Rees announced as NZ Superbike champion following protest
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It took nearly six weeks to finally come up with a winner, but the verdict is now out – Whakatane's Tony Rees is New Zealand superbike champion for 2017.
This season's New Zealand Superbike Championships finished under a cloud at Hampton Downs early last month, results confirmed for all but one category, perhaps the one that mattered most, the superbike class.
Confusion reigned in the premier superbike class, with Wellington's defending champion Sloan Frost (Suzuki GSX-R1000) declared the winner that day, even though a protest had been lodged and had yet to be viewed.
But the outcome of that protest was released this week by the sport's governing body, Motorcycling New Zealand, overturning the earlier announcement and presenting the title instead to Honda's Rees.
Points allocated at Taupo's third round of four in the series had been adjusted just prior to racing at the final round at Hampton Downs a week later and the protest stemmed from this.
According to this week's ruling from MNZ: "There is no provision within the MNZ Manual of Motorcycle Sport to post-adjust event race results unless from an appeal. An adjustment on the day can only come after a protest or an investigation by the Steward using the provisions of Rule 7.1.1. There were no reported protests or appeals lodged during or immediately after this meeting. It is also the belief of the appeal panel that the original results from Taupo were correctly determined after the race stoppage."
The 49-year-old Rees was naturally thrilled with the final outcome.
"It has been a massive effort to seek the right result and we are thrilled that common sense has prevailed," he said.
"The results from Taupo should never have been changed.
"I initially wasn't going to challenge the results, but it was the principal of the thing really. I just wanted to put things right."
It has been a long time between drinks for the multi-time champion, however, with him winning his last national superbike championship crown 12 years ago, in 2005.
"Obviously I had not contested every championship season since 2005 and I wasn't originally intending to race the nationals this season either. I was merely going to act as mechanic for my boys (Mitchell and Damon), but they said to me 'hey, come on dad, you're still fast, join us on the race track'. And so I did.
"I'm probably the oldest superbike champion New Zealand has ever had, but I guess I proved I've still got it eh?
"I had a good bike to ride and it was easy to race it.
"I didn't do anything wrong all season. I never fell off or crashed all season and the worst result I had was two fifth placings at the final round at Hampton Downs and that was due to tyre problems."
Even before this week's stunning news, it had anyway been a glorious season for the Honda camp, with Tony Rees winning the Formula One/Superbike class at the pre-nationals Suzuki Series and also winning the big annual Battle of the Streets event at Paeroa in February.
The 22-year-old Damon Rees took his Honda CBR600RR to win the Formula Two/600cc supersport class title in the Suzuki Series and then, like his father, followed that up by also winning the national title in this class.
His elder brother, 24-year-old Mitchell Rees (Honda CBR1000RR), making his debut in the same superbike class as his father, finished the series a solid sixth overall in the nationals, while Invercargill Honda ace Jeremy Holmes won the 1000cc Superstock class title, that parallel competition sharing the race track with the superbike class but scored separately.
"I think it's the first time we've seen a father and sons performance like this in New Zealand," said Tony Rees.
"At this stage I'd like to think I'll be back next season to defend my superbike title and hopefully see Damon successfully defend his 600cc crown too. The boys are paying a lot of their own way now and, if we can put a sponsorship package together, then we'll be out there again."