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Crashes don’t worry Superbike champion

21 March 2013

Crashes don’t worry Superbike champion

A couple of crashes are not going detune Australian ace Robbie Bugden as he guns for his fifth New Zealand Superbike Championship at Taupo this weekend.

Bugden, the reigning champion, uncharacteristically crashed his Suzuki twice in the penultimate round at Hampton Downs last weekend, once in qualifying and once in the New Zealand TT feature race. He was fortunate to escape injury, especially in the second tumble.

“I was lucky to get away with it, to be honest – it’s reasonably fast there,” the Aussie said. “No, I’m fine, I’m a hundred percent fit.”

He was also lucky to retain his championship points lead as his nearest challenger, fellow Suzuki racer Craig Shirriffs, also crashed – at the same time, on the same corner, leading fans to wonder whether there had been contact.

“I think we both had pretty much the same sort of crash, but we didn’t touch each other. It was tricky, with the showers and the rain and the track temperature was well down.”

A championship leader nearing the end of a season always faces the same dilemma – whether to ride cautiously, trying to make sure of finishing, or to continue to push hard.

“It’s a difficult one, isn’t it,” Bugden said. “I think if you change your game plan too much that’s when you can start making mistakes.

“I think our attitude will be the same as all the other rounds, just go in there and do the best we can, be as fast as we can, and hopefully we’ll be right up front and we’ll get two really strong results.

“If we can do that the championship should be ours -- but as we know, anything can happen. We’ll give it all we’ve got.”

Bugden still leads Shirriffs by 21 points. The Superbikes have two races on Sunday and the winner of each race gains 25 points.

Shirriffs is also undaunted by his crash and fired up to go all out on Sunday. “I’m just going to go after Robbie and try and win the thing and we’ll see how it pans out on Sunday night,” he said. “I’m not terribly interested in finishing second.”

TT winner Dennis Charlett from Christchurch, riding another Suzuki, has closed up on the leaders and is now just nine points behind Shirriffs.

Other riders who have proven they can race right at the front include Hamilton’s Nick Cole, who won the first race at Hampton Downs for Kawasaki, Wellington-based Sloan Frost on a BMW, Taranaki rider Hayden Fitzgerald with his Suzuki; and James Smith from Christchurch on a Honda.

In 600 Supersport, Christchurch racer John Ross has a 16-point lead on his Suzuki and two decent finishes should earn him his first national title. His nearest challengers are two teenage Yamaha riders, Aucklander Jaden Hassan and Jake Lewis from Christchurch.

However this class is a volatile one and there are several riders capable of winning, as David Hall (Te Awamutu, Suzuki) and Seth Devereux (Christchurch, Kawasaki) showed at the wet Hampton Downs meeting.

Australian teenager Luke Burgess has already clinched the 250 Production championship, having won every race he finished. Leaders in other classes are: Superlite, Richard Newbery (Balclutha, Kawasaki); Pro Twins, Hamish Murphy (Wellington, Suzuki); 125 GP, Troy Guenther (Australia, Honda); and Sidecars, Spike Taylor (Masterton)-Astrid Hartnell (Wanganui) LCR 1000.

Superbikes and Supersport have qualifying on Saturday and two races on Sunday. The other classes have one race on Saturday and two on Sunday.

ENDS