The first round of the 2017 Suzuki Series kicked off with Non-stop Action across the board
Round 1 of the Suzuki Series kicked off at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on December 10 and it was an interesting mix of some riders finding their pace, while others just dominated their class. And with the Suzuki Gixxer Cup debuting a lot of riders who’d never been on the starting grid of a ‘proper’ race meeting, there were plenty of thrills and spills to keep the excellent number of spectators entertained.
Pre-89 Post Classic
The meeting started off with the Pre-89 Post Classic racers, many of whom are riding machines similar in performance to the latest superbikes in the F1 class. With this level of performance combined with a ‘period’ machine, it takes real talent to muscle these bikes around at race pace. Having a young rider who’s used to riding modern race machines is a real advantage, shown with the dominance of Glen Skachill aboard the immaculate Bimota YB8. With almost the length of the back straight between him and second place Matt Eggleton, at the end of each race, it was a one-man show. SJ Cavell came home in third in both races aboard his FZR1000.
Next up was the Formula Sports/BEARS category, which combined both senior and junior classes. With machines ranging from an Aprilia RS250 two-stroke, to a Yamaha YZF-R1 and plenty of European machinery thrown into the mix, it was a curious mix of speeds, machines and ability. Dwayne Bishop took out the senior class with two wins aboard his Aprilia RSV4 RR, followed up by F1 Engineering’s Steve Bridge, who is now back racing again after a torrid return from injury. Zurrin Wikki took two wins in the junior class aboard his Triumph Daytona 675, followed by Regan Phibbs.
Formula 2 was a loaded class, with names like Toby Summers, Rogan Chandler, Roman Rajek and Avalon Biddle all set to do battle. From the flag drop, it was clear that Shane Richardson’s experience gained from racing in the States over the Kiwi winter, has put him into a different league from the rest of the field, taking his Kawasaki ZX-6R to a commanding lead in both races. He was simply untouchable all day. Next up was Rogan Chandler aboard the new Yamaha YZF-R6 – prepared by Dave Cole – who took second spot in race 1 and then fifth in race two, giving him second overall on his first ride.
Toby Summers was looking like the only one to have any sort of answer to Richardson, although an incident in race 1 saw him end up in the gravel at turn 1 when another rider lost the front and took Summers out. Quickly remounting and joining the race mid-pack, Summers was later disqualified by organisers, as the rules say bikes need to be re-scrutineered if they’ve hit the ground. Mr Marquez wouldn’t have won a world title if that was the case in MotoGP! BRM’s Avalon Biddle finished the day in a fantastic third position although she wasn’t happy with her performance, stating she had very little rear-end grip throughout both races. Still, third spot for the Christchurch local on her new Kawasaki ZX-6R is a great start to the series.
Jacob Stroud was complaining of handling issue with the ex-Alex Phylis MV Agusta F3 and the results showed, finishing the day in sixth position, again with rear-end grip proving to be difficult to achieve.
Watch Race 1
Watch Race 2
Suzuki Gixxer Cup 150
This was the first time we were to see how the Gixxer 150s performed at the hands of 18 new riders. With many of the Gixxer pilots pitting together, it was great to see that this initiative was proving its worth at encouraging new riders to come racing and also giving them the skills to move up through the classes.
Qualifying had seen a familiar name at the head of the timing sheets, and as the bikes lined up, there was a young Jessie Stroud working his way to the front, barely able to touch the ground. With turn one successfully negotiated, the difference in pace was noticeable from front to back, Jessie fighting with Clark Fountain to gain the lead, and noticeable advantages for each rider in different areas of the circuit. For Stroud, it was the in-field where he was able to gain a bit of room, but Fountain could catch him in the tricky chicanes, diving up the inside a number of times as the riders came onto the start/finish straight. Eventually, Stroud gained enough of an advantage that Fountain wasn’t close enough to get ahead. In race two Stroud was leading again, this time with Tarbon Walker close behind. Fountain managed fourth, giving him second overall for the day. But it was Paeroa-local Blake Ross, who was the surprise pick of the leading bunch, with this being his first time racing a road bike. Race 1 saw an elated Blake on the third step of the podium, while a fifth in race 2 saw him third overall for the series.
BRM’s very own Gixxer Cup rider, Brayden Hobden had a difficult weekend, with a spill in practice on the Saturday seemingly causing an issue with the forks come race day, which meant he wasn’t able to put in a time anywhere near what he’d been used to. Qualifying at the back of the grid meant he had everything to try and make up, and while he gained experience in race 1, an unfortunate spill in race 2 saw him DNF. Still, he’s looking forward to Manfeild, when hopefully, the Suzuki will be back in full working order.
Watch Race 1
As usual, Supermoto was a packed class full of the wild racing that is a firm favourite with spectators. Richard Dibben on his immaculately prepared Honda CRF450R took the double, although had to keep a hard-charging Duncan Hart (Yamaha YZ450F) at bay to do it. Hart somehow came second in both races. Aden Brown could only manage fifth in race 1 aboard his Suzuki RM-Z450, with Jette Josiah (Yamaha YZ450F) taking the last step of the podium in that race, but he came back strongly in race two to take third for the day.
Finally, it was time for the premier class to kick off again, and it was incredible to see 18 bikes line up on the grid. Usually, the premier class consists of half a dozen bikes circulating, so this was certainly going to provide fireworks, especially after all the controversy from the 2017 season, which saw legal proceedings to try and determine the outcome. With Sloan Frost and Scotty Moir on new GSX-R1000R Suzuki’s, while the Rees’ were campaigning Honda’s new CBR1000RR, it was going to be interesting to see where off-season testing would place these riders on machines which are basically an unknown commodity.
With bated breath in the pits for the first turn, it was great to see everybody through safely, although it was a bit of a surprise to see who was in the group out front. Leading was Scotty Moir on the new Suzuki GSX-R1000R, followed closely by Tony Rees and his son, Mitch aboard the two Honda CBRs. Mitch was pressuring Tony throughout the race with everyone expecting a dive on the brakes each lap, but Mitch held fast, even with a hard-charging Sloan Frost breathing down his neck in the final laps
Race 2 was marred by a turn 1 accident, which showed so many bikes all trying to occupy the same bit of tarmac was never going to work. With Al Hoogenboezem getting squeezed to the inside, he had nowhere to go, and eventually lost the front on the white line. This caused a chain reaction that took many of the leading protagonists out in one massive crash that involved over half a dozen bikes. The race was immediately stopped and postponed for one race to allow the riders time to get back to the pits and repair their machines or hop onto their spare bikes if they had them.
The Suzuki and Honda pits were frantic, with Sloan helping Scotty by lending him his spare bike and then assisting him to make the necessary adjustments, while Tony Rees needed to swap parts between his new and spare bike to try and get one working machine. The restart saw Mitch taking the lead, much to the joy of the crowd, but as Scotty became more comfortable with Sloan’s spare bike, he cut the gap down, eventually diving past Mitch to take the win. Both riders were ecstatic with their result, and now sit 1 and 2 in the championship standings. Unfortunately for Tony, the bike he used to rejoin the race had issues, forcing him to retire.
With two fourth places, Sloan sits third in the championship going into Manfeild, with everybody aware that Scotty goes particularly well at Taupo, which might not see him quite so dominant further down the island. We shall see on the 17th.
Watch Race 1
Watch Race 2
With Jacob Stroud entering F3 on the hotly-anticipated Kramer supported by Rodney O’Conner and Eurobike, it was handling issues which again put paid to Stroud getting the result he wanted. Battling hard with Nathanael Diprose in race 1, the crowd gasped on seeing Stroud and the Kramer go down on the righthander which transitions from the new to the old circuit. The bike crashed exceptionally well, with only a couple of grazes, meaning Stroud could get back into the action in race 2. Diprose went on to win the race in convincing fashion on the Suzuki GSX-R450 (a 600 with one cylinder blanked), with Ashley Payne on another GSX-R450 coming home in second. Third spot went to Gavin Veltmeyer.
Stroud again fought hard in the second race, but with the forks causing him handling issues which couldn’t be dialled out between the races, fifth was the closest he could get to the front in this competitive class. Still, with a week before Manfeild, we expect to see him at the front soon.
Another massive field was the sidecars, with F1 and F2 represented in this class. Unfortunately, race stoppages and restarts due to issues on the track saw split points awarded, but it was the pairing of Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan who took the win in F1, while Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes took out F2.
If you didn’t make it to Taupo for round 1, make sure you get to Manfeild next weekend as this is ultra-competitive racing by the best talent in NZ.
The professionalism from the teams – as well as the organisers – is astounding, and it deserves much more exposure than the mainstream media give it.
It was great to see how all the changes in the off-season have altered the outcome on the track, with some like Scotty Moir now much more competitive on the latest machinery. With plenty of new talent coming through like the Rees boys on the new Hondas, Connor London, who has had to put his own team together, the young Strouds, who seem to be able to ride anything fast, and all the others that are there to put on a show, you simply must make the effort to spectate and show your appreciation. And let’s not forget, watching a day of motorcycle racing is always a great day!
Suzuki Series Dates
Round 2 – Manfeild – 17th December
Round 3 – Cemetery Circuit – Boxing Day
For further info visit: www.cemeterycircuit.co.nz
Suzuki Series results after round 1
1 – Scotty Moir 51 points
2 – Mitch Rees 42 points
3 – Sloan Frost 36 points
1 – Shane Richardson 51 points
2 – Rogan Chandler 38 points
3 – Avalon Biddle 36 points
1 – Nathanael Diprose 51 points
2 – Ashley Payne 44 points
3 – Gavin Veltmeyer 40 points
1 – Dwayne Bishop 51 points
2 – Steve Bridge 44 points
3 – Eddie Kattneberg 40 points
1 – Zurrin Wikki 51 points
2 – Regan Phibbs 44 points
3 – Glen Eggleton 40 points
Post Classic Pre 89
1 – Glen Skachill 51 points
2 – Matt Eggleton 44 points
3 – SJ Cavell 40 points
1 – Scott Findlay 48 points
2 – Dean Bentley 47 points
3 – Terry Moran 40 points
1 – Barry Smith/Tracey Bryan 51 points
2 – Chris Lawrence/Richard Lawrence 37 points
3 – Adam Unsworth/Bryce Rose 37 points
1 – Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes 26 points
2 – Tony Baker/Shelly Smithies 21 points
3 – Eckart Rosinger/Steffen Werner 19 points
1 – Richard Dibben 51 points
2 – Duncan Hart 44 points
3 – Aden Brown 36 points
Suzuki Gixxer 150 Cup
1 – Jessie Stroud 50 points
2 – Clark Fountain 40 points
3 – Blake Ross 35 points