It was another scintillating performance on Wednesday from Bay of Plenty man Damon Rees, his summer campaign reaching on Boxing Day the first of what he hopes will be several pinnacles this season.
The 23-year-old from Whakatane could not quite emulate the unbeaten performances he produced at the first two of three rounds in this year’s pre-nationals Suzuki Series, but, after a re-start because of other riders crashing, he was eventually credited with second in the opening Formula Two (600cc) race at Boxing Day’s final round, on Whanganui’s famous Cemetery Circuit, and this was easily enough for the Honda hotshot to get the job done.
The F2 trophy was his with a race to spare.
Then, with no pressure on him, Rees took his Carl Cox Motorsport-backed Honda CBR600RR to win the next and final race of the series anyway, underlining his F2 dominance in the three-round, six-race series.
“I wouldn’t say that I rode with nothing to lose in that second race, I just went out and did what I would have done in the first race if it hadn’t been mucked up by the re-start. I had a clear track ahead of me in race two and that makes so much of a difference around here.
“So, five wins and a second place for the series’ six races … and all but one pole position, so I’ve got to be happy with that. I missed out on getting pole here by one-tenth of a second.
“This was officially my last race on a 600cc bike. That’s the plan anyway. If a 600cc ride were to come about, I’d take it, but it’s just 1000cc superbikes for me now.
“I’ve raced the 600 bikes for a number of years now (winning the national Supersport 600 title in 2017) and showed I’m dominant with a standard motor. I have learned a lot from racing in Australia this year and I’ll head on now to the superbike nationals and just campaign the CBR1000 and try to win on that.”
There was double reason for the Rees family to celebrate on Boxing Day too, with patriarch Tony Rees showing that, even at age 51, he was far from being a spent force, the Kiwi legend winning the Formula One Superbike class overall at Whanganui.
He is a multi-time national champion, many-time Cemetery Circuit winner and a numerous winner at the similar but now-defunct Battle of the Streets race event in Paeroa too and his pace at Boxing Day on Wednesday enough to earn him another piece of silverware.
Tony Rees finished fourth in the day’s first of two F1 races at Whanganui, then he stormed into the lead in race two, winning that by a healthy three seconds from Wellington’s Jay Lawrence.
These two results were enough to earn Rees the F1 class win overall at Whanganui and boost him from seventh to fifth in the final series standings.
Visiting British rider Peter Hickman, the 31-year-old the 2018 Isle of Man champion, won the event’s signature Robert Holden Memorial feature race, a race that Tony Rees opted to sit out as a headache struck him just before the start.
Tony Rees is a seven-time former winner of the Robert Holden Memorial feature race, his last win coming just two years ago, in 2016.
Racing was intense in the various other classes at Whanganui too.
Taumarunui’s Leigh Tidman won the Formula Three class at Whanganui and took the series trophy for this class, while Taupiri’s Zak Fuller won the GIXXER Cup class; Paraparaumu’s Peter Bogusz topped the Post Classics Pre-89 (senior, over-600cc) class; Lower Hutt’s Dean Bentley finished on top in the Post Classics Pre-89 (junior, under-600cc) class; Ngaruawahia’s Steve Bridge won the combined senior Bears (non-Japanese bikes) and Formula Sport class; Te Awamutu’s Gary Morgan won the combined junior Bears/Formula Sport class and Tauranga’s Duncan Hart claimed Super Motard class win for the series.
International talent also glistened in the sidecars classes, where visiting UK rider John Holden and Tauranga’s Robbie Shorter dominating the F1 grade and Tauranga pair Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan took the F2 grade win ahead of visiting British co-riders Gary Bryan and Phil Hyde.