There was a reduction in the number of races, but there was certainly no shortage of thrills at the opening round of this season’s New Zealand Superbike Championships near Christchurch at the weekend.
The Mike Pero Motorsport Park, at Ruapuna, hosted the first of five rounds for the 2019 series on Saturday and Sunday, with all the usual fanfare and fireworks, featuring plenty of close racing and even revealing a few fresh names appearing on the timing sheets.
Unfortunately the meeting was cut short after a major oil spill during the weekend’s second of three sidecars races, shortly after midday on Sunday, and, “in the interests of rider safety”, the event was “declared”, with further racing therefore cancelled.
“There was an incident with an engine failure in a sidecars race and about five litres of oil was spread over about 500m metres of track,” said Motorcycling New Zealand road-race co-commissioner Grant Ramage.
He confirmed that at least one race was able to be run for all but one class, the Supersport 600cc class riders missing out after their sole race on Saturday was red-flagged after just two laps following a rider crash.
The sidecar spillage happened just before the Supersport 600 was due on the track for their first outing of the weekend on Sunday afternoon.
The Grand Prix title races, traditionally the third race of the weekend for each class, were therefore not run at Ruapuna and Ramage said they would be included in the programme at round two of the series, at Levels International Raceway, near Timaru, next weekend.
“We may also be able to catch-up the lost races at Levels, although we can’t start that meeting earlier in the day or finish it any later, because of resource consent.
“It’s disappointing we had to stop racing at Ruapuna. However, what racing we did have was pretty amazing,” said Ramage.
“All races were very competitive and several new faces revealed themselves, with all bike brands well represented, so it was a great success from that point of view.”
The most successful rider of the weekend was Whakatane’s Damon Rees, who qualified fastest in the premier superbike class and then won both of the races that were run at Ruapuna.
He headed off Christchurch rider Alastair Hoogenboezem, who finished second and third in the two superbike races, while Rees’ elder brother, Mitchell Rees, claimed the third podium spot, finishing the weekend with a 4-2 score-card.
Other class leaders after the weekend’s abbreviated event are Palmerston North’s Jacob Stroud (Supersport 300 class); Papamoa’s Leon Jacobs (250 Production class); Christchurch’s Chris Huddlestone (Superlites); Christchurch’s Andrew McLaughlin (650 Pro Twins); Australia’s Yanni Shaw (125 GP); Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud (GIXXER Cup); Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett and Will Clim (sidecars).