Superbike Champs Open With A Canterbury Thriller
It was a typical summer scorcher in Canterbury at the weekend as the 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK) got underway in thrilling fashion.
The four-round series kicked off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Ruapuna, on the outskirts of Christchurch, and the two-day Underground Brown-sponsored affair produced some of the closest and most thrilling race action that had possibly even been witnessed on the twisty 3.4-kilometre race circuit.
Lap records fell constantly – and unfortunately so too did some of the riders – as track temperatures melted tyres and sapped energy and rising young stars of the sport came together to sorely test the established heroes and heroines of this high-intensity motorsport.
Several riders rose above it all to register personal bests and break lap records, or simply sent humbling messages to their rivals with a clean sweep of wins.
Whakatane's Mitch Rees leads the glamour 1000cc Superbike class after a solid performance over both days – compiling a 3-3-5 score-card in his three races – while his younger brother Damon Rees chimed in by winning two of those three races and also claiming the coveted NZ Grand Prix title trophy for a second consecutive season.
But it could be said that local Christchurch man Dale Finch eclipsed that by qualifying fastest in the Supersport 600 class and then followed that by winning all three points races in his class, as well as taking the NZ GP title for that category.
Tauranga duo Barry Smith and Stu Dawe also finished the weekend unbeaten, cleaning up the sidecars class by qualifying fastest and winning both races.
But perhaps one of the most impressive of all was 14-year-old Invercargill rider Cormac Buchanan, who qualified fastest in both the Supersport 300 and Supersport 150 classes, then clean swept all six of his races (three in each class), as well as collecting two NZ GP titles along the way.
There is little time for riders to reflect, recover or regroup, with the series now following on with the FabTech and Trust Aoraki-sponsored second round at Levels International Raceway, near Timaru, in less than a week's time (on January 16-17).
There is a month-long break after this South Island phase of the series, with racing set to resume in the North Island, with the Mike Pero-sponsored MotoFest, round three at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, near Meremere, on March 6-7, before wrapping up with round four at Taupo's Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on March 13-14.
Motorcycling New Zealand road-race commissioner Grant Ramage said the Christchurch opener set up the series for "an absolute thriller", with so much still to race for and eventual title winners far from certain.
"Several riders put in some commanding performances at Christchurch, but nobody can afford to rest on their laurels," he said. "Anything can still happen and it's likely there will be different race winners at Levels International Raceway this coming weekend."
Points leaders after the first of four rounds are Mitch Rees (Superbikes); Christchurch's Aaron Scott (Superbike B, support class); Finch (Supersport 600); Napier's SJ Cavell (650 Pro Twins); Buchanan (Supersport 300 and Supersport 150); Christchurch's Blair Robertson (250 Production, support class, round one only); Hamilton's Billee Fuller (GIXXER Cup 150); Smith and Dawe (Sidecars).
GP title winners for the weekend were: Damon Rees (Superbikes); Finch (Supersport 600); Cavell (650 Pro Twins); Buchanan (Supersport 300 and Supersport 150).
The 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championships are supported by Sky Sport Next, Aon Insurance, Pirelli, Trust Aoraki, Redpath, CTAS, MX Timing, BikesportNZ.com and commentators Neil and Brad Ritchie.
2021 NZ Superbike Championships calendar:
Round 1 – January 9-10, Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch;
Round 2 – January 16-17, Levels International Raceway, Timaru;
Round 3 – March 6-7, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, North Waikato, Mike Pero MotoFest;
Round 4 – March 13-14, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com