from Chandler, with international racer Avalon Biddle third.
It has been a very long time when 28 sidecars were seen on one grid in NZ, with no less than eight of those internationals.
The pressure was on UK-based multi-sidecar world champion Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes as they had to swap their more powerful but problematic Isle of Man TT engine on race day for a stock standard Suzuki GSXR600 powerplant, losing 35hp in the process, and a chance to keep the faster 1000cc powered rigs behind him.
Which turned out to be the case as Reeves shot into the lead each time followed by Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan who took a while to begin reeling Reeves in and take full advantage of his stronger Carl Cox Motorsport LCR sidecar down the long back straight. Which propelled him into the lead mid-race all three stanzas.
The best Reeves and Wilkes could do was watch from behind, although they plan to have their TT engine repaired for Manfeild on Sunday.
Race one was red flagged and restarted with both legs earning half points. Current NZ champions Spike Taylor and Astrid Hartnell rode extremely well to complete the podium in both part-legs on their Mobility Wairarapa LCR GSXR1000. The Adam Unsworth/Bryce Rose combination were a fine fourth in leg one on their aging 1988 Eni Windle F1, while the Lawrance brothers Chris and Ritchie were fourth on their Colemans Suzuki LCR1000 sidecar in race one, part two.
72 year old UK-based sidecar builder and racer Tony Baker was the next international home in fifth in leg one, while German Eckart Rosinger and Steffen Werner were sixth in leg two.
Race two was a relatively straightforward affair as Chris and Ritchie Lawrance were third on their improving machine after suffering a race one puncture, and Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop brought their rig home in fourth. Baker and Smithies were sixth, behind Unsworth and new passenger Rose.
With two wins from two races Smith and Bryan lead the Suzuki Series Sidecar category and head to Manfeild as clear favourites on a circuit more suited to the larger and more powerful F1 sidecars.
Smith said, “It pretty much went to plan, as with Tim being on a 600 we knew he was going to be quicker through the infield, so we just made sure we didn’t get too much of a gap so we could close him down on the straight. We knew we had the speed on the straight so that’s where we passed him each time, which made it a little easier.”
Fans may wonder why the recent influx of 600cc F2 sidecars and while they have been raced at the Isle of Man TT for some years now, this year the world sidecar championship changed to F2 rules.
Five-time world champion Tim Reeves said after the race, “Baz rode really good today. My main engine blew a head gasket so I put my spare in this morning, it’s bog standard and out of a road bike that’s done about 15,000 miles. We made it to the grid just in time. For the first three and a half laps when I was in front I felt I was riding really good, I was inch perfect everywhere, so I was putting in consistent laps and I could see Baz getting nearer down the back straight – if the track didn’t have that big long straight I’d have been alright I think. I’m really happy as Carl [Cox] has given us a fantastic bike, we’ve already discussed next years TT and this is preparation for it.”
Nathanael Diprose earned respect in the F3 category with some silky smooth riding to take victory in both races on his Suzuki GSXR450. Ashley Payne and Gavin Veltmeyer were second and third on each occasion. Hamilton’s Jacob Stroud, 19, brought some interest to the class on a Mike Pero Real Estate Kramer HKR650, however he crashed out of his first race but came back to cross the line fifth in race two, behind a fast improving Jason Easton.
15 year old Jessie Stroud owned both Gixxer 150 Cup races but not without a tough fight with Tarbon Walker in each leg. The action was happening thick and fast as each rider wanted their name in the spotlight for the first race of this Suzuki inspired development class.
The pressure got to Walker when he crashed in the opening leg although the youngster came back to cross the line second in the race two, after some more pushing and shoving with Stroud, ahead of Feilding rider Scott Hawkes. Clark Fountain and Blake Ross made up the race one podium.
While the machines only have 12.7Kw (17hp), this new class proved to be one of the highlights of the day due to the closeness of the racing. Riders must be between 14 and 21 years old and for $5,995 riders receive a new Suzuki GSX150F along with a Bell helmet and Alpinstars race gear.
In other support classes Ritchie Dibben went home with two solid Supermoto wins, as did Glen Skachill (Wellington) in Post Classics, and Dwayne Bishop (Whanganui) on his fast Aprilia RSV4 RR in the new Formula Sport/BEARS senior category.
Early-bird tickets are available at www.cemeterycircuit.co.nz and go in the draw to win a Suzuki Gixxer 150 if tickets purchased online. The winner will be drawn prior to Whanganui.