Wellington’s Rogan Chandler will head into the 2019 New Zealand Superbike Championships in a confident mood as his build-up for that series continues to gather momentum. The 21-year-old apprentice builder from Upper Hutt has been on the pace with the leaders in the 600cc class in the early part of this season and feels he’s now poised to celebrate a breakthrough 600cc class win at nationals level.
The Yamaha rider is currently second overall in the Formula Two (600cc) class after Sunday’s second of three rounds in this year’s pre-nationals Suzuki Series at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, in Feilding, and he prepares now to switch his Yamaha R6 bike to street fighting mode for the final round on Whanganui’s famous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day (December 26). After that, it’s on to the five-round 2019 nationals, which will kick off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park at Ruapuna, in Christchurch, on January 5-6.
Chandler’s performances during his pre-nationals build-up have been impressive enough for him to be ranked among the favourites to win the national Supersport 600 title in 2019. However, it is Bay of Plenty’s Damon Rees who leads the F2 class in the Suzuki Series thus far, the Whakatane man finishing ahead of Rangiora’s Avalon Biddle in race one and ahead of Chandler in race two at Manfeild on Sunday.
“I finished third in the (twice re-started) first race at Manfeild, but Avalon Biddle crashed out while leading race two at Manfeild and that allowed me to move up (from fourth) to second place for the series,” Chandler explained.
Chandler edged out Feilding’s Ashton Hughes at Manfeild, Hughes finishing 4-3 on his home track and moving himself up from fifth to third overall in the series.
“I was a bit lucky actually,” Chandler confessed. “I crashed early in race one at Manfeild and the race had to be re-started. I was fortunate that I was able to re-start and that was all thanks to the Yamaha pit crew who worked to repair my bike during the interval, replacing muffler, foot-peg, and handlebars. I had to re-start the race from pit lane and that put me right at the back of the field. But then the race was re-started again after another rider crashed and, for the second re-start, I was allowed back onto my front-row grid position. My left foot was pretty sore from my earlier crash, but it all worked out okay for me in the end because I managed to hold out Ashton Hughes and I finished that race in second. I’m feeling pretty confident for the Nationals now. I know I have the speed to be up with the leaders and apply pressure to take my first race win in the 600cc class at nationals level. I need to improve my starts and I’m certainly working on that. I have the pace to win races, but if I’m fourth or fifth through turn one, it certainly makes my task more difficult. The races are longer duration in the nationals (than in the Suzuki Series) and that suits me too because I can keep a good pace throughout. The Yamaha is great too on not wearing out tyres and that can be a problem for some riders in the longer races.”
Other class leaders after Sunday’s second round of three in the Suzuki Series are Wainuiomata’s Shane Richardson (Formula One); Palmerston North’s Jacob Stroud (F3); Taupiri’s Zak Fuller and Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud (GIXXER Cup), Paraparaumu’s Peter Bogusz (Post Classics, Pre-89, Senior); Auckland’s Scott Findlay (Post Classics, Pre-89, Junior); Ngaruawahia’s Steve Bridge (Bears, non-Japanese bikes, Seniors); Te Awamutu’s Gary Morgan (Bears, non-Japanese bikes, Juniors); Tauranga’s Duncan Hart (Super Motard class); England’s John Holden and Tauranga’s Robbie Shorter (F1 Sidecars); Tauranga’s Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan (F2 Sidecars).
Words and photo by Andy McGechan