THE MIKE PERO MOTOFEST WEEKEND AT HAMPTON DOWNS COULD BE PIVOTAL IN NZSBK TITLE CHASE
The battle lines have been drawn in the superbike nationals and the next round at Hampton Downs in just over two weeks’ time could be pivotal in determining where the trophies end up for 2018.
The event on the weekend of March 3-4 will not only be stellar in terms of the New Zealand Superbike Championships, but will also be out of this world in terms of entertainment and excitement, with the superbikes just one part of a jam-packed Mike Pero MotoFest weekend at Hampton Downs.
The world-renowned race track, located midway between Mercer and Huntly, will host a wide assortment of motorcycling activities over the two days and, with international superstars such as American Randy Mamola, Englishman Steve Parrish, Australian Robbie Phillis and New Zealander Aaron Slight, among others, in attendance at the weekend, there will be plenty to enthral the crowds.
Hampton Downs Motorsport Park’s commercial manager, Mike Marsden, said the event will have a “festival feel, with high profile racing on two circuits and track time for amateur riders”.
He said the Franklin Farm freestyle motocross team will thrill the crowd with aerial action on the main Skid Pan, while the Kawasaki Public Trail Ride, which will be run on adjacent farmland, gives families and enthusiasts the chance to go for a ride and then enjoy all other aspects of the events – including the Motul Stadium Moto Trial event, the Star Insurance Bike Show and the Alpinestars Legends Dinner, being staged on the Saturday night of the event.
However, there is sure to be a phenomenal amount of focus that weekend as DHL Express NZ Ltd presents round three of the New Zealand Superbike Championships action.
It was a tight contest at round one of the superbike nationals in Christchurch, but a totally dominant performance from former national superbike champion Sloan Frost at the second of four rounds of the 2018 series in Timaru last month and so, with the four-round series already now at the halfway stage, it’s perhaps looking ominous for his rivals.
There had been three different winners in the premier Superbikes class at the opening round of the series at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch at the start of January – Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem (BMW 1000RR), Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam (Suzuki GSX-R1000A) and then Frost (Suzuki GSXR1000A) sharing the wins – but the weekend at Timaru belonged solely to Frost.
Wellington man Frost arrived at Timaru with a slender one-point advantage over his chief rivals, Mettam and Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (Honda CBR1000SP1), but a hat-trick of wins at Timaru blew his leading margin out to 24 points over Rees, with Mettam slipping slightly to third overall, 15 points further back.
Rees’ progress is something of a fairytale – the 24-year-old is starting out on only his second season of motorcycle road-racing and, despite his relative novice status, Rees has emerged as Frost’s main rival for the crown.
His 50-year-old father, Tony Rees, is the 2017 national superbike champion, but an injury sustained by the Honda star, while racing in December, means he’s now restricted to viewing from the sideline.
But to see his eldest son so effortlessly “taking up the baton” must be an immense source of pride for him.
Other class leaders after the second round of four in the national series are Christchurch’s James Hoogenboezem (Supersport 600 class); Tauranga’s Regan Phibbs (Supersport 300); Hamilton’s Jordan Burley (650 Pro Twins); Christchurch’s Nick Cain (250 Production); Huia’s Nathanael Diprose (Superlites); Rodney’s Blayes Heaven (125GP); Pukekohe’s Thomas Newton (GIXXER Cup), and Auckland’s Peter Goodwin and Kendall Dunlop (Sidecars).
The fourth and final round of the championships is set for Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo on March 17-18.
For information on tickets for the MotoFest weekend, hospitality packages, the legends dinner and camp sites, go to http://www.hamptondowns.com
Words and photo by Andy McGechan