Taupo thunder storm underlines Suzuki International Series opener
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New lap records, a multi-national roster of podium finishers and a Sunday afternoon thunder storm that brought racing to an early halt were the talking points of motorcycling’s Suzuki International Series opener at Taupo at the weekend.
Racing was washed out when thunder and lightning replaced the racing spectacle but all classes completed two of the three scheduled races for the weekend.
Whakatane’s Damon Rees has gained an early advantage over the very competitive F1 Superbike field. He won the Saturday six-lapper ahead of his brother Mitch as the siblings delivered a Honda 1-2 and Damon lowered the outright motorcycle track record to an impressive 1m 27.162s.
Damon Rees in close pursuit of British racer Richard Cooper as the battle for the lead of Sunday's F1 Superbike race at Taupo
On Sunday Damon Rees had to battle past the Suzuki duo of Richard Cooper (GB) and Lachlan Epis (Australia) to complete his winning weekend.
The two wins and a pole position bonus point puts Damon Rees into the series lead on 51 points while Cooper — the 2019 British Super Stock 1000 champion — made a solid start to his debut Kiwi campaign on 42 points. Mitch Rees has 40 points ahead of Epis on 35.
Several of the star riders had difficult weekends. Defending series champion Scott Moir (Taupo) battled with a stomach bug and sits ninth in the standings while Northern Ireland’s Lee Johnston – a 2019 Isle of Man TT winner – crashed the M1 Motorsport BMW in the second race.
The Taupo lap record also fell in Saturday’s F2 Supersport race. Whanganui’s Richard Dibben (Suzuki) claimed the race win while Te Awamutu’s David Hall was second and nudged the 600cc lap record under the 90-second mark with a 1m 29.718s lap on his Suzuki.
Sunday’s race was partly staged on a damp track and shortened to a couple of three-lap segments. Rogan Chandler (Upper Hutt) put the Yamaha brand atop the podium ahead Hall and Palmerston North’s Ashton Hughes (Triumph). Chandler leads the F2 standings on 45 points from Hall on 44 and Hughes with 38 while series favourites.
Taumarunui’s Leigh Tidman (Yamaha 450) won both Formula 3 races with his nearest rival being French visitor Xavier Denis on a 650cc Kawasaki twin.
Teenage talent Jesse Stroud won both Suzuki Gixxer Cup races ahead of a packed field of the identical 150cc machines and Richard Dibben (Suzuki) was the pace-setter on the 450cc Super Motard machines with two wins ahead of Tauranga’s Duncan Hart (Husqvarna) and Taumarunui’s Jett Josiah (Yamaha).
The Sidecar field looks for racing room with the Auckland crew of Mark Halls and Darren Prentis (69) leading the way
The Sidecar field boasts the strongest international flavour of the three-round December series and the French team of Estelle LeBlond and Frank Claeys scored two clear wins on their Suzuki 600cc F2 machine ahead of Peter Goodwin and Kendall Dunlop (Auckland).
Eddie Kattenburg (Napier) won both Pre-89 Post Classic races on his rare Bimota YB8 while in the combined BEARS/Formula Sport category the wins were shared by Whanganui’s Ash Payne (Suzuki GSX-R750) and Steven Bridge (Ngaruawahia) on a Ducati 1199S.
Round two of the Suzuki International Series is at Manfeild this weekend followed by the Boxing Day finale on Whanganui’s historic Cemetery Circuit.