The New Zealand Superbike Championship returned to the North Island for the final round of the 2021 Championship, which took place at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupō on 13/14 March.
Going into the final round Honda’s Damon Rees held a slender 16.5pt lead over his team-mate and older brother Mitch Rees. Damon was looking to claim his first New Zealand Superbike Championship before returning to the UK to ride in the British Superstock 1000 Championship.
Qualifying for the final round took place Saturday morning in perfect conditions. Team Rees Honda rider Mitch Rees took pole position Mitch lapped the 3.5km circuit in 1.27.561, which was 0.350 seconds faster than championship leader Damon Rees. Reigning superbike champion Alastair Hoogenboezem qualified in third ahead of Suzuki’s Scott Moir in fourth.
The opening ten lap race of the weekend took place under clear skies. Honda’s Mitch Rees got the best start and led in to turn one ahead of Yamha’s Alastair Hoogenboezem in second. Damon (Rees) the championship leader got a horror start and dropped back to eighth. By the end of the opening lap, the top three had started to pull away from Yamha’s Jake Lewis in fourth.
Halfway around lap three the battle for the lead had hotted up, Hoogenboezem had closed up and was pressuring Mitch for the lead. By the end of lap three, Damon (Rees) had moved up to fifth position behind Jake Lewis in fourth.
Going into Turn 12 at the end of the back straight on lap four Damon (Rees) had passed Lewis for fourth and was now only 2.534-seconds behind Moir in third.
With three laps remaining Moir had dropped off the back of the leading pair of Mitch (Rees) and Hoogenboezem and into the clutched of Damon (Rees) who then passed him by the end of the lap.
By the start of the penultimate lap, Mitch (Rees) had pulled away from Hoogenboezem in second. Mitch (Rees) won the opening race of the weekend by 1.329-seconds ahead of Yamaha’s Hoogenboezem in second. The championship leader Damon (Rees) finished third.
Race winner Mitch Rees commented, “It was an awesome race, I didn’t know who was behind me, I was just pushing and pushing, it was good to knock off the laps.”
The battle for the 2021 title was hotting up, Damon’s championship lead had now been whittled down to 6.5pts.
Sunday’s first sixteen lap, Superbike race took place in perfect sunny conditions. Mitch Rees got the best start and led into the first corner ahead of Richie Dibben in second and Damon Rees in third.
By the end of lap two, the leading trio of Mitch (Rees), Dibben, and Moir had pulled away from Mettam in fourth. Championship leader Damon (Rees) had dropped back of the field and looked to be in trouble.
Coming out of the final corner on lap five Moir crashed while trying to keep up with the race leader Mitch (Rees). This promoted Dibben to second and Hoogenboezem to third. Hoogenboezem made his move at the next corner and moved up to second.
With three laps remaining Damon (Rees) had moved up to eighth position, 42.590-seconds behind his championship rival Mitch (Rees)who led.
Mitch (Rees) won the race by a comfortable 4.700-seconds ahead of Hoogenboezem in second. Richie Dibben finished in third to take his debut podium. Damon (Rees) finished in eighth which handed the championship lead to older brother Mitch.
Race winner Mitch (Rees) commented “The new bike is so nice to ride, it’s really easy to be accurate on it. I’m just learning about it in every session I hope to come away with another win.”
Going into the final race of the year, Mitch (Rees) led the championship by 10.5 pts ahead of Damon (Rees).
The final fifteen-lap New Zealand Superbike race kicked off in style. Damon (Rees) led into turn one ahead of Mitch (Rees) in second and Alastair Hoogenboezem in third.
Going into Turn 13 at the end of lap two Damon (Rees) out braked himself, which aloud Mitch (Rees) through and into the lead.
At the end of lap five, Mitch (Rees) had opened up a 1.030-second gap over the battle for second which was led by Yamaha’s Alastair Hoogenboezem. Honda’s Damon Rees was now in third and was been pressured by Richi Dibben in fourth.
By mid-race, Mitch (Rees) had been caught by Hoogenboezem who was now challenging for the lead.
With six laps remaining Hoogenboezem dived up the inside of Mitch (Rees) at Turn 11 and led the race. Damon (Rees) in third was been hounded by Moir now in fourth.
Hoogenboezem won the final race of the 2021 season by 0.719-seconds. Mitch (Rees) finished second and claimed his first Superbike Championship ahead of younger brother Damon (Rees) in third.
Mitch Rees is now the sixth different New Zealand Superbike Champion in the last six years as well as being part of the first-ever father and son combination to win the national title.
Mitch (Rees) commented, “I made a few mistakes, I was riding out of my comfort zone a bit, we got the job done and got the championship.”
Hoogenboezem commented on winning the final race of the year by saying “We always knew we could do it, awesome last race with Mitch, fantastic race, its good to finish with a bit of a smile.”
After the final round of the championship, Honda’s Mitch Rees was crowned champion with 168pts ahead of his team-mate Damon Rees in second on 153.5pts, Yamaha’s Alastair Hoogenboezem in third with 144pts.
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