SUPERBIKE ace Damon Rees controlled the action this weekend as the 2020 series came to a head on Boxing Day.
The third and final round of the Suzuki Series hit Whanganui’s infamous Cemetery Circuit and with F1 class leader Alastair Hoogenboezem opting to sit out, the battle for the trophy was on between Honda’s Mitch Rees, Suzuki’s Scott Moir and Damon, who was looking to end on a high before a trip back over to UK shores for his 2021 National Superstock assault.
Riding for Team Rees Honda, Damon bagged took pole position, laying down a 49.071sec lap, 0.709sec quicker than hometown ace Jayden Carrick in second, as Taupō’s Moir took third spot and F1 newcomer Richie Dibben rounded out the front row in fourth.
But last year’s double race winner and championship contender Mitch could only manage 11th after he suffered an electrical fault on his new Honda CBR1000RR-R, which meant he had to use brother Damon’s spare bike for the rest of the day.
With wind setting in for race one, Carrick’s nightmare jump-start meant he took the holeshot in front of Dibben in second and Damon in third. But half way around the circuit, Damon had passed the Suzuki of Dibben for second and was now looking to catch Carrick.
By the start of lap two, Carrick had a lead of 1.280sec over Damon, who had pulled away from third-placed Dibben. And by lap three, Damon was on record pace as he closed the gap to Carrick to less than a second before making his move into Robert Holden Corner to grab the lead.
Behind Carrick, who was hit with a 20sec jump start penalty, was Dibben who was involved in a five-way battle with Moir, Adam Chambers, Daniel Mettam and Mitch Rees for the final podium spots. Meanwhile at the front, Damon comfortably extend his lead and set a new lap record of 48.468sec.
In the battle behind, Mettam made his move and passed Moir for third at the start of lap six as Mitch moved up to fourth on lap seven, passing Moir into turn one.
But the win went to Damon with a lead of some 6.5sec, as the battle for second and third went down to the final half a lap when Mettam took second, just 0.084sec ahead of new championship leader Mitch in third.
Damon got the best start from pole position and led into turn one ahead of Moir and Mettam. David Hall was fourth, but he was pushed wide into the bales and dropped back to seventh.
By lap two Damon and Moir were again on lap record pace and had pulled away from the rest of the field, while new championship leader Mitch was down in fifth. Just a few laps later, the leading duo had more than two seconds to spare over third-placed Mettam.
As the four-way fight for the final podium spot raged between Mettam, Chambers, Dibben and Mitch, the latter passed Chambers for fourth at the start of lap six and just a few corners later, he’d caught Mettam for third.
Going into the final lap, Damon held a slender lead of just 0.302sec over Moir in second, but he he held it all the way to the line and claimed his second race win of the day.
“I could hear him [Moir] the whole race, I just knew if I just kept pushing to my maximum that whole race, he couldn’t quite get close enough to make a move,” Damon admitted.
“It’s been an amazing year, just to top it off winning here in New Zealand, the Cemetery Circuit, it’s a dream come true.”
After a tough three-way battle on the final lap, Mettam claimed the final podium spot by a mere 0.034sec, again holding off a determined Mitch.
But with enough points to be crowned champ, it was Mitch Rees whose fourth gave him the Suzuki International Series trophy with 123 points ahead of Moir on 118 and Damon on 112.
Now the riders turn their minds to round one of the New Zealand Superbike Championship which will take place on the 9th-10th January at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch.
Rees brothers Mitch and Damon congratulate each other as Damon completed a perfect winning streak at Whanganui while Mitch does enough to secure the Formula 1 Championship. Photo: ASP
*Words by Michael Wincott