The streamlined Altherm Yamaha road racing team has two riders fighting fit ahead of the six-round 2023 New Zealand Superbike Championship (NZSBK) which begins this weekend in Taupo.
Yamaha Motor New Zealand’s Motorsport Manager Josh Coppins says a restructure has trimmed the team down from three riders.
“Our 2022/2023 rider Jake Lewis has just had a baby with his wife Avalon, so he is having a sit-out year for us. He still has a Yamaha bike and is doing some track days and riding. That leaves our two official riders Alastair Hoogenboezem on our Yamaha YZF-R1, in the Superbike class, under the Yamaha Racing Team (YRT) and Cormac Buchanan with Steve Lloyd’s Yamaha Racing Development (YRDT) team in the Supersport 600 class.”
Coppins adds that: “Al has had his best preparation ever in terms of shakedown with the bikes. Being based in Auckland means he’s been able to access the North Island tracks for some test days.”
Hoogenboezem has ridden at Manfeild, Taupo and Hampton Downs, with a trip back to his hometown of Christchurch to get some laps in at Ruapuna.
“I just missed out on two tracks [Teretonga and Levels] but luckily they were back in the South Island – my home island – so I know them reasonably well,” he says.
“I’m sitting in a better place than normal having tested at those four tracks and we have gotten up to race pace fairly quickly.”
Hoogenboezem says his sixth season with Yamaha brings a heightened sense of familiarity with the Yamaha bike. His race R1 and its spare equivalent have both been freshly rebuilt with new motors and the YRT is “ready to go and dialled in.”
The usual front-runners, including last season’s champion Mitch Rees, are returning and added to the Superbike mix are international riders Davey Todd (Britain) and Australian Ant West.
“The goal without a doubt is to get my  number 1 plate back. We will do that by slowly chipping away and not having the silly little problems that ruled us out last season. We’ve lived and we’ve learned from those things,” he says.
After double class victory in the Supersport 300 and 600 categories last year, Invercargill’s Buchanan will be focusing solely on reclaiming his 600 crown, starting this weekend at Taupo International Motorsport Park.
Coppins says he is looking forward to seeing what an intense year competing against the world’s best in Europe has done to further enhance Buchanan’s ferocious talent.
The 17-year-old returned home from Spain two weeks ago and immediately turned his focus to the NZSBK.
“It’s been a massive season internationally and I enjoyed reflecting on that during the long trip home. But as soon as that plane touched down, it’s like my brain switched into Kiwi mode,” Buchanan says.
“Ironically, the last time I stood on New Zealand soil, I was boarding a flight to Europe just a few hours after winning both the 600 SuperSport and 300 SuperSport championships at the Taupo circuit – it was crazy!”
Reuniting with the YRDT team he has been part of since 2020, Buchanan will strive to defend the 600 SuperSport title on his YZF-R6.
“They say the only thing harder than winning a championship is defending it. That number one on the front of the bike becomes a target everyone else is chasing so I’m definitely expecting it to be a massive challenge,” he said.
“All I can control is my own preparation and I know I’ve done the hard yards. I’m excited to get back amongst the action on track against a really tough field of competitors and see what’s possible.”
On the world stage, Buchanan racked up a credible scoresheet for 2023 in both the FIM JuniorGP World Championship and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup he contested.
“I can honestly say it’s been a fantastic year – even with plenty of the extremes motorsport has a habit of dealing out,” Buchanan said.
“We earned two front row starts, a top finish of fourth at Jerez – just 0.3 seconds from the win – and were consistently battling at the front of the field, finishing the championship as the second highest placed rookie overall.
“I’m really proud of the step I took as a rider this year as we continued to learn and progress on and off the track. To have the chance to hone my skills in such a professional and highly competitive environment is unreal and it’s my job to soak up everything I’m taught and work hard to get the results we deserve.”
Buchanan will return to Europe in March for a third campaign with leading Spanish team AGR, racing for a second season in the FIM JuniorGP World Championship.
“A summer of racing here in New Zealand is going to keep me race fit and my edge sharp so I can head back to Europe and get straight into action,” Buchanan said.
After the opening NZSBK round at Taupo this Saturday and Sunday, the second round follows just one week later, at Manfeild, near Palmerston North, on December 9-10.
These two opening rounds are run in conjunction with the Suzuki International Series, a separate-but-parallel competition that will wrap up with its third round on the public streets of Whanganui, around the Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day.
The NZSBK series then heads south, with rounds three, four and five respectively set for Euromarque Motorsport Park (Ruapuna), in Christchurch, on January 6-7; Levels International Motor Raceway, near Timaru, on January 13-14 and at Teretonga Park Raceway, near Invercargill, on February 9-10.
Only five rounds are to be counted and riders can discard their one worst result.
After a series of clashes with other Yamaha events kept him away from some of the road racing rounds last season, Coppins is looking forward to getting along to this weekend’s event in person.
“We’ve been pretty successful in the past but I’m excited to see what we can do better,” he wraps up.
2023/24 RACING CALENDAR:
NZSBK Round One – 2nd & 3rd December 2023 – Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo
NZSBK Round Two – 9th & 10th December 2023 – Manfield
NZSBK Round Three – 6th & 7 th January 2024 – Ruapuna Motorsport Park, Christchurch
NZSBK Round Four – 13th & 14th January 2024 – Levels, Timaru
NZSBK Round Five – 9th to 11th February 2024 (in conjunction with Burt Munro) – Invercargill
NZSBK Round Six – 2nd & 3rd March 2024 – Hampton Downs, Waikato
ALTHERM YAMAHA RACING TEAM (YRT) WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS:
Altherm Window Systems, Yamaha Motor NZ, Yamalube, GYTR, bLU cRU, YMF, YMI, Akrapovic, Pirelli, Race Supplies, GB Racing, JCR, Hughes Transport, Holland Collision Centre, Workshop Graphics and Sprint Filter.
ALTHERM YAMAHA RACING DEVELOPMENT TEAM (YRDT) WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS:
Altherm Window Systems, Yamaha Motor NZ, Yamalube, GYTR, bLU cRU, YMF, YMI, Akrapovic, Pirelli, Race Supplies, GB Racing, YSS Suspension, Kiwi Suspension Solutions and Sprint Filter.