We might now be halfway through the 2022-23 New Zealand Superbike Championships, but there's still plenty left for the riders to fight for.
Indeed, three of the scheduled six rounds of this AON Insurance and Pirelli-sponsored series have been completed and riders will arrive for round four at Teretonga Park Raceway this coming weekend (January 14-15) determined to push even harder for valuable competition points.
And, because round one of the series at Taupo in early December was abandoned due to dangerous track conditions, there are actually still more races yet to be contested than have already been raced, if you can appreciate the mathematics of that.
With fewer total races in the series than had originally been planned, it intensifies and concentrates the action, perhaps applying extra pressure to title hopefuls.
But it's important to remember that there are three races in the program for each of the various bike classes at this southernmost motorcycle race event on the planet and this will offer ample opportunity for competitors to enhance their standings and/or reputations.
However, each of these races also provide the ever-present risk of hemorrhaging points with a silly mistake, an unlucky crash or a mechanical or electrical glitch, so that's sure to keep everybody sharp.
There were plenty of examples of these risk factors playing a part at last weekend's round three at Christchurch's Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Ruapuna) and so nothing will be taken for granted by riders at Teretonga this Saturday and Sunday.
Whakatane's Mitch Rees (Honda) has a solid lead in the premier 1000cc superbike class, a whopping 45 points ahead of his nearest challenger, Christchurch's Alastair Hoogenboezem (Yamaha), and that's despite both these riders having suffered mechanical misfortune.
Christchurch's Dale Finch (Kawasaki) and Taupiri's Zak Fuller (BMW) could also be considered superbike title contenders, having finished first and second respectively in their first race at Ruapuna last Saturday, but that also ended up being their sole point-scoring outings for the weekend after they both crashed out of the rest of that weekend's racing.
Other class leaders after round three are Bulls rider Ashton Hughes (F2 Supersport 600, Triumph); Auckland's Vaughan Maine, Suzuki, and Waiuku's Bob Irving, CFMoto (1st equal, Pro Twins, pre-2020 bikes); Nelson's Jonny Lewis (Pro Twins, post-2020 bikes, Aprilia); Invercargill's Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 300, Yamaha); Christchurch's Hunter Charlett (Supersport 150, Yamaha); Lincoln's Hayden Freeman (250cc Production support class, Kawasaki); Rolleston's Logan Jackson (Supersport Lightweight support class, Suzonda).
The racing will take a month-long break after this weekend, set to resume with round five at the Hampton Downs-promoted Star Insure MotoFest extravaganza on the weekend of March 4-5.
The sixth and final round is set for a return to a resurfaced track at the Taupo International Motorsport Park and Events Centre on March 11-12.
This season's competition would not be possible without support from the following groups: Victoria MCC, Hampton Downs, Auckland MCC, MCI, Hamilton MCC, Southland Motorcycle Club, South Canterbury Motorcycle Club, Cemetery Circuit, MNZ and all the other supporting sponsors.
DATES FOR 2022-23 NZ MOTORCYCLE ROAD-RACE SEASON:
Suzuki International Series (and first two rounds of nationals):
- Round 1, Taupo, Dec 3rd and 4th (ABANDONED)
- Round 2, Manfeild, Dec 10th and 11th
- Whanganui's Cemetery Circuit, Dec 26th (third and final round of Suzuki International Series, but not part of the nationals)
- Round 3, Ruapuna, Jan 7th and 8th
- Round 4, Teretonga, Jan 14th and 15th
- Round 5, Hampton Downs, part of Moto Fest, Mar 4th and 5th
- Round 6, Taupo, Mar 11th and 12th
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com