The 2016 New Zealand Superbike Championship series was given a massive shake-up at the second of four rounds near Invercargill at the weekend.
Wellington's Sloan Frost (MC2 Racing Fujitsu TSS Red Baron Suzuki GSX-R1000) had finished the day unbeaten in the glamour superbike class at round one in Christchurch a week ago, but he was forced to scramble to protect his position when two of his rivals stepped up to dominate the day at Teretonga Park Raceway on Saturday and Sunday.
Thanks to his superb hat-trick of wins at Christchurch's Ruapuna Park circuit the previous weekend, the 34-year-old Frost enjoyed a 16-point advantage as he arrived at the Invercargill circuit for the start of round two at the weekend.
But he was given a wake-up call when Scott Moir (Penny Homes Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Andrew Stroud (Pirelli Suzuki GSX-R1000) both rose to the challenge and signalled their own title bids.
However, even though Moir was the top superbike class rider for the weekend – his 1-2-2 score-line giving him a slight edge over Hamilton's Stroud (2-1-4) – Frost salvaged his weekend and still managed to extend his overall championship lead.
Frost finished 3-3-1, making it a Suzuki clean sweep for the weekend, and with a bonus point also for being fastest qualifier in the class, he now enjoys a 31-point advantage over the new No.2 ranked rider in the series, 48-year-old father-of-10 Stroud.
Christchurch's John Ross (Hollands Collision Centre Suzuki GSX-R1000) was always in winning contention all weekend, but his 4-4-3 results saw him slip from second to third in the standings.
Nine-time former national superbike champion Stroud, who returned to the racetrack this season after a two-year hiatus, showed he was still capable of winning races and it is certainly not an impossible dream for him to believe that he can overturn that 31-point deficit in the two rounds that remain.
The big mover in the class was Moir, who experienced a difficult weekend at Ruapuna but celebrated a dream run at Teretonga and heroically elevated himself from a distant eighth overall after round one to fourth in the standings.
"This is not the first time I've won a round at the nationals ... I did it too at Taupo in 2014, but this is right up there with that," said an elated Moir afterwards.
"After I won the first race of the weekend on Saturday, it gave me a lot of confidence. In the second race (the following day), I just put my head down and didn't look back. But I made a mistake on the last lap and left a gap for Andrew (Stroud) to slip past. I learned a lesson from that and vowed not to leave the door open again.
"I led most of race three, but Sloan (Frost) found a way past. I managed to hang on to him, but, in the end, I just settled for good points and it was enough for me to win the day,” said the 31-year-old motorcycle workshop manager.
"I'm in a good position in the championship now and anything can happen from here on. If I hadn't crashed and DNFed one of my races at Ruapuna, who knows where I might have been in the standings now."
It was a similar story in the supersport 600cc class where Glen Eden's Daniel Mettam (Suzuki GSX-R600) topped the class at Teretonga with a 1-1-5 score-line, his third-race fight-back from 14th to fifth an inspirational one, although Christchurch's Cameron Hudson (Yamaha R6) did enough in finishing 3-3-1 to keep himself top of the series standings.
Hudson's advantage has been shaved back by four points and Mettam can now perhaps sniff a chance to repeat the overall victory in the class that he enjoyed in the pre-national Suzuki Series that wrapped up just after Christmas.
The four-round championship now heads to Levels Raceway, near Timaru, next weekend (January 24), with the final round scheduled for Hampton Downs, near Huntly, on March 5-6.