The international visitors to the Suzuki Series set the pace as the three-round road racing contest kicked off at Hampton Downs yesterday.
Kawasaki riders Horst Saiger (Liechtenstein) and Roman Stamm (Switzerland) doubled up with the F1 Superbike and F2 Sport Production class wins respectively while multi-time F1 Sidecar world champ Tim Reeves from England and ‘‘swinger’’ Mark Wilkes re-set the benchmarks for Kiwi sidecar racing.
Kawasaki rider Horst Saiger
Before racing began on Sunday the Hampton Downs F1 Sidecar lap record stood at 1m 11.050secs. It had belonged to the Hamilton’s Aaron Lovell and Tauranga’s Tracey Bryan, who set the mark while dominating the 2014 Suzuki Series opener.
Reeves and Wilkes delivered a 1m 06.8s qualifying lap and by the end of the day had lowered the lap record to 1m 06.529s with a stunning display of late-braking and power sliding aboard their LCR-Kawasaki rig.
Lovell and Bryan led the Kiwi contingent and stepped up their performance notably. Benefiting from some set-up advice passed along from the British crew, by the end of the day Lovell and Bryan had improved their Hampton Downs best to a 1m 09.262s lap time.
Third place in both F1 Sidecar events went to the Wairarapa crew of Spike Taylor and Astrid Hartnell on another LCR machine.
A year ago Horst Saiger had arrived in New Zealand for the Suzuki Series as something of wildcard. He won at Hampton Downs and took out the Suzuki series, so his 2015 return — again riding for the Hamilton-based Red Devil Racing — is accompanied by no element of surprise.
Saiger claimed pole position for the F1 Superbike class — by just 0.13s from Wellington’s Sloan Frost (Suzuki) — and won both races on the Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Race one was split into three and nine lap segments by an early red flag incident but Saiger was in front on both occasions. The second portion of race one saw close battles for second with Andrew Stroud (Suzuki) edging out Frost while Whakatane’s Tony Rees (Honda) who Taupo’s Scott Moir (Suzuki) for fourth.
Frost made a strong start in race two and was on Saiger’s tail throughout while Stroud finished third ahead of Rees and Moir.
Swiss racer Stamm (Kawasaki ZX-6R) faced some close competition from Aucklander Daniel Mettam (#34 Suzuki) and Wellington’s Shane Richardson (Kawasaki) in the F2 races but produced two wins to complete a successful day for the Red Devil squad. Mettam had two seconds and Richardson was third in both races.
The other four classes also produced Hampton Downs double winners.
Taumarunui’s Leigh Tidman (Yamaha RS450) edged out Hamilton teenager Jacob Stroud in both F3 Sport Bike races while John Oliver (Feilding) secured a BEARS double on his BMW S1000RR.
Veteran Eddie Kattenburg (Te Awanga) won both Pre-89 Post Classic races on his rare Bimota YB8 and some entertaining SuperMoto battles saw Wanganui’s Richard Dibben (Honda) take two wins while Tauranga’s Duncan Hart (Yamaha) and Reporoa’s Casey Bullock (KTM) split the podium positions.
Suzuki Series round two is raced at Manfeild on Sunday December 13 and the series finale is the annual Boxing Day Wanganui street race meeting.