Superbikes a family affair
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It's been quite a couple of months for New Zealand road-racing icon Tony Rees.
The 49-year-old multi-time national road-racing champion from Whakatane took his Honda CBR1000RR to win the three-round pre-nationals Suzuki Series in the formula one/superbike class in late December, while his youngest son Damon on a Honda CBR600RR celebrated his first major success in the 600cc F2/Supersport class in the same competition.
Tony leads the Superbike class after the second of four rounds of the New Zealand Superbike Championships in Invercargill in January and rising young star Damon is locked in a tight battle for top honours in the 600cc class as well.
This father and son double act will be looking to push on when the second half of the season gets under way in Taupo later this month -- and then stay out of trouble to collect national titles at the fourth and final round at Hampton Downs in early March.
Tony Rees started his weekend in Invercargill second in the championship, 10 points behind Suzuki's defending national superbike champion, Wellington's Sloan Frost, but two race wins and a runner-up finish behind fellow Honda rider Alastair Hoogenboezem propelled Rees past Frost and into the series lead.
Frost (Suzuki GSX-R1000) had a disastrous weekend in Invercargill, culminating in him crashing out of the final race, and Rees now leads the class, 18 points ahead of Hoogenboezem, with Frost slipping back to third.
Rees took the championship lead after winning the first two superbike races of the weekend, but could not make it a hat-trick of wins as Hoogenboezem came on strong to celebrate his breakthrough first victory of the series, winning the third superbike race on the Sunday and thrusting himself also into championship contention.
Rees had not originally intended to contest the nationals this year.
"I simply wanted to be at the nationals to support my boys (21-year-old Damon and 23-year-old Mitch) and I wasn't going to race. But I had a change of mind when my sons offered to relieve me of mechanic duties if I would race alongside them. So here I am and it's turning out to be a great season for us all."
Mitch Rees (Honda CBR1000RR) is currently sixth overall in the same superbike class as his father.
It was tough for Frost to accept his fate at Invercargill, but, even though he saw a 10-point surplus transform into a 26-point deficit, he is still putting on a brave face.
"I'm not holding anything back," he said. "I qualified first at both rounds so far, but congratulations to Tony (Rees) and Al (Hoogenboezem) ... they're riding strong. But I'm not going to accept third place.
"I love the Taupo and Hampton Downs tracks and I've been on lap record pace there.
"I will just work now on being as prepared as I can be and, although I guess I'm now underdog, I'll ride as hard as I know how in every race that's left."
Meanwhile, in the 600cc supersport class, Damon Rees had led after the opening round of the nationals in Christchurch and he followed by setting a scorching time to top qualifying at Teretonga a week later.
But a crash and subsequent non-finish in his first race at Teretonga wiped out his points lead.
Damon fought back in the next two outings, but still finished the weekend 26.5 points behind new class leader Shane Richardson (Kawasaki ZX6R), of Wainuiomata.
There are now just six more races to go for each class, at Taupo's Bruce McLaren Park on February 25-26 and at the finale at Hampton Downs on March 4-5 -- and anything is possible.