Motorcycles are being tuned up around the country for the 2016 season of road racing, but that competition will happen without the reigning national superbike champion.
At age 20, Jaden Hassan became one of the youngest riders to win the title earlier this year and the Auckland rider plans to “take a sabbatical and travel overseas”. The Suzuki rider has just turned 21 and is leaving shortly to travel through Mexico and the US.
Motorcycling NZ recently announced the dates for the 2016 series. It again be spread over four rounds, three in the South Island and a double-header in the North Island.
Dates and venues are Ruapuna, January 9-10; Teretonga, January 16-17; Levels, January 23-24; Hampton Downs, March 4-6.
Hassan expects the battle for superbike class honours to be between the riders who chased him this season.
“I think it will be a battle between Dennis Charlett, Jimmy Smith, John Ross (all from Christchurch) and Sloan Frost (of Wellington),” said Hassan. Charlett is the only one to have won the title.
MNZ road-racing commissioner Greg Percival said he was looking forward to an exciting series.
“With Hampton Downs now under new ownership, it will be interesting to see if the planned upgrades there will be completed in time for our final round. The full, new, extended track may be ready for us to use by March and that will be exciting,” said Percival.
“With three of four rounds being held down south, it may favour the South Island riders, so we have tried to balance things up a little bit by having a double-header final round at Hampton Downs.”
The series boasts 14 races for each class.
In other news, Percival said the popularity of twin and single-cylinder 300cc motorcycles has encouraged MNZ to add a “lightweight production class” to the programme next season.
The new class caters for riders of the Honda CBR300R single, Kawasaki Ninja 300 twin, KTM RC390 single and Yamaha R3 twin bikes. The 250cc production bikes would be raced at the same time but scored separately.
“In this way we are following the trend worldwide to cater for these bikes.
“In addition, we have been asked to resurrect the 1000cc street-stock class, a championship class to run alongside the superbikes and also to be scored separately. “It is a lower-cost option for those who want to race the bigger capacity bikes and will help boost the size of the superbike starting grid.”
The 1000cc stock bikes will be permitted minimal changes only, to such items as race fairings, exhaust catalytic converters being removed, plus allowing for a slip-on muffler and suspension springs.
“Hopefully this will put more bikes back on to the superbike grid and might even encourage the 600cc guys to move up.”