In The Blood


Interview: BRM Photos: Supplied
No matter what the code, when it comes to motorcycling racing in New Zealand, the name ‘Rees’ is one that most race fans will be familiar with. That is set to continue with Tony’s sons, Mitch and Damon, racing alongside him. We caught up with eldest son, Mitch, who is contesting the Superbike class…


So, Mitch, just how did you end up on a Superbike?
Last year, I agreed to race the Motul 6 Hour with Damo and Tony, which meant I needed to get some time on the bike. I did three or four practice days, just to see how I felt, where I managed to get my lap times down to a 1:09 (at Hampton Downs).

Given that you went from a 125 to the premier motocross class, it should come as no surprise that you’re in the Superbike class, huh?
I guess not! It came about, as that’s what we had for a spare bike. But, yeah, you could say that I got thrown in the deep end.
Both classes are really fast, though.
But you’re less likely to highside on the 600 and you have to carry a lot more corner speed – where as, on a Superbike, you’ve got to have more throttle control – as there is less horsepower than the next class up. So, even if you get a 600 on the gas, hard to the stop, there is less chance of a highside – compared to a thou, anyway.
Having said that, you still get good speeds on a 600.


With Damo on the 600, you and Tony on the Superbikes, is the Team Honda DNA complete?
It is. But that was the name we used for the 6 Hour. Whether we use the same name for the 6 Hour, again, we don’t know. But we’re known as the Honda Rider Insurance Tony Rees Motorcycles Race Team.

What is the competition like in either class?
In the Superbike class, there is Tony, Andrew Stroud, Sloan Frost – who is the reigning champ – and Scott Moir. Any one of those guys could win on any given Sunday, too, as proven by Stroud winning a race at the last round at Hampton Downs. That was also the round where Tony broke the lap record. Seriously, you’ve got a lot of top guys who are fast, such as Alastair Hoogenboezem – riding for Triple R Racing Honda and is a stable mate of our team – who was second, but battling for the win.

Mitch swapped his moto gear for leathers

In Supersport, who’s the competition for Damo?
Last year, it was definitely Cam Hudson, from the South Island. He dominated the rounds down south, leaving those rounds with a 37-point lead. But he didn’t win the championship. He didn’t crash, either. In the north, he just didn’t have the speed, only getting as high as fourth. He lost a lot of points at the Hampton Downs races. In the end, Dan Mettam managed to come through and win the title. That’s the thing, as much as you can dominate, you still need to bring it for the boys in the north. Up here, you have the likes of Avalon Biddle – who beat Hudson – as well as Damo, Aaron Hassan and, obviously, Dan Mettam.
Then there’s Shane Richardson, riding a Kawasaki ZX6, who’s really fast. He’s the man to watch for the next season. Bailie Perriton and Seth Devereux are other riders to keep an eye on, too – especially Seth, as he’s good at riding and building motors.

You, Damo and Tony all got your start in dirt bikes, but you and your brother grew up being at tracks with your dad, which is why we have to ask: just when did you first throw a leg over a road bike?
Back in 2006, when I was 14, I rode Yamaha TZ125. A couple of years later, when Damon was about the same age, he got his first ride aboard a Yamaha R6. He scared himself and went away for a bit, though. But he came back, when he was 18, buying himself a CBR500 and making his way to a 600… and here we are.

Ready To Race
Ready To Race

Did he change codes due to the injuries that he got on the moto?
After Damo broke his back in a motocross accident, he was having issues with that. Taking some time off from riding, he went and wrenched for Tony (for a season), which is when he decided to buy the 500 to ride.

While training at the Millsaps Training Facility in Georgia, you broke your leg in a serious crash on the motocross track, but your injury didn’t stop you from riding dirt bikes. So, in the end, was this just something you wanted to do?
After racing a few times, I found I enjoyed it a lot, which is why I’ve continued and am now sorting out some help for the next season. With Tony and Damo also racing, too, it just made sense. The family is back on the road, doing it together, which is a lot of fun.

And what leathers are you wearing?
I am wearing Berik leathers. One of the big supporters of Honda Rider Insurance Tony Rees Motorcycles Racing is Darbi Accessories, who do Berik, HJC helmets, Sidi, Spectro and Hi-Flo filters, Vesrah brake pads and Artrax rotors. But we also get help from Go Fast Energy Drink, JT Racing, D.I.D chains, K-Tech Suspension, Pirelli Tyres, BST Wheels – awesome carbon wheels that Tony uses for the Suzuki Series – MWR Air Filters, Arrow Exhausts and Race Supplies.

Then there’s Signedge Rotorua, who do our graphics, Taslo Engineering and GM Panelbeating. The latter does the touch-ups of the fairings, if we need it…

Now that you’ve done a few events, have you found that road racing is a lot more expensive than moto?
It is, to say the least. We have a lot of help from great sponsors, who supply gear, parts and services, but there is still the cost of fuel and tyres and building a fast motor – you can’t win without one.

Is that because the competition is at a level that even the smallest edge helps?
It’s that, along with the fact the Hondas are slightly down on power. But, what the CBR lacks in pure horsepower, it makes up in suspension and handling – the chassis is great.

For the engine, we have help from Dynoworx to get it tuned. We had our motors tuned by them on the way down to the Burt Munro Challenge.

Speaking of such events, when does it all kick off for you?
Over the winter, there is less riding, which helps with saving money for the season. But Damo and I are racing the Hamilton Motorcycle Club Winter Series, held out of Taupo, which is one round down. But the next one, part of the three-round series, is in September. After that, it’s the Motul 6 Hour. From there, it’s the Burt, the Suzuki Series – including the street race at Wanganui – and the Nationals and, finally, Paeroa.

You have enough races under your belt to do the Battle of the Streets?
Yeah, I have three road race events done, so I can do a street race.

Mitch testing for DRD
Mitch testing for DRD

When it comes to that racing, do you think your moto skills will help on a street circuit?
It is definitely more intense than racing on a track, ‘cause it’s a lot harder to be real fast on ‘em. Really, you have to be more calculated, as it’s not as smooth, which is why it is so similar to motocross. Of course, there is less room for mistakes, too – if you do make one, there is a lot of stuff to hit.
At the Burt, I’ll also be doing that street circuit, which I am excited about. Although, I’m just excited about that whole event, as I’ll also be racing Supercross – an event I got second in for 2015 – the beach race and Teretonga.

No hillclimb?
Nah, it’s on at the same time as the Supercross, so I’ll leave that one to Tony.

For the beach race, you’ll be racing the CRF450R and not your Superbike with some knobbies?
It’ll definitely be the CRF!