Breakthrough moment for Suzuki's rising star
A title win was far from certain, but Glen Eden's Daniel Mettam had the perfect strategy to turn things around and executed it precisely as planned at the fourth and final round of the New Zealand Superbike Championships at the weekend.
The 20-year-old arrived at the Hampton Downs circuit, just north of Huntly, for the two-day series finale trailing Christchurch rider Cameron Hudson by a whopping 37.5 points in the 600cc Supersport class.
But Mettam (Team RCM Suzuki GSX-R600) also knew that 100 points were on offer over the four races at Hampton Downs and that anything was still possible, particularly with the event being held on one of his favourite tracks.
Totally focussed on the job at hand, Mettam finished 1-1-1-2 over his four races, breaking the Hampton Downs lap record for 600cc bikes in the process – with a time of one minute 4.917, which would have put him ninth in the superbike class – and that was easily enough for him to wipe out the 37.5-point deficit to Hudson.
Mettam eventually took the title by 5.5 points from Hudson after a thrilling showdown that went right down to the final race.
"I rode conservatively in that last race because I knew all I needed to do was finish ahead of Cam (Hudson). It's been seven years of hard work to win a championship and it feels awesome," said Mettam.
"I was just hundredths of a second behind (the winner of the final race) Shane Richardson and I had figured it wasn't worth risking everything to push too hard for the race win when I had the championship in my grasp.
"At the start of the weekend I thought the title might be out of my reach. I just came here and gave it all I had and it paid off."
Meanwhile, Wellington's Sloan Frost took his MC2 Fujitsu TSS Red Baron Suzuki GSX-R1000 to top the qualification charts for the glamour superbike class and then finished third and first in the opening two races to wrap up the crown with two races to spare.
Frost's title defence next season could include him having to fend off rising young star Mettam, with Mettam hinting that he'd like to consider stepping up to the 1000cc superbike class next time around.
"I've been racing bikes since 2009 and I've been on 125cc, 150cc and now 600cc bikes. I think I'm ready now for the big bikes," Mettam smiled.
"Nothing is confirmed for next season yet, but I'd like to try superbikes and also head across the Tasman to tackle some of the Australian nationals rounds too."