Rees Family Dominate 2016 Suzuki Series
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Tony Rees made a clean sweep in front of a massive crowd at Whanganui on Boxing Day where he took Pole and won all three premier races including the Robert Holden Memorial race.
The Whakatane-based Honda Rider Insurance CBR1000RR rider had to work for his prizemoney in each F1 Superbike race after fast-starting Taupo rider Scott Moir lead the hungry pack of superbike racers on his Penny Homes Suzuki GSXR1000 during the opening laps of all three races.
Riding better than ever, Rees enjoyed three wins from six starts on his way to securing his first Suzuki Series title. The other series race winners were defending champion Sloan Frost, at Taupo, and Horst Saiger who won both heats at Manfeild. But the last time Rees was beaten around the famous Cemetery Circuit was in 2014 when Moir won race two, but there was no way 49 year old Tony Rees was going to let anyone stand in the way in 2016.
Going into Whanganui Sloan Frost was leading the Suzuki Series by nine points however a jump start in the opening race brought a 20 second penalty which dropped the disappointed Fujitsu TSS Red Baron Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 rider down the finishing order, to ninth.
Team RCM Suzuki GSXR1000 mounted Daniel Mettam, of Auckland, was having the ride of his life when he passed Moir for second on lap three, however Liechtenstein racer Horst Saiger slotted his Kawasaki into second three laps later to make an exciting finishing order of Rees, Saiger, and a close-finishing Mettam, Moir and Toby Summers on his Barnes Jenkins Insurance GSXR1000.
Rees single point for Pole position and 25 points for the race win edged him closer to the title, although the result lifted Saiger into the Suzuki Series lead from Rees heading into the final race.
Once again Moir took the holeshot although it wasn't long before Rees muscled his way to the front and carried on for his second victory of the day - and the Suzuki Series win. Moir held onto the back of Rees throughout the race for second, and Frost won a tough race-long battle for third with Mettam, Summers and Saiger to cross the line in that order.
Northern Irishman Michael Dunlop persevered with ongoing mechanical issues with his Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 throughout the day which meant the 13-time Isle of Man TT winner was unable to show his true potential at the Cemetery Circuit.
Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R mounted Saiger rode his best during the Robert Holden Memorial where he almost matched Rees in pace and made a last lap passing attempt which was aggressively held off by Rees, who later said he really wanted that win. The finishing order was Rees, Saiger, Moir, Summers and Hastings Suzuki racer Jamie Maindonald.
Tony Rees win in the Robert Holden Memorial was his seventh feature race victory at Whanganui - 26 years after his first win in 1990. Stamping his authority at Whanganui he set a new outright lap record of 49.052 seconds, ending Andrew Stroud's long-term record set in 2006.
Tony Rees says "I didn't get the best start in each race so I had to pass somebody, which made it more exciting. We ran the same Pirelli tyres all day, normally we'd put a new set for qualifying, so we ran the same tyre in qualifying, practice, and all three races. Winning the Robert Holden Memorial means a lot because we were mates. It's a long time ago now but he gave me opportunities and he gave me some really good close racing."
Keeping the family trophy cabinet full, Tony Rees 21 year old son, Damon Rees, won the F2 600 Suzuki Series on his Honda Rider Insurance CBR600RR after finishing a steady third in both races. Wellington riders Shane Richardson (Wainui Joinery Kawasaki ZX-6R) and Jay Lawrence (Carl Cox Motorsport GSXR600) won a hectic race each, while a fast-riding David Hall crossed the line fourth in each leg on his PJ Racing & Wrecking GSXR600, behind Damon Rees.
To win the title Damon Rees had to finish third in each race although, like his father, the youngest Rees also had to work to capture his first major championship. "I finished third in race one which was all I needed to do, but in the second race I screwed up going into turn one and went off." Rees explains. "I came back from last and I just got into third place on the very last lap! I was pretty wrecked by the end as I had to really bust it, but it was a pretty cool race as I had to work for it."
Richardson finished a fighting second in the championship, ahead of improving 19 year old Wellingtonian Rogan Chandler on his TSS Red Baron Triumph 675, a rider to watch for the future.
The expected title challenge between the John Holden/Robbie Shorter pair and the Barry Smith/Tracey Bryan team for the F1 Sidecar races didn't eventuate, and fans were disappointed after five-time world sidecar champion Tim Reeves sidecar suffered a broken chassis after a few short laps around the gruelling street circuit during first practice. With no replacement parts available in New Zealand there was no possibility to repair the Carl Cox Motorsport F1 'chair' which left UK-based Reeves and passenger Mark Wilkes as the most well-travelled spectators for the day.
The F1 Sidecar stars of the day turned out to be ex Whanganui but now Auckland-based Adam Unsworth and Stu Dawe, who made a welcome Suzuki Series return on their Eni Windle F1 sidecar to win both races after some close shaves with Holden and Shorter. Unsworth and Dawe had a nasty crash during round one practice at Taupo and only made the decision to race, still slightly injured, a few days before Boxing Day.
Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan were fourth in both races on their fast Carl Cox Motorsport Suzuki F2 'chair', which left the way clear for Holden and Shorter to wrap up the F1 Sidecar Suzuki Series by nine points as the UK/NZ pair brought their Barnes Racing LCR Honda 600 F2 home in second position in each leg.
Holden admitted after the race the extra power of a 1000cc F1 sidecar would have been a better bet to win. "My time in NZ has been brilliant, the people and the country are fantastic - that's the job done!" Holden says. "We couldn't have wanted anything better and the support I've had from Robbie Shorter and the team is mega. After we got Pole and with Tim Reeves unfortunately unable to race I was hoping for some wins but we struggled a little bit against that one thousand [Unsworth/Dawe], which had had the legs on me and he was defending quite well on every corner.
"I'd love to come back, it's just about funding as it costs a lot to get over here but we'll have to see what we can do."
The Masterton/Whanganui duo of Spike Taylor and Craig Pedersen rode extraordinarily well on their Mobility Wairarapa LCR GSXR1000 rig to finish third on each occasion in one of the biggest sidecar fields for some time.