Honda Family Team Still 1-2, But Switched Around
DECEMBER 11, 2023: The ups and downs of motorcycle racing can be frustrating sometimes and now we have a Bay of Plenty father and son racing team switching positions at the top of the superbike standings.
The two-rider Motul Team Rees Honda outfit finished the opening round of this year’s combined Suzuki International Series/New Zealand Superbike Championships first and second overall at a rain-affected opening round in Taupo just over a week ago.
For Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (Honda CBR1000RR) to finish that weekend on top of the standings would not have surprised anyone, the 30-year-old is, after all, the defending champion in the premier Formula One/Superbike category.
However, things can change very swiftly in this high-speed, high-octane, high-risk sport and a ‘switcheroo’ occurred at the weekend just gone, Mitch Rees crashing out of one of his three races and his dad and team boss Tony Rees (on an identical Honda CBR1000RR) elevated to the No.1 position.
After these two of three rounds in the Suzuki International Series and two of six in the parallel-but-separate New Zealand Superbike (NZSBK) competition, we now see 56-year-old multi-time former national champion Tony Rees sitting pretty on top of the standings for both series, albeit just one point ahead of his equally-talented son.
The overall F1/Superbike class winner at the weekend was first-time Australian visitor Ant West, the man from the Gold Coast a former Moto2 and MotoGP contender on the world stage.
It was a case of massive contrast in terms of weather conditions at the weekend and this upset a lot of plans for many of the title contenders.
Just as it had been at Taupo seven days earlier, the sky was sunny and the track scorching hot on the Saturday, but a slippery and treacherous rain-drenched gamble the following day.
Mitch Rees had qualified fastest at Manfeild and won the sole superbike race in the dry on Saturday, looking well on target to repeat the solid showing he’d conjured up the previous weekend.
But when the rain arrived, hot lines were impossible to find and it became something of a lottery, with good luck and positive traction not always easy to find, as Mitch Rees discovered when his 1000cc bike shot out from under him in one of the treacherously slick corners on the first lap of the final superbike race of the weekend.
“The weekend was not too bad for me. I’m happy when I look at my lap times and realise I achieved times faster than I’ve ever gone here in the past,” said Tony Rees.
“I was leading the first race (on Saturday) when I got shunted out of the way by the Aussie (Ant West), but I ended fourth and I was happy with that. When the rain came (on Sunday) I felt I was still going well.
“I hit a neutral and gave the lead away in the first race on Sunday. I ended second in that race. In the last race, I was running second when the race was stopped early due to the rain. I was rather annoyed at that because I was catching the leader.
“It was a good weekend for me, but not so good for Mitch,” he shrugged.
“We will head to Whanganui street race now and, as a team, we’re in a good position to again win the Suzuki International Series.”
Although obviously disappointed, Mitch Rees was still relatively cheerful at the end of his weekend.
“I made a mistake, simple as that. I just turned too tight and then lost traction. I had zero grip.”
“This will become a throw-away weekend for me,” he said, referring to the fact that only five of six rounds are counted towards the NZSBK championships, riders to discard their worst round score.
The New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK) series is again this season being run in conjunction with the Suzuki International Series, with the first two rounds recognised as rounds one and two of both parallel-but-separate competitions.
The Suzuki International Series phase of the 2023-24 season will wrap up, as always, on Whanganui’s famous Cemetery Circuit public street environment on Boxing Day.
The Boxing Day ‘street fight’ is not part of the NZSBK series and that six-round NZSBK competition resumes in the New Year, with rounds three, four and five in the South Island – at Christchurch, Timaru and Invercargill respectively – with the series then travelling north again to wrap up with round six at Hampton Downs, near Huntly, in March.
Round five, at Invercargill’s Teretonga race circuit, is included in the annual 2024 Burt Munro festival week.
Class leaders in both 2023-24 series after round two at Manfeild are:
Whakatane’s Tony Rees (F1/Superbike class); Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (F2/Supersport 600 class); Taupo’s Karl Hooper (F3/Pro Twins); Feilding’s John Oliver (Formula Sport, Senior); Whanganui’s Jeff Croot (Formula Sport, Junior); Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud (Supersport 300); Hamilton’s Joseph Stroud (GIXXER 150); Upper Hutt’s Keiran Mair (Supersport 150); Taupo’s Karl Hooper (Post Classics, Pre-89, Senior); Auckland’s Scott Findlay (Post Classics, Pre-89, Junior); Invercargill’s Jon Rawcliffe (Post Classics, Pre-95, Senior); Christchurch’s Jordan Leslie (Post Classics, Pre-95, Junior); Whanganui’s Richie Dibben (Supermoto); Panmure’s Adam Unsworth and Whanganui’s Bryce Rose (F1 Sidecars); Whanganui’s Peter and Lucy Dowman (F2 Sidecars).
DATES FOR 2023-24 NZ MOTORCYCLE ROAD-RACE SEASON:
Suzuki International Series (and first two rounds of the nationals):
• Round 1, Taupo, Dec 2nd and 3rd;
• Round 2, Manfeild, Feilding, Dec 9th and 10th;
• Whanganui's Cemetery Circuit, Dec 26th (third and final round of Suzuki International Series, but not part of the nationals).
• Round 3, Ruapuna, Christchurch (includes GP title races), Jan 6th and 7th;
• Round 4, Levels, Timaru, Jan 13th and 14th;
• Round 5, Burt Munro, Teretonga, Feb 9th, 10th and 11th.
• Round 6, Hampton Downs, part of MotoFest (includes TT title races), Mar 2nd and 3rd.
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com