NEW Zealand’s top Superbike riders descended on Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park this weekend as the annual Suzuki International Series kicked off in style.
Attracting some of the top riders from all over Kiwi shores, including 2019 NZSBK champ Daniel Mettam, Taupō’s Scott Moir and even National Superstock 1000 front-runner Damon Rees.
Aboard a Honda CBR1000RR, Rees took pole position for the opening Formula 1 races, 0.173sec quicker than Moir in second as reigning Superbike champ Alastair Hoogenboezem rounded out the front row.
As the lights went for race one it was Scott Moir who led into the first corner. Pole man Rees got off to a bad start, dropping back to fifth by the end of the opening lap.
But by mid-race the leading pair of Hoogenboezem and Moir had managed to gap the three-way battle for third led by Rees by over two seconds, allowing Hoogenboezem to battle with Moir for the lead.
The two swapped positions throughout the race but by lap five Rees was comfortably in third and gaining as he clocked a new circuit lap record of 1:27.235sec.
By the start of the final lap, there was a three-way battle for the lead between Hoogenboezem, Moir and Rees. The race was decided on the last corner when Rees made a move on Moir for second but ran wide, letting Moir back through and allowing Hoogenboezem to pull away and win by 0.504sec.
Moir got the jump in race two and led into turn one ahead of Rees and Hoogenboezem, and by lap four the trio had pulled away from the rest of the field. And just after Rees clocked another lap record of 1:27.000sec, he decided to make his move on Moir. But his lead was short lived, as he lost the front of his Honda at the final corner, crashing out and promoting his brother Mitch Rees to third.
Moir and Hoogenboezem continued to dice to the last lap, but coming out of turn 11 Moir’s’ Suzuki had a problem heading down the back straight, allowing Hoogenboezem to make his move as he snatched the win by 0.404sec from Moir and Mitch Rees.
In the Formula 2 ranks it was Dale Finch who bagged pole position on his Triumph with a 1:30.477sec lap, just 0.013sec quicker than Rogan Chandler and Zak Fuller.
Chandler nabbed the holeshot for race one ahead of Finch, but there was early drama as the riders hit turn two when Finch lost control of his bike, leaving him down and out.
By the end of the opening lap Chandler had opened a lead of over a second from Toby Summers. As the riders approached mid race Chandler had opened up over a four second lead at the front while there was a three way battle for second between Summers, Fuller and Biddle.
But lap seven proved critical for Summers, who ran wide going into the first corner, enabling Fuller to move up to second and Biddle to third. Chandler, meanwhile, controlled the race from the front, winning by over three seconds while the battle for second and third position went down to the final corner where Fuller passed Biddle for second, out dragging her out of the final corner to take the flag by 0.088sec, claiming his maiden F2 podium.
Summers grabbed the lead at the start of race two, but it was short lived as he was quickly passed by Finch and Chandler. As the two pulled ahead, Summers was holding on to third ahead of Avalon Biddle who was having another strong ride in fourth.
Biddle laid a pass on Summers for third while at the front, Chandler held a 0.352sec lead over Finch on the final lap – but Finch cut his deficit and dived up the inside as they hit the final corner, passing Chandler for the lead.
Chandler tried to retaliate, but a backmarker stopped his charge as Finch won by 0.197sec ahead of Chandler with Biddle a further 8.5sec behind in third.
Round two of the Suzuki International Series heads to Manfield on December 13.
*Words by Michael Wincott