Wellington’s Sloan Frost may be the defending national superbike champion and Taupo’s Scotty Moir may have ruled the 1000cc class during the pre-nationals Suzuki Series, but neither rider can afford to rest on their laurels.
The five-round 2019 New Zealand Superbike Championships kick off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, at Ruapuna, Christchurch, this Saturday and Sunday, January 5-6, and with entry numbers increased across all the classes, this makes it perhaps the biggest road-racing championship seen in New Zealand for many years.
The second round follows swiftly afterwards, just one week later, at Levels International Raceway, near Timaru, on January 12-13.
Riders such as Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam, Rangiora’s Jake Lewis and Whakatane brothers Mitch and Damon Rees are poised to strike, along with Aucklander Dave Sharp and Christchurch brothers Alastair and James Hoogenboezem.
The pre-nationals Suzuki Series in December was the perfect competition for the latest model bikes to be aired, for new teams to present themselves and for riders to find out where they stand before the serious business of the nationals.
Frost has no doubt that his mission to hold onto the premier title will be a particularly tough one this season.
“I think I’m going fast enough to win the national title again in 2019. At Manfeild’s round of the Suzuki Series I was putting in laps that were faster there than the year before, but it remains to be seen whether that will be fast enough,” said the 37-year-old father-of-four.
“It seems though that everyone is going faster this year. It’s all going to come down to race craft and consistency.”
The Supersport 600 class will also be fizzing, the competition in December highlighting a few names to watch for in 2019, perhaps Rangiora’s Avalon Biddle most of all.
Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler, Te Awamutu’s David Hall and Manukau’s Toby Summers should also be 600cc class contenders in 2019 and, when a few of the South Islanders are added into the mix – riders such as Christchurch’s Dale Finch and Greymouth’s Ashton Hughes, for example – it’s obvious the starting grids for the nationals will be overflowing with talent.
Most eyes will likely focus on Biddle.
She finished third overall, behind Lewis and James Hoogenboezem, in the Supersport 600 class last season and she has already shown she has the potential to win it this year.
“I have ridden this bike, the Kawasaki ZX6R, for the past two years now, so it’s really well set-up for me,” said the 26-year-old Biddle.
She was Women’s European Cup champion back-to-back in 2015 and 2016 and she is certainly well respected by her male rivals at home.
“Physically I’m stronger than I was. It’s a big step up from 300cc to 600cc bikes. I’ve been on a 600 now for five years, but it’s taken me that long to build up strength and technique to last a whole race.”
The Supersport 300 class should be another cauldron, with riders such as Dunedin’s Kevin Goddard, Timaru’s Harry Parker and Hamilton’s Jacob Stroud among the likely stars.
This is a growth area for the sport, where riders will develop and hone their craft, possibly to later become champions on 600cc and 1000cc machines.
The various other classes in the nationals this year are: 250 Production; Superlite; 650 Pro Twin; 125 GP; Sidecars; GIXXER Cup 150.
Motorcycling New Zealand extends an invitation to media to attend the pre-event press conferences on Friday, January 4, from 5pm, and the following Friday, January 11, from 5pm.
The first press conference for the series will be held in the Casino Lounge, Mike Pero Motorsport Park.
Superbike class riders attending the press conference include Sloan Frost, Mitch and Damon Rees, Daniel Mettam, Alastair Hoogenboezem and Jake Lewis.
Supersport 600 class riders attending include Avalon Biddle, Rogan Chandler, Toby Summers and Dale Finch.
Host Motorcycling Canterbury president Dennis Charlett will also be in attendance and available for interviews.
Series commentator Neil ‘Turbo Tonsils’ Ritchie will be hosting the event, which will also be filmed by the production team from CTAS Live. Footage of interviews will be available for editorial use.
The 2019 New Zealand Superbike Championships are supported by DHL Express New Zealand Ltd (DHL), Suzuki New Zealand, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Carl Cox Motorsport, ICG Print, Honda New Zealand, Pirelli, Resene Automotive and Light Industrial, CTAS, MX Timing, BikeRider magazine, Trust Aoraki and Timaru District Council. Suzuki also supports the GIXXER Cup.
2019 NZ Superbike Championships calendar:
Round 1 – January 5-6, Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch;
Round 2 – January 12-13, Levels International Raceway, Timaru;
Round 3 – March 2-3, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, North Waikato, Mike Pero MotoFest;
Round 4 – March 30-31, Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild;
Round 5 – April 5-7, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo.