-- NZ SBK heads to Timaru - Shirriffs gunning for Superbike victory
Superbike ace Craig Shirriffs is ready to lead the Kiwi challenge to Australian star Robbie Bugden at Timaru’s second round of the New Zealand championships this weekend.
Bugden, the reigning and four-times champion, won both races at the opening round in Christchurch last weekend, with Shirriffs the only rider able to keep pace with him. In the feature event, the New Zealand Grand Prix, Shirriffs battled with the Australian – both on Suzukis -- for the first half of the race and briefly led it.
Now Shirriffs has overcome the problem that forced him to slow down later in the GP, and believes he has the speed to win.
“We were short of tyres so I used the same front tyre in both races,” he said. In the GP the tyre started losing its grip and Shirriffs nearly crashed, but now he has secured a good supply of tyres.
“I’m very happy with the bike and this is the best start I’ve ever had in the Superbike championship,” the experienced Feilding rider said.
“I enjoy the Timaru circuit; it suits my riding style. On paper it should be one of my better tracks. It would be good if I can finish the meeting equal on points with Robbie, or even ahead.”
Normally Bugden fights out the series with nine-time champion Andrew Stroud, but the Hamiltonian is out with a broken collarbone from a crash last month.
A strong group of Kiwis is keen to take up the fight, including Suzuki riders Hayden Fitzgerald (New Plymouth) and Dennis Charlett (Christchurch), who finished third and fourth respectively in both Christchurch races.
Hamilton’s Nick Cole had been expected to do better than his pair of fifths, but the Kawasaki racer finished the meeting in a positive frame of mind. “We’ve improved the bike a lot over the weekend,” he said.
BMW rider Sloan Frost from Wellington was very fast in December’s Suzuki Tri-Series but had a disappointing meeting at Ruapuna, including a crash after contact with another bike. If he is back to his best he will be a strong contender.
The important 600cc Supersport championship usually sees big bunches scrapping at the front, but this season it looks like being a straight fight between Christchurch rider John Ross (Suzuki) and Auckland teenager Jaden Hassan (Yamaha). They both scored a win and a second at Ruapuna.
Bugden is not the only Aussie leading his series – Queensland teenagers Troy Guenther and Luke Burgess top the standings in 125cc GP and 250 Production respectively.
Other series leaders are: Superlite, Neil Smith (Blenheim, Yamaha); Pro Twins, Hamish Murphy (Wellington, Suzuki); and Sidecars, Spike Taylor (Masterton)/Astrid Hartnell (Wanganui).
Superbikes and Supersport have qualifying on Saturday and two long races on Sunday. The other classes have one race on Saturday and two on Sunday.
BUGDEN WINS NZ GP
-- Round One - Bugden wins NZ Grand Prix
Winning the New Zealand Superbike Grand Prix had a special meaning for Australian star Robbie Bugden in Christchurch today.
The four-times New Zealand champion won the feature race by a clear margin from Feilding racer Craig Shirriffs, although Shirriffs pushed him hard for the first half of the race and briefly led it. Both rode Suzukis.
Bugden riders for the Christchurch-based Volvo Triple R team, owned by Peter “Red” Fenton.
“The team’s been through hell and back over the last two years,” Bugden said, referring to the earthquakes. “It’s great to do this for the team.
“That was a tough race. Midway through it I changed my mentality, gave it 100 percent and reeled off a few good laps.
“I spend three or four months a year in New Zealand now. I love the place and I love coming over.”
Shirriffs, who also finished second to Bugden in the preliminary race, said he had lost time when he nearly crashed in the Dipper corner. “I thought I’d fallen off – that’s when he got the gap,” he said.
In both races Christchurch rider Dennis Charlett (Suzuki) took third, New Plymouth’s Hayden Fitzgerald (Suzuki) came fourth and Hamilton racer Nick Cole (Kawasaki) finished fifth.
Charlett was delighted with his result as this is his first season back in superbikes after a long absence.
Wellington rider Sloan Frost had been one of the favourites but crashed out of the Grand Prix on lap one after contact with another rider.
Jaden Hassan, 18, ran away with the GP in the 600cc Supersport class on his Yamaha but the Hamilton rider was pipped on the final lap of his preliminary race when local racer John Ross got his Suzuki in front at the end of the main straight.
Two other GP classes went to Australians, Troy Guenther (Honda) in 125 GP and Luke Burgess (Kawasaki) in 250 Production. Other GP winners were: Superlite, Neil Smith (Blenheim, Yamaha); Pro Twins. Hamish Murphy (Wellington, Suzuki); and Sidecars, Spike Taylor (Masterton)/Astrid Hartnell (Wanganui).
NZ Motorcycle Grand Prix meeting, Powerbuilt Tools International Raceway, Ruapuna, Christchurch.
Race one: Robbie Bugden (Australia) Suzuki 1; Craig Shirriffs (Feilding) Suzuki 2; Dennis Charlett (Christchurch) Suzuki 3; Hayden Fitzgerald (New Plymouth) Suzuki 4; Nick Cole (Hamilton) Kawasaki 5; John Ross (Christchurch) 6.
Race two, New Zealand Grand Prix: Bugden 1; Shirriffs 2; Charlett 3; Fitzgerald 4; Cole 5; James Smith (Christchurch) Honda 6.
Championship points: Bugden 50, Shirriffs 40, Charlett 32, Fitzgerald 26, Cole 22, Ross 18
600cc Supersport –
Race one: John Ross (Christchurch) Suzuki 1; Jaden Hassan (Auckland) Yamaha 2; Jake Lewis (Christchurch) Yamaha 3; Daniel Ormsby (Christchurch) Yamaha 4; Jeremy Holmes (Invercargill) Honda 5.
Race two, GP: Hassan 1; Ross 2; Alastair Hoogenboezem (Christchurch) Suzuki 3; Lewis 4; Holmes 5.
Points: Hassan and Ross both 45, Lewis 29, Hoogenboezem 25, Holmes 25.
Race one: Neil Smith (Blenheim) Yamaha 450, 1; Richard Newbery (Balclutha) Kawasaki 450, 2; Gavin Veltmeyer (Auckland) Suzuki SV650, 3.
Race two: Newbery and Smith =1; Jason Nairn (New Plymouth) Suzuki SV650, 3. Race three,
GP: Smith 1; Newbery 2; Nairn 3.
Points: Smith 72.5, Newbery 62.5, Nairn 48.
Pro Twins –
Race one: Hamish Murphy (Wellington Suzuki SV650, 1; Nathanael Diprose (Auckland) Suzuki SV650, 2; Nick Southerwood (Auckland) Suzuki SV650, 3.
Race two: Murphy 1; Diprose and Southerwood =2.
Race three, GP: Murphy 1; Diprose 2; Southerwood 3.
Points: Murphy 75, Diprose 58, Southerwood 50.
125 GP race: Troy Guenther (Australia) Honda 1; Scout Fletcher (Christchurch) Honda 2; Scott Kinder (Geraldine) Honda 3.
Race two: Guenther 1; Fletcher 2; Tyler Lincoln (Havelock North) Honda 3.
Race three, GP: Guenther 1; Lincoln 2; Kinder 3. Points: Guenther 75, Kinder 41, Fletcher 40.
250 Production race: Luke Burgess (Australia) 1; Bailie Perriton (Ashburton) 2; Chris Sutcliffe (Timaru) 3. All rode Kawasaki Ninjas.
Race two: Burgess 1; Perriton 2; Grant Ramage (Timaru) Kawasaki 3.
Race three, GP: Burgess 1; Perriton 2; Ramage 3.
Points: Burgess 75, Perriton 60, Ramage 41.
Sidecars race one: Spike Taylor (Masterton)/Astrid Hartnell (Wanganui) LCR 1000, 1; Peter Goodwin/Darren Prentice (Bay of Islands) Windle 1000, 2; Grant Waters (Timaru)/Matthew Gibbs (Christchurch) Windle 1000, 3.
Race two: Taylor/Hartnell 1; Goodwin/Prentice 2; Waters/Gibbs 3.
Race three, GP: Taylor/Hartnell 1; Goodwin/Prentice 2; Waters/Gibbs 3.
Points: Taylor/Hartnell 75, Goodwin/Prentice 60, Waters/Gibbs 48.
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