Scott Moir dominated racing at the Cemetery Circuit by winning race one and then the Robert Holden Memorial feature race at Whanganui on Boxing Day.
The Taupo-based rider’s race one victory and second placing in race two was more than enough to clinch his first major Suzuki Series title after posting three wins throughout the 2017 Suzuki Series on his CD van der Meer Builders GSXR1000.
Moir was fastest into turn one of the opening F1 Superbike leg although a rapid Hayden Fitzgerald was right on Moir’s rear wheel, until Daniel Mettam passed the New Plymouth rider early in the race. Wellington’s Jay Lawrence was the fourth fast rider in the group racing in line astern until race end, to finish in that order. Although, Fitzgerald made a late drive for the line to almost steal second place from Mettam.
Further behind came Adam Chambers from Clive, with Mitch Rees very close behind. Internationals Connor Cummins (Isle of Man) was ninth and just ahead of Lee Johnson (Northern Ireland) who was beginning to acquit himself well to the tight street circuit.
Race two had an exciting start when Lawrence took the holeshot but was held up slightly at turn two when Fitzgerald decided his bLU cRU Yamaha YZF-R1 should be in front. That small fracas allowed Moir to charge through to take the lead and to make a small gap over the next few laps, with Lawrence and Fitzgerald still disputing who was next fastest, for second place. In his first season on a superbike Lawrence began closing on Moir as the race ran down.
Lawrence loves street circuit racing and it showed when he jetted his Carl Cox Motorsport GSXR1000 into the lead near race end which he held until taking the chequered flag. With just over a lap remaining Moir went into risk management mode in second position to secure the Suzuki Series.
Fitzgerald finished uncomfortably close to Moir for third while Mettam won the battle for fourth with Sloan Frost on his Fujistu TSS Red Baron Suzuki GSXR1000, Honda Rider Insurance CBR1000RR-mounted Mitch Rees and Kawasaki rider Adam Chambers all finishing together.
Glen Skachill was forced to ride his old Bimota YB8 Post Classic bike after the standard rear shock broke on his superbike. The Wellingtonian incredibly lapped his 1988 Bimota only 1.5 seconds a lap slower than the leader to score a race one eleventh, then eighth in race two, finishing ahead of more than a few top riders!
Moir wrapped up the Suzuki Series with 137 points while Mettam finished second overall with 122, and Mitch Rees was third in the title chase amassing 112 points.
The Robert Holden Memorial is the most prestigious motorcycle trophy in New Zealand and everyone wants their name on it. Mettam put his ideas into practise by leading the fastest invite-only riders of the day until he ran wide on the first lap which allowed Moir and Lawrence through in what looked to shape up as titanic street battle. Moir however rode even faster than in the previous two F1 Superbike races to ensure it was his name emailed to the engravers.
Lawrence was a good second but the talking point was new Suzuki Series F2 600 champion Shane Richardson, who lapped his Wainui Joinery Kawasaki ZX-6R at the same near record pace as the two riders in front – on larger capacity 1000cc Suzukis.
Moir says, “It is a pretty good feeling for sure! This is my fifth crack at it and I’ve got a second before, so to get it I am over the moon! I never thought I would get past Daniel (Mettam) because he’s pretty good, but he was pushing a bit hard, made a mistake, and the door was open so I got my head down and I gave it all.
“There was a bit of pressure coming into the round but winning the first race gave me a points buffer so I was happy to settle for second in the second race. I’ve done Supermoto, F3 a couple of seasons on a 600, a season on a superbike then I stopped for a few years before I got back into it.”
By the end of the day Lee Johnson was beginning to work out the technical Cemetery circuit and rode his Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 into sixth, behind fourth placed Mettam and David Hall. Cummins finished 11th on a bike he’d never raced before and had issues much of the day setting the suspension to suit the rider and the bumpy track. The pace was hot as the fastest nine riders were lapping within one second of Moir.
