DAMON Rees kicked off his 2021 New Zealand Superbike account with a bang as he took two wins to Alastair Hoogenboezem’s one.
As the championship rolled into Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch this past weekend, defending champ Hoogenboezem bagged pole position in sunny conditions as he lapped 0.267sec quicker than the previous lap record, set by Rees in 2020.
Honda-mounted Rees qualified second just 0.152sec off the top spot while brother Mitch Rees lined up third ahead of Suzuki’s Sloan Frost, who rounded out the front row in fourth.
Mitch looked like he got the best start as the lights went out, but a wheelie off the line dropped him back fourth, allowing Daniel Mettam to lead into turn one ahead of championship rookie Richie Dibben.
By the end of the opening lap, Dibben had been passed by Hoogenboezem, who had caught race leader Mettam before passing him for the lead at the start of the second lap.
But halfway through lap two, Dibben crashed at the Dipper before his bike settle in the middle of the track, prompting red flags.
On the restart, Damon grabbed the holeshot and led into turn one ahead of Jake Lewis and Hoogenboezem, and by the end of lap two the top four – Hoogenboezem and Scott Moir, sandwiched by the Rees boys – had pulled away from Lewis in fifth.
By lap three, Mitch had sneaked past Moir to take over third, but it was too late to catch Damon and Hoogenboezem, who had puled away.
With three to go, Damon had opened up a gap of a second before Hoogenboezem was hit with a mechanical issue, forcing him out of action on the penultimate lap as Mitch and Moir were promoted to second and third at the flag after a last-lap dash.
For Sunday’s opener, Damon was back in front early on as he led the Yamahas of Lewis and Hoogenboezem.
But at the start of lap two, Hoogenboezem dove up the inside of teammate Lewis to nab second and by the end of the lap, Damon had started to pull away until out-braking himself, and allowing Hoogenboezem to slip by.
By mid-race, Hoogenboezem and Damon had sped off into the distance, leaving a four-way battle for third between Mitch, Moir, Frost, and Lewis.
Damon looked on for a comfortable runner-up finish before mechanical gremlins forced him to retire on lap ten, promoting brother Mitch to second and Lewis to third.
The battle for third heated up on the penultimate lap as Lewis, Moir and Frost jostled for position as Lewis held on to take bronze some 1.1sec behind Mitch.
Meanwhile up the road, Hoogenboezem made up for his first race disappointment with a 4.100sec win.
In the final race of the weekend, Damon was back in front with yet another holeshot as he led into turn one ahead of the elder Rees and Lewis but by the end of the opening lap, Mitch had dropped back to fourth, having been passed by both Yamahas of Hoogenboezem and Lewis.
Leader Damon had a full two seconds to spare over the chasers by lap four as Hoogenboezem passed Lewis for second but by lap seven, Hoogenboezem set a new outright circuit lap record of 1:29.047sec to close within a second of the lead.
But the defending champ’s luck ran dry on lap eight of 15 as he crashed on the exit of turn one, causing the race to be red-flagged.
With a restart over nine laps, Damon once again got the holeshot and led Lewis and Moir into turn one. But halfway around the opening lap, there was another big crash as David Hall and Jayden Carrick both hit the deck, forcing marshals to throw red flags once again.
And with time running out on the weekend, the race was not restarted, giving riders half-points as they finished at the stoppage with Damon leading Lewis and Mitch in a one-two-three.
After Round One, Mitch Rees leads the New Zealand Superbike Championship on 48 points ahead of Lewis in second on 39 and Damon Rees on 37.5 in third.
Round Two of the New Zealand Superbike Championship heads to Levels International Raceway in Timaru on the 16 and 17 January.
*Words by Michael Wincott
*Images by ASP