2021 New Zealand Superbike Championship
Words by Michael Wincott
Round Two of the 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championship played out at Levels International Raceway, Timaru, on January 15.
Mitch Rees was the most consistent rider throughout the opening round and finished on the podium in all three races. Rangiora’s Jake Lewis entered round two in second position in the championship, looking to keep the pressure on the Honda duo of Mitch and Damon Rees.
Lewis’s team-mate, defending New Zealand Superbike Champion, Alastair Hoogenboezem had a point to prove after his two DNF’s at the opening round. Damon Rees also came into Round Two looking to claw back valuable points on his rivals after suffering an unfortunate mechanical DNF at the opening round.
Qualifying took place Saturday morning under cloudy skies with Damon taking pole position. He lapped the 2.4km circuit in 1.02.928-seconds, which was 0.095-seconds quicker than Yamaha’s Hoogenboezem. Championship leader Mitch, riding the new Honda CBR1000RR-R, qualified third ahead of Lewis.
The opening race of the weekend saw all the riders on the front row get a good start. Damon Rees led the field into turn one ahead of Jake Lewis and Alastair Hoogenboezem. By the end of the opening lap, Damon had opened up a 0.319-second lead over Lewis.
The battle for third position also started to warm up midway through lap two, Mitch looked to pass Hoogenboezem going into the hairpin but was unsuccessful. By the end of lap two, Damon increased his lead to 0.935- seconds.
Lap four saw Lewis being pressured by teammate Hoogenboezem. As the riders entered turn four at the end of the back-straight, Hoogenboezem passed Lewis to move into second.
By mid-race, Hoogenboezem had lapped consistently 0.300 seconds quicker than Damon and was only 0.632-seconds behind the leader. The battle for the final podium spot was also well and truly underway between Lewis, Mitch and Moir, the three riders separated by just 0.532-seconds.
Halfway around the penultimate lap Mitch passed Lewis for third into the hairpin, but by the end of the lap, Lewis had re-passed Mitch to re-claim third.
Damon held off the advances of Hoogenboezem on the final lap to win the opening race of the weekend by 0.400-seconds.
“It’s been a really good day, obviously you can’t get a lot more than I got today, I’m really happy, but there are a few things that I want to find with the bike, I’m still not there yet.”
“I’m happy, a great race, I had a little battle with Mitch there, that was really cool, I need to make some changes overnight to keep up with Damon Rees and Alastair Hoogenboezem.”
Superbike Race One Results
Sunday morning’s three-lap scrub in session took place in wet conditions, where Whakatane’s Mitch set the quickest time, 1:24.227-seconds, 0.487-seconds quicker than next fastest rider, Suzuki’s Daniel Mettam.
Sunday’s second fifteen lap New Zealand Superbike race took place in mixed conditions. After earlier rain a dry line had started to form around the circuit, leaving riders to make critical decisions on which tyres they were to race on.
All the riders decided to run full wet tyres except for Damon who chose a wet front, paired with an intermediate rear. Sloan Frost and Dennis Charlette were the only riders who opted to run full slicks.
Mitch Rees got the best start and led into the first corner in front of Lewis and Mettam. Poleman Damongot meanwhile, was off to terrible start and dropped back to seventh position.
By the end of lap three, Mitch led second-placed Mettam by 4.167-seconds. Halfway around the fourth lap both Lewis and Hoogenboezem had passed Moir and moved up to third and fourth positions respectively.
Not long after, going into turn two at the start of lap five Damon passed Moir for fifth position. Mettam crashed out of second position on the same lap and there was now a three-way fight for second and third positions between Lewis, Hoogenboezem and Damon.
Damon managed to pass both Lewis and Hoogenboezem by the end of the back straight on lap six, meaning it was now a Team Rees Honda one-two and a bLU cRU Yamaha three-four.
By the end of lap seven, Mitch led by 11.154-seconds from Damon, whose intermediate tyre was enabling him to consistently lap faster than the leader.
By the end of lap thirteen Damon was lapping 1.500-seconds quicker than his brother Mitch, who now led by only 1.544-seconds.
Halfway around the penultimate lap Damon passed for the lead for the first time. As a result he won the second race of the weekend by 1.491-seconds ahead of Mitch, while Lewis finished third, 30.731-seconds behind the race winner.
“I just made a mistake and ran off at the hairpin, I don’t know what I can do to get a bit of good luck, it’s my fault, I’ve just got to not make the mistakes.”
“I made the last decision, Mitch went wets in the rear, I went with a wet front and an intermediate rear, I think it really paid off. Mitch made a mistake, all of a sudden he was only a couple of seconds up the road, the rear tyre of mine just kept getting better and better, when everyone else’s was getting worse, so I think the strategy really paid off.”
Superbike Race Two Results
|9||Dennis Charlett||18:39.0||+1 lap|
|10||Heath Botica||18:58.0||+1 lap|
|11||David Hall||19:23.5||+1 lap|
The final fifteen-lap Superbike race of the weekend took place in perfect sunny conditions. Damon got the best start and led into turn one ahead of Canterbury’s Hoogenboezem.
Half-way around lap two Hoogenboezem passed Damon going into turn four, but Hoogenboezem’s lead was short-lived. Damon re-passed him a lap later into the same turn, reclaiming the lead.
By mid-race, Damon was 0.675-seconds ahead of the chasing pack, led by Yamaha’s Hoogenboezem.
At the start of lap eleven Hoogenboezem had pulled away from Mitch in third and now closed to within 0.298-seconds of leader, Damon. The start of the penultimate lap then saw the leading pair comfortably 2.220-seconds ahead of Mitch in third.
Half-way around the final lap, Hoogenboezem passed Damon to lead the race as that tyre choice and pace paid off.
Unfortunately, Hoogenboezem ran wide, allowing Damon to re-pass and win the final superbike race of the day by 0.127-seconds. Hoogenboezem still finished second 2.654-seconds ahead of Mitch.
“I’m pretty happy we’re finally getting our comeback, thanks again to Yamaha, we’re already regretting the non-racing for a couple of weeks, we will look forward to the North Island.”
“That was an awesome race, I had so much fun battling with Al, there were a couple of close calls, but there was so much respect given between us two. Its been a perfect weekend, obviously pole and three race wins, I’ve not done that before on a superbike, I’m absolutely wrapped. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in on the North Island.”
After Round Two, Honda’s Damon Rees is the new championship leader with 113.5-points, ahead of his teammate Mitch Rees in second on 97. Yamaha’s Jake Lewis now sits third on 82-points.
Round Three of the New Zealand Superbike Championship heads to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in six weeks on the 6/7th March.
Superbike Race Three Results
|14||Heath Botica||16:30.4||+1 lap|
New Zealand Superbike Championship Points Standings