Virus Lockdown Forces Early End To NZSBK Championship
It had been a case of "hurry up and wait" for the nation's elite motorcycle riders, but now the waiting is over for these athletes, their sponsors and fans.
Three of five rounds of the 2020 New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK) had been run through January and March, before the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic forced the final two rounds of the series to be postponed.
The Government then imposed a nationwide lock-down on the population, while the competitors continued their training regimes as best they could behind closed doors, most of them anticipating a resumption of the series later in the year.
But a message was sent out this week to inform competitors that the series had "been called" and winners named for each of the championship categories.
However, results are still deemed provisional only for two of the classes, with technical checks still to be conducted on a number of motorcycles.
"Please appreciate that this decision has not been made lightly," Motorcycling New Zealand road-race commissioner Grant Ramage said in his message to riders.
"We are mindful of the environment we are currently in, we wanted to provide some clarity for you all, and with the unknown impact of Covid-19 to our sport we believe this is the best decision.
"Results for the Superbikes and the Supersport 300 classes will remain provisional until technical checks have been completed. We will do our utmost to get these done as soon as possible.
"We will be in touch to arrange a time to celebrate with our podium champions once we are no longer in lockdown. We are as excited as you are to share this moment as the racing has been absolutely incredible this season. We would like to say a huge thanks to all our riders, teams, sponsors, funders, series officials and clubs for their incredible support throughout the season – we definitely could not have done this without you."
Christchurch's Alastair Hoogenboezem is the provisional champion in the premier Superbikes class and was naturally thrilled with this week's announcement.
"At first it was strange because of how it has gone down, but slowly, as the news spreads, more kind messages of support and congratulations come in, it gets more real," Hoogenboezem said.
"Staying home when you get news like this is very hard."
Hoogenboezem is just three points ahead of Taupo's Scott Moir in the superbike standings, with Whakatane's Damon Rees third overall. With machinery checks still pending, no official declaration of a champion is able to be made at this stage.
Other class champions declared this week were Whanganui's Richie Dibben (Supersport 600); Auckland’s Nathanael Diprose (Supersport 300, provisional only); Whangaparoa's Nathan Jane (650 Pro Twins); Taupo's Andy Scrivener and Tina McKeown (Sidecars) and Invercargill's Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 150).
"We are currently working on dates and venues for our 2021 championships. Thank you for your understanding, we hope you are keeping safe at this time and, like us, looking forward to getting back racing," said Ramage.
The 2020 New Zealand Superbike Championships were supported by Yamaha New Zealand, Aon Insurance, ICG and Pirelli, Trust Aoraki, Blue Wing Honda, NZ Racing Board, Bike Rider Magazine and Sky Sport Next.