Johnson enjoyed his time in the NZ summer, “I really enjoyed it. The first race was tough as we only had five wet laps and five dry laps in practice then straight into a race, so you can’t get a rhythm because you don’t know where you’re going. It is so technical here, I misjudged it a bit thinking it was only a short lap so it can’t be too hard to learn, but there’s so many bumps and dips, curbs, manholes and white lines – especially in the wet. But the second and third race I actually enjoyed it, I was feeling good.
“I’ve absolutely loved it, the country, and the racing as well so I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to come for the future, it’s definitely an awesome place.”
Connor Cummins may not have recorded the F1 Superbike and Supermoto results he hoped for riding the injured Tony Rees superbike as the team worked throughout the day to set the Honda Rider Insurance CBR1000RR up for the tall 193cm (6’ 4”) Isle of Man-based rider. “It’s been interesting riding the track, everyone said it’s a ‘road’ however it is a very different track with stop-start corners, dips and apexes, manhole covers, while lines – which in the wet made for interesting riding this morning during practice,” 31 year old Cummins says laughing, who remains in NZ for his honeymoon. “I had a great time and a big part of that is the people, a big thanks to the organisers and Tony Rees and his team!”
With Whanganui experience now under their belts both Johnson and Cummins hope to return for all three Suzuki Series rounds next year.
Wainuiomata rider Shane Richardson won the 2017 Suzuki Series F2 600 class by taking a mostly unchallenged victory ahead of Carl Cox Motorsport Kawasaki ZX-6R- mounted Toby Summers in race one, then settling for second in the final heat to a charging Summers.
David Hall (Suzuki GSXR600) and Rogan Chandler (Yamaha NZ R6) enjoyed a fantastic duel for third in both races which was won by Te Awamutu’s Hall on each occasion. After missing the opening Taupo round Sam Willacy came back from injury to post an eighth and a good sixth on his home track.
Richardson closed his NZ season in the best form possible by taking four wins from six starts for 145 points. 2014 F2 600 series champion Toby Summers finished his effort with 115 points equal with Chandler, although Summers is unofficially second due to his Whanganui and Manfeild race wins. Hall has 96 points to Ashton Hughes with 91.
Richardson returns to the US in the New Year to continue racing abroad. “I finally managed to win it!” Richardson says. “I was pretty sure I won the series after the first race which was nice going into the second race and not have to worry about pushing it. I’m more than happy as my Kawasaki ZX-6 performed phenomenally all season, it wasn’t a walk in the park but I’m pretty happy with four wins out of six starts.”
Richardson was third in the Robert Holden Memorial, “That was my last race of the season in NZ for me so I had nothing to lose so I pushed the envelope a bit! We’re currently getting the money together to go to Daytona to put a good package together and see how we stack up in the Daytona 200.”
Based on past performance and 20 British BSB sidecar wins in 2017 there was little doubt that Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes would take both wins, and that’s how the story went. Although, Reeves was penalised 20 seconds for a race one jump start however the UK pair opened out such a large gap on their Carl Cox Motorsport LCR600 F2 ‘chair’ to second place they still managed to win by eight seconds.
Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan had planned to race a smaller F2 sidecar with a GSX750 engine in order to remain in the F1 category but on race day the newly installed engine didn’t run correctly leaving them to race their larger 1000cc F1 rig. It didn’t matter as the ex-pat Brit and kiwi Bryan collected a pair of third placings to win the coveted F1 Sidecar Suzuki Series title thanks to four wins in the earlier rounds.
Adam Unsworth (Auckland) and Bryce Rose (Palmerston North) rode their 1988 Windle 1000 sidecar well above its station for two fine second positions.
With the top order battles sorted the real interest on the day was how well the many international sidecar teams would fare on the tight and bumpy street circuit for the first time.
Greg Lambert (UK) and Julie Caniper (Isle of Man) easily won that challenge as they brought their Carl Cox Motorsport F2 GLR Honda F2 rig home in fifth in race one and were going better than that in race two but were handed a 20 second jump start penalty, dropping them down to ninth by race end.
