THE NEW ZEALAND SUPERBIKE NATIONALS OPENING ROUND HAD IT ALL, SAYS ANDY MCGECHAN
It was a drama-filled weekend for the opening round of the 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships in Canterbury, with edge-of-the-seat racing in all the various bike categories.
Under clear, blue Christchurch skies, Mike Pero Motorsport Park hosted the first of four rounds in this year’s series with the sport’s established stars all getting a shake-up from up-and-coming youngsters.
When the engines were turned off late on Sunday afternoon, there had been three different winners in the premier Superbikes class and just one point to separate the leading three riders on the championship table.
Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem won the first Superbikes race of the weekend on Saturday, but, unfortunately for him, he crashed out of the second race the next day, putting a serious dent in his title bid.
Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam won the second Superbikes race and, coupled with his fifth in race one and runner-up finish in race three, it put the 21-year-old second-equal overall in the standings.
Wellington’s 2016 national superbike champion Sloan Frost seemed to take a while to get going, but, once he was warmed up, he was very hot indeed.
Frost won the third and final 18-lap Superbikes race of the weekend, also earning himself the NZGP trophy, and with his pair of third placings from earlier in the weekend, it was enough to give him the overall championship lead.
Whakatane’s Mitchell Rees followed up his sensational pre-nationals Suzuki Series performance with more solid results – the 24-year-old finishing with a 2-2-3 score-card in Christchurch at the weekend – and he finds himself second equal, level with Mettam, in the standings after round one.
Frost was naturally thrilled with the way his weekend finished up.
“I guess I’m a bit of a technical rider and like to have everything perfect. By the end of the weekend it was feeling perfect for me and I got the win.”
Meanwhile, in the 600cc Supersport class, one name stood out on the top of the leader board, with Christchurch’s James Hoogenboezem the winner of all three races and the NZGP trophy.
However, it was a tighter affair than mere results could ever show, with fellow Canterbury man Jake Lewis proving to be a major thorn in the side of Hoogenboezem, virtually nothing to separate them as the pair finished 1-2 in each of the 600cc races.
It was an exciting moment for the BSP Race Team at the weekend with their 22-year-old Rodney-based British-born rider, Blayes Heaven, putting their Moto3 Grand Prix bike on the top of the podium in the 125GP class and also collecting the NZGP trophy.
It was the first time a genuine Moto3 bike had been raced in the nationals in New Zealand and also a couple of personal firsts for Heaven, the first time he’d raced this bike and the first time he’s raced on the Christchurch track.
Other class leaders after the weekend’s series opener were: Tauranga’s Regan Phibbs (Supersport 300); Hamilton’s Jordan Burley (650 Pro Twins); Christchurch’s Nick Cain (250cc Production); Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett (Superlites); Whanganui’s Tarbon Walker (GIXXER Cup); and Auckland’s Peter Goodwin and Kendall Dunlop (Sidecars).
The NZGP title winners were: Frost (Superbikes); James Hoogenboezem (Supersport 600); Hamilton’s Jordan Burley (650 Pro Twins); Cain (250cc Production); Rangiora’s Tim McArthur (Supersport 300); Huia’s Nathanael Diprose (Superlites); Heaven (125GP); Goodwin and Dunlop (Sidecars).
Race fans won’t have long to wait to get their next adrenaline fix, with round two of the championships set for Timaru’s Levels International Raceway in just one week’s time, on January 13-14. North Waikato hosts round three at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, near Meremere, on March 3-4, before it all wraps up at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo on March 17-18.
The 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships are supported by Honda Cars, providing safety/medical vehicles, Pirelli tyres, Corprint, CTAS and MX Timing and the inaugural GIXXER Cup is supported by Suzuki New Zealand.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan