The second of three rounds in this year’s Suzuki Series at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, in Feilding, on Sunday picked up when it had left off at round one in Taupo a week earlier, again bursting with edge-of-the-seat racing.
Visiting British rider Peter Hickman is one of the series’ draw-card riders, but the Isle of Man champion didn’t really feature at Taupo. The same could not be said after his stunning performance at Manfeild on Sunday. Hickman won both of the day’s glamour Formula One superbike races and looked comfortable doing it, rocketing up from 11th overall after the Taupo opener to now be placed third in the series standings, just eight points behind defending Suzuki Series champion Scotty Moir, of Taupo.
Moir qualified fastest in this class and he then finished the day overall runner-up, his carding of 2-4 results in the two F1 races enough to give him a one-point edge over Wainuiomata’s Shane Richardson for the day’s tally, although Richardson still leads the series standings. Richardson finished 4-2 in his two F1 outings on Sunday, equal to Moir’s race results, but Moir’s extra point for setting the fastest qualifying time gave him the welcome boost. Richardson’s series lead has suffered only minimal damage – he has gone from four points in front of Moir to now have just a three-point advantage over Moir.
Hickman, on the other hand, made gigantic advances after his Kiwi debut at Taupo.
“It wasn’t all doom and gloom at Taupo, but I think this (Manfeild) circuit better suited the bike than the track at Taupo did,” Hickman said. “The level of talent here in New Zealand is actually quite good. It definitely wasn’t easy to win today,” said the 31-year-old Lincolnshire man.
There is only a little bit of respite before the series has its third at final round, the traditional public street race spectacular on Boxing Day (December 26), the bikes on that once-a-year occasion being raced around Whanganui’s iconic Cemetery Circuit.
Despite being a first-time visitor to New Zealand, Hickman is obviously a quick learner and the curbs, tight bends, railway crossings and slick painted road markings at Whanganui should present no problems for the 2018 Isle of Man winner.
“It’s my first time in New Zealand, but it has all been good. We only got to the Taupo track the day before the racing there. I only landed Friday morning and I was racing there Saturday and Sunday, so I was sort of thrown in at the deep end, but I still really enjoyed it. I hadn’t seen the circuit before at Taupo, but I earned a front-row start position. Then race one at Taupo I was running third when I had a coming-together with another rider and we both ended up in the gravel. It wasn’t my fault, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. In the second race at Taupo, the temperature was so hot that the track became very slippery. It didn’t help my cause in any way, but I was still in touch with the front boys and I managed to finish fifth in the end. I didn’t have any jet lag at Manfeild and had an extra day riding here, so I went better there,” he said matter-of-factly. “On my way to Manfeild I stopped off in Whanganui and did a couple of laps (of the Cemetery Circuit) in the car. I knew it was a short circuit, but I didn’t think it was so wide,” said Hickman, unaware perhaps that the Cemetery Circuit has never before been described as or considered by most racers as ‘wide’. “I think there are loads of passing opportunities, so I’m feeling confident for Boxing Day. Obviously, I’m not going to get a lot of time to practice on it, which makes things a little more tough, but we’ll have some fun there and do some wheelies and skids. That’s what it’s all about.”
Meanwhile, there were changes near the top of several other classes also at Manfeild.
In the 600cc Formula Two class, Whakatane’s Damon Rees was again unbeatable, while his nearest challenger, Rangiora’s Avalon Biddle, dropped from the runner-up spot for the series after crashing while leading the day’s second of two F2 races on Sunday. The new No.2 rider in this class now is Rogan Chandler, the Lower Hutt man finishing third and second in the two F2 races on Sunday and moving from fourth to second for the series. Chandler edged out Feilding’s Ashton Hughes, who himself moved up from fifth overall to capture third overall thanks to his 4-3 results at Manfeild.
Palmerston North’s Jacob Stroud continues to lead the Formula Three class; Auckland’s Scott Findlay still tops the Post Classics, Pre-89, Juniors class; Te Awamutu’s Gary Morgan remains in control of the Bears (non-Japanese bikes) and Formula Sport, Juniors class; Tauranga’s Duncan Hart continues to dominate the Super Motard class; visiting British rider John Holden, with Tauranga ‘passenger’ Robbie Shorter, are still unbeaten in the Formula One sidecars class and Tauranga pair Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan are similarly running away with the Formula Two sidecars class, but, there were changes at the top of several other categories.
Taupiri’s Zak Fuller is the new leader in the GIXXER Cup class after Manfeild, while Paraparaumu’s Peter Bogusz has taken over the lead in the Post Classics, Pre-89, Seniors class; Ngaruawahia’s Steve Bridge is the new man in charge of the Bears (non-Japanese bikes) and Formula Sport, Seniors class;
Leading standings after Sunday’s second of three rounds in the Suzuki Series are:
Formula One superbikes: 1. Shane Richardson (Wainuiomata) 84 points; 2. Scott Moir (Taupo) 81; 3. Peter Hickman (UK) 36.
Formula Two 600: 1. Damon Rees (Whakatane) 102 points; 2. Rogan Chandler (Upper Hutt) 78; 3. Ashton Hughes (Feilding) 71.
Formula three: 1. Jacob Stroud (Palmerston North) 102 points; 2. Leigh Tidman (Taumarunui) 84; 3. Richard Markham-Barrett (Nikau Valley) 74.
GIXXER Cup: 1= Zak Fuller (Taupiri) and Jesse Stroud (Hamilton) 90 points; 3. Clark Fountain (Greymouth) 88.
Post Classics, Pre-89, Seniors: 1. Peter Bogusz (Paraparaumu) 89 points; 2. Gian Louie (Hastings) 87; 3, Duncan Coutts (Whangarei) 74.
Post Classics, Pre-89, Juniors: 1. Scott Findlay (Auckland) 98 points; 2. Dean Bentley (Lower Hutt) 90; 3. Chris Sales (Palmerston North) 62.
Bears (non-Japanese bikes) and Formula Sport, Seniors: 1. Steve Bridge (Ngaruawahia) 91 points; 2. Brendon Coad (Auckland) 89; 3. Malcolm Bielski (Wellington) 71.
Bears (non-Japanese bikes) and Formula Sport, Juniors: 1. Gary Morgan (Te Awamutu) 101 points; 2. Robert Lammas (Palmerston North) 86; 3. Paul Jenkins (Kaikohe) 72.
Super Motard: 1. Duncan Hart (Tauranga) 102 points; 2. Andrew Rudd (Ashburton) 80; 3= Will Young (Wellington) and Russell Josiah (Taumarunui) 72.
F1 Sidecars: 1. John Holden and Robbie Shorter (England/Tauranga) 102 points; 2. Ian Staples and Mark Thompson (Whanganui) 78; 3= Peter Goodwin (Albany) and Louise Blythe (Whanganui), Jarrad Winter and Kelly Winter (Christchurch) 62.
F2 Sidecars: 1. Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan (Tauranga) 102 points; 2. Gary Bryan and Philip Hyde (Leceister, UK) 88; 3. Mark Halls (Auckland) and Darren Prentis (Taranaki) 80.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan