Michael Dunlop challenges 2016 NZ Suzuki Series
The 2016 Suzuki Series calendar has been announced with Michael Dunlop back to compete the event
The annual Suzuki Series kicks off at Taupo on December 4 and the 2016 edition is packed with International riders ready to take on New Zealand’s best motorcycle racers.
The Suzuki Series is spread over three quick-fire rounds during December at Taupo, Manfeild and Wanganui, and is the richest international motorcycle series in New Zealand with $36,550 series prize money.
With 13 Isle of Man TT wins, the headline rider is Michael Dunlop of Northern Ireland, who is also the fastest man ever around the unforgiving road course. Dunlop, 27, set his scorching lap record of 215.591kmh (133.962 mph – average speed) during the Senior TT on June 10.
Dunlop is racing at Manfeild and at Whanganui for the very first time and will expect to be among the leading group on a Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can make history down-under around the legendary Cemetery Circuit?
2016 is the third appearance for Liechtenstein resident Horst Saiger, who won the 2014 Suzuki Series on debut aboard the Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R.
The 45 year old has extensive road circuit experience around the globe on tracks including the Isle of Man where he lapped at 204.39kmh (127mph) earlier this year, the North West 200, and at Macau.
Last year Saiger and Kiwi Sloan Frost entered the final round at Whanganui equal on points, but it was Frost who won the Suzuki Series, from Tony Rees, with Saiger third.
Saiger will be trying hard to turn that result around in 2016, but there is one particular race he wants to check off his extensive list. “I would really be happy if I could win the Robert Holden Memorial one time in my life, that`s the main race for me,” Saiger said from Macau.
Defending Suzuki Series and 2016 NZ Superbike champion Sloan Frost starts as favourite kiwi and will be keen to keep the international stars behind his Fujitsu TSS Red Baron Suzuki NZ GSX-R1000.
Scott Moir was fourth overall last year on his Penny Homes Suzuki GSX-R1000, and the Taupo rider will be trying hard to move up a few places in a series which rewards consistency as much as speed.
Toby Summers is another rider in with a good chance. The Aucklander won the F2 600 title in 2014 but last year suffered a first round crash on his 2016 Barnes Jenkins Insurance Kawasaki ZX-10R superbike.
With more big-bike experience under his belt the former Supermoto supremo will come out with guns blazing this year, and he’s doing double duty by also riding an R&R Power Sports Yamaha YZ250 in Supermoto.
The experienced Ray Clee (Auckland) returns to race his Team RCM Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike, while Ben Rosendaal of Whangamata moves up to race a Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Hayden Fitzgerald makes a welcome return to the premier class racing a Yamaha Racing Team bLU cRU R1 in F1 Superbike, plus an RGM supported bLU cRU Yamaha R6 in F2 600.
Aucklander Daniel Mettam, 20, won the 2015 F2 600 series and could be a dark horse contender on his Team RCM Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike after moving up to the big-bore category. Whanganui’s Jayden Carrick can put in a good performance too, this year he is on a Wanganui Toyota Honda CBR1000RR.
After dominating Whanganui last year with three wins from three starts, 49 year old veteran Tony Rees must be considered another series favourite on his Honda Rider Insurance CBR1000RR.
The Whakatane rider entered legend status by taking his sixth Robert Holden Memorial feature win last Boxing Day – his first victory coming 26 years ago in 1990. With sons Damon and Mitchell, Tony Rees won the Motul 6 hour at Hampton Downs in October.
Tony will go up against Mitchell in the F1 superbike class for the first time, while Damon remains in the F2 600 category on his Honda Rider Insurance CBR600RR. He was second on the same bike in last year’s Suzuki Series.
Each year the Suzuki Series turns out a new F2 600 star and it will likely be the same this year. 21 year old Wellingtonian Shane Richardson ended his 2015 campaign just half a point behind Damon Rees on his Wainui Joinery Kawasaki ZX-6R, although overall winner Daniel Mettam was his closest rival throughout the series.
Richardson is a young rider going places, in fact he raced in the final round of the WIL Sport European Junior Cup at Jerez in October where he qualified 12th and posted a very respectable race two 11th place in his first overseas ride.
Jay Lawrence returns from injury to race his TSS Red Baron Suzuki GSX-R600 and, like fellow Wellingtonian Rogan Chandler riding a Triumph 675, will be at the pointy end of the field throughout the three round Suzuki Series.
Adding glamour to the F2 600 class is Avalon Biddle, who won the 2016 FIM European Women’s Cup for the second year running! Avalon has done her country proud by completing every race inside the top 15 except one, in her title defence in one of the most competitive championships in Europe. She will be riding an MTF Vehicle Finance Kawasaki ZX6R, built by Ozzy Performance.
17 year old Aucklander Aaron Hassan is another quick racer going places fast and remains on a Suzuki GSXR600. The Aucklander crashed out of both opening races last year so will be thinking in terms of consistency if he wants the F2 600 title his brother, Jaden, won in 2012.
Our leading F2 600 racers had better watch out for James Flitcroft, of Spain, who will race a Honda CBR600RR. Flitcroft rode the Tony Stanwell SBR Norton at Hampton Downs during the Shorai Batteries Post Classic International in October and was nearly as fast as the leading F1 machines!
UK-based multi-sidecar world champion Tim Reeves was the star of the 2015 Suzuki Series and this year John Holden makes his first trip to NZ to try his luck. Holden is an experienced sidecar racer from the UK and is a two-time winner of the Isle of Man Sidecar TT where he tasted the winners champagne in 2011, and then again last year, lapping at a speedy 184kmh (114.282mph)!
Kiwi Robbie Shorter will ‘swing’ for Holden during all three Suzuki Series rounds on Holden’s LCR Honda 600 powered F2 rig, so it will be interesting to see if they can beat the local 1000cc powered sidecars.
The 2016 Suzuki Series also includes several support categories with F3, Post Classic, Supermoto and BEARS riders all vying for top honours.
2016 Suzuki Series Calendar
- Rnd 1: Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo, Sunday December 4
- Rnd 2: Manfeild Park, Feilding, Sunday December 11
- Rnd 3: Wanganui Cemetery Circuit, Monday December 26
Early-bird tickets for all rounds round are available at www.cemeterycircuit.co.nz and go in the draw to win a $2,995 Suzuki UK110 scooter in MotoGP colours – drawn outside Suzuki NZ headquarters at Whanganui after the racing. The winner will be notified within 6 days.