Bugden quick to find pace in New Zealand
MARCH 5, 2018: It didn't take long for Australian Robbie Bugden to get back up to speed in New Zealand.
The 37-year-old from Brisbane had received the call-up from Yamaha-Motor New Zealand to cross the Tasman Sea and take over the Yamaha R1 bike that was just begging to be raced in the New Zealand Superbike Championships, the bike on stand-by after its regular rider, New Plymouth's Hayden Fitzgerald, had sidelined himself in a crash at a separate event a few weeks earlier.
And the multi-time former New Zealand Superbike Champion Budgen needed no second bidding to return to the Kiwi race scene. He was last here in 2013, winning his fifth New Zealand superbike crown that season.
Although unfamiliar with the new bike, using a different brand of tyres than he was used to (Pirelli instead of Dunlop) and not having raced in the previous two rounds of the Kiwi series, Bugden was keen to get out on the track at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park at the weekend, the venue for the third round of four in the 2018 nationals.
With legendary bike tuner Dave Cole working on the bike for him, Bugden made gradual adjustments during the weekend and seemed to get faster with each outing, although an unavoidable crash in the second of three superbike races, when another rider tipped off directly in front of him, mean his chase for points was temporarily disrupted.
But Bugden's weekend then brightened considerably as it culminated on Sunday with him winning the third and final superbike race of the event, a most significant result since this was the race that significantly also carried TT trophy honours.
It was no easy win, though, and as Bugden worked his way forward from eighth position at the start, the spectators were on their feet and cheering as the Australian engaged in cut-and-thrust battles with Kiwi heroes Daniel Mettam, Scott Moir and Sloan Frost, Bugden eventually winning the race by less than a bike length from Mettam.
"I knew half the track here ... they were using the longer version of the track for the first time this weekend ... but I got up to speed fairly quickly.
"At first I just couldn't seem to put eight good laps together, but the last race was actually 15 laps and by then I was going much better. It was an all-out dog-fight but I loved it. It was brilliant.
"I just need to keep the winning momentum going now (at the fourth and final round of the series) at Taupo in two weeks' time."