Dennis Charlett is on his way to becoming the oldest ever New Zealand Superbike champion as he starts the third round of the series at Taupo this weekend.
A proud grandfather at 45, the Christchurch Suzuki racer leads Hamilton Kawasaki rider Nick Cole by 20 points with two rounds to go.
Charlett keeps himself superbly fit by training for his second-favourite sport – kick-boxing — and since the first two rounds in the South Island in January he has also maintained his race-sharpness by riding in Canterbury. He also leads the King of Ruapuna and King of Canterbury series.
Both Charlett and Cole have won the 600cc Supersport championship and now they are fighting to win the premier title for the first time, in a field which has great depth as road-racing is at a high level in New Zealand.
“I just have to ride consistently and keep an eye on where Nick Cole is finishing,” Charlett said. “I’ve got to think about what I’m doing and keep an eye on the points and maintain the lead I’ve got.
“I’ve only been to Taupo twice but I’ve won a 600 race and last year I came third on a Superbike so I’m confident that over the course of the weekend I’ll be on the pace.
“I train doing kick-boxing, that’s pretty much all I do really. I used to compete but I don’t any more, I just go and do the training. I generally train with young guys that are going in for a fight.”
Charlett can expect a good fight from Cole, who has more experience of the Taupo circuit and has gone well there in the past. Cole also says his Red Devil team has had positive results from further development of the Kawasaki.
The man with the best knowledge of the tricky track is probably Scott Moir, who lives in Taupo and has already won one race this season on his Suzuki. He is fourth in the championship, just behind Christchurch rider James Smith who in January gave Honda its first New Zealand Superbike victory for some years.
Australian Linden Magee, fifth on a BMW, adds an international flavour to the championship and Wellington’s Sloan Frost is a very fast rider on his Suzuki now fighting back after injuries slowed him earlier in the season.
Other riders expected to be dicing at the front include Tony Rees (Whakatane, Honda), and four more Suzuki racers – Craig Shirriffs (Feilding), Hayden Fitzgerald (Taranaki), Ray Clee (Kumeu) and Jaden Hassan (Auckland).
Hassan is certainly a rider to watch. He has been extremely fast in Supersport and is getting quicker and quicker in his first season in Superbikes.
The Supersport category sees the defending champion, Christchurch rider John Ross, enjoying a healthy 38-point lead on his Suzuki.
However the second-placed rider is Toby Summers, who has been in really hot form this season on his Yamaha and since he lives in Taupo will be very familiar with the circuit.
Another Christchurch Suzuki rider, Alastair Hoogenboezem, is not far behind in third and Invercargill’s Jeremy Holmes flies the Honda flag in fourth.
Leaders in other categories are: Superlite, Hayden Fitzgerald (Suzuki SV650); 125 GP, Matthew Hoogenboezem (Christchurch, Honda); Pro Twins, Royd Walker-Holt (Kawakawa, Suzuki SV650); 250 Production, Baillie Perriton (Ashburton, Kawasaki); and Sidecars, Aaron Lovell-Dennis Simonson (Hamilton, LCR1000).
Saturday sees qualifying and one race for each class, and Sunday two races in each class.
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