Whakatane's Damon Rees puts Honda on top of podium
JANUARY 12, 2020: It wasn't perfect, but "pretty damn close" for Bay of Plenty's Damon Rees as he raced to a thrilling victory in Canterbury at the weekend.
The Whakatane man was in stunning form at the first round of five in this season's New Zealand Superbike Championships at Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Ruapuna) in Christchurch, starting the two-day event by qualifying his Honda CBR1000SP1 on pole in the premier Superbikes class.
He then blasted into the lead in race one on Saturday, although his advantage lasted just a couple of turns before he over-shot a corner and headed off onto the grass,
He rejoined the race in last position and with a seemingly impossible task ahead of him.
Rees' mistake had gifted the race lead to local favourite Alastair Hoogenboezem and the Christchurch man needed no further encouragement as he put his head down and charged off into the distance.
Rees' elder brother and team-mate, Mitch Rees, on an identical Honda CRB1000SP1, was now in second spot and he managed to keep Hoogenboezem honest until he crashed spectacularly on the seventh lap of 10. His bike wrecked, he was unable to continue the race.
Damon Rees, meanwhile, had mounted a thrilling come-from-behind attack, picking off rider after rider until he finally slotted into third spot, just behind Hoogenboezem's team-mate and fellow Canterbury man Jake Lewis, as the riders crossed the finish line.
Damon Rees redeemed himself in the two Superbikes races that followed on Sunday, winning them both and taking the overall win for the class at Ruapuna, although this has been declared provisional as engine checks are yet to be undertaken on several machines.
Coupled with his bonus point for qualifying fastest, Damon Rees now enjoys a two-point advantage over Hoogenboezem as the series heads to Timaru for round two next weekend.
Further glory was attributed to Damon Rees at the weekend with his frenzied charge from last place to third in Saturday's first race also giving him a new Ruapuna lap record of one minute 29.189 seconds in the process – a lap record that had stood for a decade, set 10 years ago by the now-retired Andrew Stroud.
"I could not have asked for a better weekend actually. It was not perfect, but pretty damn close. I made the best of a bad situation," said Damon Rees afterwards.
"Some would say I should be happy with my third on Saturday, but I'm never happy unless I'm winning," he said.
"I'm obviously happy to come away with my second GP title win too, my second after winning it on a 600 bike in the past.
"Winning the GP title was the one I really wanted because I'm not here in New Zealand for the full series. I head to the United Kingdom after round two here," he said, the 24-year-old off to tackle the British Superstock 1000 Championships.
"The momentum just has to keep building. We are going to do some testing in Timaru on Wednesday and hopefully I can be here in the same spot on the top of the podium next weekend too.
Mitch Rees also crashed in the first of Sunday's two Superbike races, but bounced back to finish seventh in the last outing.
"It's unfortunate for Mitch," Damon Rees said of his brother. "He had been faster than me, but was suffering a head cold and I believe that was the cause of his mistakes. He's a wee way back in the points now, but it's a long series and anything can still happen."
Other class leaders after the weekend's racing are Whanganui's Richie Dibben (Supersport 600); Whangarei's Jason Hearn (Supersport 300); Whangamata's Benjamin Rosendaal (650 Pro Twins); Christchurch's Dennis Charlett (250 Production, support); Christchurch's Matthew Hoogenboezem (Supersport Lightweight, support); Auckland's Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (Sidecars); Invercargill's Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 150) and Nelson's Tyrone Kuipers (GIXXER Cup 150, support).
GP title winners for the weekend were: Damon Rees (Superbikes, provisional only); Richie Dibben (Supersport 600); Auckland's Nathanael Diprose (Supersport 300); Whangaparoa's Nathan Jane (650 Pro Twins); Auckland's Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (Sidecars) and Invercargill's Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 150).
2020 NZ Superbike Championships calendar:
Round 1 – January 11-12, Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch;
Round 2 – January 18-19, Levels International Raceway, Timaru;
Round 3 – March 7-8, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, North Waikato, Mike Pero MotoFest;
Round 4 – March 28-29, Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild, Feilding;
Round 5 – April 4-5, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo.
by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com