Last weekend marked the start of the 13th annual Suzuki International Series, New Zealand's most prestigious motorcycle road-racing competition, attracting the best riders from all over New Zealand such as the 2019 New Zealand Superbike Champion Daniel Mettam, Taupō’s Scott Moir, along with Whakatāne’s Damon Rees who has recently returned to New Zealand after competing in the British National Superstock 1000 Championship.
The three round series kicked off at Taupō’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, on 6th December, before heading to Manfeild, Fielding, 13th December for round two, the series decider will take place on Boxing Day on the streets of Whanganui at the world-famous Cemetery Circuit.
Whakatāne’s Damon Rees, riding a Honda CBR1000RR, took pole position for the opening Formula 1 races of the Suzuki International Series. Rees lapped the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in 1.27.284 which was 0.173 seconds quicker than Taupō's Scott Moir in second. Rounding out the front row was New Zealand's reigning Superbike Champion, Alastair Hoogenboezem.
The weather conditions for the opening 8 lap Formula 1 race were perfect, with track temperatures in the 40’s, giving the riders plenty of grip. As the lights went out it was Scott Moir who led into the first corner. Pole man Rees got off to a bad start, dropping back to fifth by the end of the opening lap. By mid-race the leading pair of Hoogenboezem and Moir had managed to gap the three-way battle for third led by Rees by over two seconds, allowing Hoogenboezem to battle with Moir for the lead. The two riders swapped positions multiple times throughout the race. By lap five Rees was comfortably in third position and intent on catching the leaders. The pace was starting to hot up, with Rees setting a new circuit lap record of 1.27.235 in the process, visibly closing the gap to the race leaders. By the start of the final lap, there was a three-way battle for the lead between Hoogenboezem, Moir and Rees. The race was decided on the last corner when Rees made a move on Moir for second but ran wide letting Moir back through, allowing Hoogenboezem to pull vital bike lengths on them both to take the win, by 0.504 seconds.
Third placed Rees comments on the start of the race:
“It was a crap start, I just really messed up going into turn one. I was a bit too soft, I should have been a little bit braver. I just sat back too much and they swamped me”.
Taking a well deserved second position after being involved in a three-way race long battle for the win, Moir commented on his strong second place:
”It is a good start to the season. Better than last year.” “It was my first race on Dunlops, new tyre. I've had three days on them. It shows that they are as good as the Pirellis”.
Taking his first Formula 1 race win at Taupō, Alastair Hoogenboezem praises his team by saying
“The team did an awesome job. It shows what a good team does. From Friday we were charging, some of our best times we have ever done.” “It’s cool to see three different brands on the podium. I think it's going to be a pretty cool year.”
The second Formula 1 race of the weekend got underway in similarly scorching conditions, Scott Moir, riding a Suzuki GSXR1000R, got the holeshot and led into turn one ahead of Damon Rees and race one winner Alastair Hoogenboezem. Crossing the line to start lap four, the top three riders, consisting of Moir, Rees and Hoogenboezem had pulled away from the rest of the field. Rees, now in second position behind Moir, was looking comfortable having just set the new lap record of 1.27.032 on the previous lap. By the end of lap five, Rees decided to make his move passing Moir for the lead at the end of the back straight going into the penultimate corner. His lead was short lived, losing the front of his Honda at the final corner, crashing out, which promoted brother Mitch Rees to third. The final lap saw Moir and Hoogenboezem swap places multiple times. However, coming out of turn 11, Moir’s’ Suzuki had a problem slowing down on the back straight allowing Hoogenboezem to make his move into the penultimate corner, to win the second race by 0.404 seconds from Moir with Mitch Rees in third.
Moir comments after the race
“Unfortunately on the last lap I think we ran it a little low on fuel, I gave it a hand full and it just died on me, giving Al the run.”
Extending his Championship lead and commenting on his second win Hoogenboezem says
“It was cool that Damon joined us for a bit. Obviously made us up the pace.” Remarking on the last lap pass Hoogenboezem continues “Something was up with Scotty’s bike on the back straight. I took advantage of that, it was a nice clean battle”
After round 1 Alastair Hoogenboezem leads the Suzuki International Series Formula 1 Championship on 50pts ahead of Scot Moir in second position on 44pts and Mitch Rees on 38pts in third.
Drama in Formula 2 Class
Dale Finch of Christchurch, took pole position for the opening Formula 2 races of the Suzuki International Series. Riding a Triumph Daytona, Finch posted a lap time of 1.30.477 seconds just 0.013 seconds quicker than Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler who would start in second. Completing the front row in third was Hamilton’s, Zak Fuller.
Race 1, saw Rogan Chandler get the holeshot into the congested first corner ahead of the pole sitter Dale Finch. There was early race drama as the riders approached turn two. Finch lost control of his bike, which pirouetted on the floor, resulting in the complete field passing him. By the end of the opening lap Chandler had opened a lead of over a second from second placed Toby Summers. As the riders approached mid race Chandler had opened up over a four second lead at the front while there was a three way battle for second between Summers, Fuller and Biddle. Lap seven would prove critical for Summers who ran wide going into the first corner enabling Fuller to move up to second and Biddle to third, the battle for second was now between these two riders. Chandler controlled the race from the front, winning by over three seconds. The battle for second and third position went down to the final corner where Fuller, riding in his first Formula 2 race, passed Biddle for second, out dragging her out of the final corner to the line by 0.088 second, claiming his maiden podium in the Formula 2 class.
The start of Race 2 saw Toby Summers lead into the first corner, his lead was short lived as he was passed immediately by Dale Finch and Rogan Chandler going into turn two. By the end of the second lap the leading duo had pulled away from Summers. Summers was holding on to third ahead of Avalon Biddle who was having another strong ride in fourth. Lap four saw Biddle pass Summers for third by now she was three seconds behind the leading riders of Finch and Chandler. Going into the final lap Chandler held a 0.352 second lead over Finch who was determined to win after his first race mistake. Going into the final half of the lap the leading duo were catching a back marker. Finch divided up the inside as they approached the penultimate corner passing Chandler for the lead. Chandler tried to retaliate the back marker compromised his line stopping him from re-passing, Finch would win the race by 0.197 second, ahead of Chandler with Biddle a further 8.5 seconds behind in third.
Finishing for the second time in third position Biddle comments
“I’m super happy, if I had one goal for the weekend it was to finish both races on the podium.” commenting on the pace of the race leaders “A great race by those guys (Finch and Chandler) great riding all weekend.”
Chandler is happy to have finished second as well as managing extended his championship lead going into to his home race next weekend, commenting
“I'm pretty happy to have the points lead again and move on to Manfeild.”
Taking the race win after his race one mistake Finch says
“After race one, it feels good to go out there and finish on top””I was following Rogan all race and could see his tyre was going off, I knew that if I got the drive out of the back sweeper I’d have it.” Commenting on the back marker “It played in my favour.”
Rogan Chandler leads the Suzuki International Series Formula 2 Championship on 47pts, ahead of Dale Finch in second position on 41pts and Avalon Biddle on 40pts in third.
Round two of the Suzuki International Series heads to Manfeild on the 13th December. Alastair Hoogenboezem, the reigning New Zealand Superbike Champion will be looking to stamp his authority on the Formula 1 Championship. In the highly contested Formula 2 Championship local man Rogan Chandler will have to battle hard with Finch and Biddle if he wants to leave round two championship leader.
Words: Michael Wincott