The next best dressed international team were the consistent Graeme Evans/Eamon Mulholland pairing, from Australia and NZ. They collected a pair of sixth placings. UK-based Tony Baker and Shelly Smithies had a race two battle royale with Evans and Mulholland for fifth position as the pair became used to the Cemetery Circuit during their final race. 72 year old Baker won the duel.
2017 was Reeves third NZ visit and he handsomely won the F2 class, “I wanted to win here for Mark (his passenger), so a massive thanks to Carl (Cox) and what a job Flea and his wife do (series organisers), and all the crowd were great! When you’re enjoying yourself you ride well, and I come here the weather is great, everyone is great – the kiwis make you feel so welcome so you’re relaxed and enjoy riding.
“The competition at home is quite stiff, it’s like ten blokes are all capable of winning the race so you’ve got to be sharp and on the ball.”
Nathanael Diprose took both F3 victories and the F3 Suzuki Series on his Suzuki GSXR450 triple – which is a GSXR600 with one piston mechanism removed. The Aucklander earned his wins the hard way with Steve Bridge on his self-made Veearma Ducati 750 powered machine tailing and then passing Diprose with two laps to go in race one. Luck didn’t go his way as Bridge lost time passing a lapped rider over the railway lines which allowed Diprose to catch and then pass him on the last lap. Had Bridge crossed the line first it would be the first time in several years a NZ-build race bike won at Whanganui’s Cemetery Circuit.
Ashley Payne brought his three cylinder Suzuki GSXR450 home in third, but won the second stanza well ahead of Diprose. Payne would have won the opening heat but was penalised 20 seconds for a jump start which eventually placed the Whanganui rider in fourth.
Hamilton’s Jacob Stroud completed the podium on his exclusive Mike Pero Real Estate Kramer HKR690 after a huge race-long duel with Bridge – thanks to some test riding help from his famous father Andrew Stroud the previous week to optimise Jacob’s suspension settings.
Whanganui is a place of firsts. Japanese racer Yoshi Kishimoto qualified his Team Mirai Zero FXS electric bike in fourth position in a first appearance by an electric motorcycle at the Cemetery Circuit. Kishimoto rode his machine incredibly well throughout the day and placed his battery-powered machine seventh in race one and a fighting sixth in race two. Kishimoto made another electric first when he snatched the race two holeshot on his silent bike, which could have been an interesting outcome, however the race was red flagged on the opening lap due to a crash and then restarted.
Riders need to be 16 years or over to race on the fabled Cemetery Circuit so several young riders were missing from the Gixxer 150 cup grid at Whanganui. Which is why riders can drop a round for the series points. None of the riders who did ride had ever raced at Whanganui so everyone was starting with no previous Cemetery Circuit experience.
Juan-Peter Seibrits and Thomas Newton shared the spoils on the day with an easy win each. Zak Fuller posted a pair of fine second placings with the final rostrum spot taken by Hunter Stoneman-Boyle very close behind Fuller in each leg. With riders able to drop a round for the Gixxer 150 Cup, Zak Fuller was given the overall win for the day. Trophies for the 2017 Suzuki Series were awarded for the Taupo and Manfeild rounds only, headed by Blake Ross, of Paeroa.
After several attempts Ritchie Dibben came good in Supermoto for his first Suzuki Series win. Like Dibben, Glen Skachill remained unbeaten on a Bimota in the six Suzuki Series races in Post Classics. Dwayne Bishop won both Formula Sport/BEARS races but not without a good fight with Steve Bridge in race one and then Zurrin Wiki in the second leg. Bishop won that Suzuki Series class ahead of Bridge and Eddie Kattenberg.
The Suzuki GSX150F ‘early bird’ ticket prize winner was Brian Reardon, of Whanganui. The prize was drawn by Ticketek.