The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced a few cut-backs, but the 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships finale this weekend will be a thriller nonetheless.
Reduced from four rounds to three, just as it was last season when the virus first reared its ugly head, the final showdown for the 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK) series, set for Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park this coming Saturday and Sunday, offers up a couple of mouth-watering possible scenarios.
It’s certain that no individual can count their chickens just yet.
Whakatane brothers Damon and Mitch Rees (both Honda) seem to be settled comfortably at the top of the standings in the premier Superbike class after January’s two South Island rounds, the two sibling rivals first and second respectively and separated by just 16.5 points.
In normal circumstances, that would seem to be a lock-out, surely it’s now just a two-horse race and nobody could knock them off the podium.
But think back to the pre-nationals Suzuki International Series in December, when Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem (Yamaha) dominated proceedings, finishing the weekend unbeaten at the Taupo race track, and Taupo’s home turf rider Scott Moir (Suzuki) finished runner-up each time.
If a similar scenario plays out at Taupo this coming weekend, then anything could still be possible, especially with 75 points still up for grabs in each of the championship classes.
The man who is currently third in the standings, Rangiora’s Jake Lewis (Yamaha), did not contest the Suzuki Series on that occasion, so we have no real clues about his likely form at Taupo, but the two men just behind him, Hoogenboezem and Moir, may still fancy their chances this weekend.
Hoogenboezem is fourth in the NZSBK standings and Moir is fifth and, although they’re both more than 30 points adrift of champion-in-waiting Damon Rees, the difference between finishing first and third in these NZSBK races is a whopping nine points.
You should therefore understand that, with three superbike races on the programme this weekend, a 30-point advantage might soon evaporate.
The forecast could be similar for the other championship classes too.
Christchurch’s Dale Finch (Triumph) leads the Supersport 600 class by 32 points from Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler (Yamaha), with Rangiora’s 2019 600cc class champion Avalon Biddle (Kawasaki) third overall, 35 points further back.
The gap between the top two riders in the 650 Pro Twins class, Whangamata’s Jarad Horn (Suzuki) and Napier’s SJ Cavell (Suzuki), is a mere two points, so the mathematical considerations here don’t even need thinking about.
Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (Yamaha) leads two separate categories – the Supersport 300 and Supersport 150 classes – and looks safe in both of them, but motorsport can be fickle and so he won’t be relaxing either until late on Sunday afternoon.
In the sidecars class, Tauranga duo Barry Smith and Stu Dawe enjoy a solid 30-point lead over both of their two nearest challengers – Auckland pair Adam Unsworth and Bryce Rose and Taupo team-mates Andy Scrivener and Tina McKeown – but again it’s a case of don’t count your chickens just yet, not with 75 points available for three wins at Taupo.
The Taupo event will feature three races for each class over the two days. A practice day at the track will also be offered on Friday.
The Hyosung and Ninja 400 Cup support classes will also run their final rounds at Taupo.
The 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships are supported by Sky Sport Next, Aon Insurance, Pirelli, Trust Aoraki, Redpath, CTAS, MX Timing, BikesportNZ.com and commentators Neil and Brad Ritchie.
Words & photo: Andy McGechan