The New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK) roared into action this weekend in conjunction with the Suzuki International Series, with young Altherm Yamaha Racing Development Team (YRDT) rider Cormac Buchanan demonstrating why he is such a rising talent.
The Southland 17-year-old has recently returned from competing in Europe and immediately stamped his dominance on his home country’s road racing scene with an unbeatable performance at Taupo International Motorsport Park, which hosted the first round of the combined Suzuki International Series and NZSBK.
Yamaha Motor New Zealand’s Motorsport Manager Josh Coppins describes Buchanan’s P1 qualifying, lap record-breaking feat and three race wins as “probably one of his best rides he has had with us.”
“Cormac has been on a completely different bike all year in Europe and has had limited testing with us before the event. We had challenging conditions with changing weather, new tyres and wet and dry tracks. He managed the races so well. Everything was stacked against him but in racing terms he really had the top two inches. That was a comment his team manager Steve Lloyd made, and I couldn’t agree more.”
Buchanan says his focus going into the weekend “was to do the trifecta and get pole, three race wins and the lap record, as I’d never gone under a sub 1.30 lap time” in his F2/Supersport 600 class at Taupo.
Despite not feeling at one with his Yamaha YZF-R6 in the practice sessions, when it came to qualifying on pole, he was full steam ahead.
“Race 1 we didn’t have the best tyre strategy on old tyres when we should’ve been on new tyres but somehow we managed to win that race and set a new lap record of 1min:29.334 secs,” Buchanan says.
He won the second race when the leader crashed out and he was in the right position to capitalise on this misfortune.
“Race 3 was definitely the highlight where we were the only bike on wet tyres in the whole field and somehow, we managed to beat all the guys on slicks. Despite them passing me, I had to be aggressive and pass them straight back, or it would be the race over.”
Buchanan explained that the number one plate on his motorcycle gave him the confidence to ride more “elbows out” compared to last season. He also appreciated the tight racing and the top level of competition provided by fellow Kiwi international Shane Richardson, who finished second overall for the opening round.
Returning for the third season to race with the YRDT was conducive to performing at his best, Buchanan says.
“It’s a really nice environment and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Coppins says for the Altherm Yamaha Racing Team’s F1/Superbike rider Alastair Hoogenboezem “it was a tough weekend.”
“In the dry races, his performance was pretty decent but in the wet he really struggled.”
Riding his Yamaha YZF-R1 in the F1/Superbike top tier class, Hoogenboezem finished second to defending champion Mitch Rees in Saturday’s dry, six-lap Race 1.
Sunday’s Race 2 involved mixed conditions and although he was proud of his team for helping him make the right set-up and tyre decisions, his front wheel hit a slippery section of paint on the track off the start line, which put him on the back foot.
“I ended up going sideways off the start and by the time I had regathered, I was pretty much last going into turn one and had to play a catch-up game. I was happy I got back up the field to 6th. Although there’s not many points for 6th.”
Hoogenboezem admits he “just didn’t really fire in the wet third race” and got stuck in a rhythm that left him susceptible to being picked off by other riders.
“It was frustrating. I know I’m better and consider myself alright in the wet,” he says.
With riders able to drop one of the six NZSBK rounds, Hoogenboezem will be looking for a better results set this coming weekend at Manfeild, which hosts round two of both the Suzuki and NZSBK series.
He thanked his team, Yamaha, Altherm and personal sponsors, plus extended his congratulations to his teammate.
“Cormac didn’t have it easy but he rode smart. It is pretty cool to have him beside me in the pit garage.”
While Manfeild is the track he has the least experience on, Buchanan is targeting a repeat of this past weekend’s success.
Suzuki International Series/NZSBK Championship Round One Results:
1st Mitch Rees – 71
2nd Tony Rees – 61
3rd Dale Finch – 43
4th Alastair Hoogenboezem (YZF-R1) – 38
1st Cormac Buchanan (YZF-R6) – 76
2nd Shane Richardson – 60
3rd Luca Durning – 36
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