The first big event of the motorcycle racing season kicked off with 27 teams, taking on the second Motul 6 Hour endurance race at Hampton Downs.
First held last year as a re-introduction of motorcycle endurance racing to New Zealand, the now annual event is organised and promoted by Playday On Track, with operational support coming from the Auckland Motorcycle club, and sponsorship coming by way of Motul Oils.
The Motul 6-Hour uses a different format to traditional endurance races.
With riders running to their bikes in a Le Mans style start, the teams of three riders then had to put down as many lap times as possible, before pitting and giving the transponder used for recording their laps to a teammate who is waiting to hit the track on a fresh bike.
While this form of endurance racing does take away some of the pit lane drama for teams, it means that there is almost always a complete field of bikes on the track, meaning a better spectacle for spectators.
First to the finish line this year, and with 301 laps of the 2.7 kilometer National Circuit under their wheels, was Team Rees Honda DNA. To put their effort into perspective, it would take you over 10 hours to complete the same distance on the open road, essentially a drive from Wellington to the Bay of Islands.
After a second place finish in the inaugural 2015 race, Tony Rees along with son’s Damon and Mitch returned to go one better this year. On their trio of Honda CBR’s, the Rees men managed to hold off last year’s winner Toby Summers by just 67 seconds.
“We actually ran it really fine on the ol’ gas, said Damon, who rode the final laps for the team.
“We drained the gas out... and I had a liter and a half left so it worked out that we used roughly half a liter each lap, I had three laps to spare but you just don’t know when the light is flashing saying ‘low on gas’ so I just had to back off and not use full throttle anywhere.”
The tactic worked well for the Rees men, with Damon riding the final stint for the team he rode them from being 27 seconds out in front to lapping second place and pulling away for the win.
A lap back, to place third, was the other power-trio of the event -Team RCM comprised of the talents of Ray Clee, Daniel Mettam and Nathanael Diprose. Team RCM were close all race, which was held in changeable conditions that saw several light periods of drizzle challenge riders throughout the day.
Thankfully there were no major incidents during the event, and the grins all along pit lane confirmed that there’s definitely a place in the calendar for an endurance motorcycle event in New Zealand, if not a whole series.