2021 New Zealand Superbike Championship
Round One – Mike Pero Motorsport Park
By Michael Wincott, Images by ASP
The opening round of the 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championship took place over the January 9-10 weekend, around the 3.44km Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch. Mitch Rees topped the Superbikes, ahead of Jake Lewis and Damon Rees.
In Supersport Dale Finch had a perfect weekend, well clear of Rogan Chandler and Avalon Biddle heading into Round 2. Supersport 300 saw Cormac Buchanan win every race, topping the class from Harry Parker and Dave Fellows.
Qualifying took place Saturday morning in perfect sunny conditions, where defending New Zealand Superbike Champion Alastair Hoogenboezem took pole position. He set a lap time of 1.28.922-seconds, which was 0.267s quicker than the previous Superbike circuit lap record, set by Damon Rees in 2020.
Honda’s Damon Rees qualified in second just 0.152-seconds behind pole man Hoogenboezem. Mitch Rees riding the new Honda CBR1000RR-R, qualified in third ahead of Suzuki’s Sloan Frost who rounded out the front row in fourth.
The lights went out on the first ten-lap race of the 2021 season. Mitch Rees looked like he got the best start, but wheelied off the line which dropped him back fourth, this allowed Suzuki’s, Daniel Mettam to lead into turn one, ahead of championship rookie Richie Dibben.
By the end of the opening lap, Dibben had been passed by Hoogenboezem, who had now caught the race leader Mettam. Hoogenboezem passed Mettam for the lead going into turn one at the start of the second lap.
Halfway around lap two, Dibben crashed at the Dipper, his bike came to a rest in the middle of the track, which caused the race to be red-flagged.
After a brief delay, the ten-lap race was re-started, this time Damon Rees got the hole-shot and led into turn one ahead of Jake Lewis and Alastair Hoogenboezem.
At the end of the second lap, the top four riders, Damon Rees, Hoogenboezem, Moir, and Mitch Rees, had pulled away from Lewis in fifth.
Going into turn one at the start of lap three, Mitch Rees passed Moir and moved into third.
By mid-race Honda’s Damon Rees and Yamaha’s Alastair Hoogenboezem, had pulled away from third and fourth-placed Mitch Rees and Scott Moir.
With three laps remaining the battle for the race win looked like it was going to be between these two riders. By the end of the seventh lap, Honda’s Damon Rees had opened a gap of one second over Yamaha’s Alastair Hoogenboezem in second.
With two laps remaining, Hoogenboezem looked comfortable in second, until a mechanical issue forced him to retire at the start of the penultimate lap. This promoted Mitch to second and Suzuki’s Moir to third.
Damon Rees won the opening race of the year by 1.892-seconds commenting, “It’s such a good result for Honda and the team, just stoked to come away with a race win, a Honda one-two always looks good.”
The battle for second place went down to the wire, Mitch Rees almost collided with a backmarker going into the Carousel on the final lap which cost him time, this allowed Moir to close in on him for the remaining half a lap. Mitch held on to second by 1.004-seconds, ahead of Taupō’s Moir in third.
Sunday’s fifteen-lap New Zealand Superbike race took place under cloudy skies. Honda’s Damon Rees got the whole-shot and led into turn one ahead of the Yamaha’s of Jake Lewis and Alastair Hoogenboezem.
The start of lap two saw Hoogenboezem dive up the inside of his teammate Lewis, into turn one to claim second. By the end of the second lap, Damon Rees had started to pull away from the rest of the field until he out braked himself going into turn one, this allowed Hoogenboezem to take the lead.
By mid-race, Hoogenboezem and Damon had pulled away from the four-way battle for the final podium spot, which was been contested between Mitch Rees, Moir, Frost, and Lewis.
Damon looked comfortable in second until a mechanical issue forced him to retire on lap ten, this promoted Mitch to second and Lewis to third.
The start of the penultimate lap saw the battle for third place hotting up between Lewis, Moir and Frost. Yamaha’s Lewis held off the advances of Moir on the final lap and took third position. Lewis finished 1.175-seconds behind second-placed Mitch Rees.
Hoogenboezem comfortably made up for his first race disappointment, he took the race win by 4.100-seconds, commenting “Its nice to put the number one bike on the number one spot, just a big thanks to Yamaha, we’re over yesterday, a new day today, hopefully, we can carry on and clawback these points.”
The final sixteen lap superbike race of the weekend took place in perfect conditions. Damon Rees got the holeshot and led into turn one ahead of older brother Mitch and Jake Lewis. By the end of the opening lap, Mitch Rees had dropped back to fourth having been passed by both Yamaha’s of Hoogenboezem and Lewis.
Starting lap four Damon Rees held a comfortable 2.095-second lead over Hoogenboezem, who had passed Lewis for second.
Lap seven saw Hoogenboezem set a new outright race circuit lap record, 1.29.047-seconds, Hoogenboezem had now closed to within a second of the race leader, Damon.
Hoogenboezem’s luck ran out at the start of lap eight, he crashed on the exit of turn one, which caused the race to be red-flagged.
The race was restarted and was run over the remaining nine laps. Damon Rees once again got the holeshot and led into turn one ahead of Jake Lewis and Scott Moir.
Half-way around the opening lap, there was a large accident at the Carousel between David Hall and Jayden Carrick.
As the riders started lap two the red flag was shown, the race was immediately stopped, the accident had resulted in both machines been stranded in the middle of the race track.
The race was not restarted, half-points were awarded to the riders. The finishing positions were based on the positions the riders were in when the race was stopped for the second time.
Whakatane’s Mitch Rees was awarded third position and Jake Lewis finished second. The race win was awarded to Damon Rees commenting on his second win of the weekend,
“I got off to a great start in the first restart, I pulled a bit of a gap on Al, then he reeled me in pretty quick, so I put the hammer down, I think towards the end he must have pushed that little too hard and lost the front. I’m happy to come away with a race win it always looks good, it may be half points but it’s still a win.”
After Round One, Honda’s Mitch Rees leads the New Zealand Superbike Championship on 48-points ahead of Yamaha’s Jake Lewis in second on 39-points and Honda’s Damon Rees on 37.5-points in third.
“Its a first for me, I’m pretty stoked to come away and get the Honda on the podium three times this weekend, kudos to the team and everyone that’s helping us out.”
Mitch Rees will be going to round two full of confidence after been consistent and finishing all three races at round one. The reigning New Zealand Superbike Champion Alastair Hoogenboezem will be looking to make up for his mistake in race three and clawback valuable points on his rivals. Damon Rees will be looking to go out on a high and take a few more race wins before returning to England.
Round Two of the New Zealand Superbike Championship heads to Levels International Raceway, Timaru on the 16th and 17th January.
|12||Brett Wilson||15:27.7||+1 lap|
|13||Warren Hudson||22:45.9||+1 lap|