After a thrilling opening round of the Suzuki International Series, round two headed to Manfeild where Yamaha's Alastair Hoogenboezem looked to increase his championship lead over his fierce rivals. After crashing out of race two at round one, Whakatāne’s Damon Rees was looking to claw back valuable points in the championship before heading to the series decider at the world-famous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day.
Alastair Hoogenboezem put his Yamaha YZF-R1 on pole for the second round Formula 1 races of the Suzuki International Series, lapping the 3 km Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in 1.04.687, 0.221 seconds quicker than Team Rees', Mitch Rees in second. Brother Damon Rees rounded out the front row.
The first eight-lap F1 race of the day saw Mitch Rees who was riding the brand new Honda CBR1000RR-R get the hole-shot and lead into the first corner ahead of Suzuki's Scott Moir with Damon Rees in third.
Half-way around lap one Damon Rees passed Scott Moir for the second position, which made it a Honda one-two. Poleman Alastair Hoogenboezem got off to a bad start and had dropped back to fifth by the end of the opening lap.
By the start of lap two, Mitch Rees had pulled away from younger brother Damon by 0.223 seconds with Scott Moir in third. Approaching the final corner at the end of lap two, Scott Moir and Damon Rees touched - both riders were lucky to stay on - allowing Mitch Rees to increase his lead to 0.502 seconds.
Lap three saw the championship leader Hoogenboezem move up to fourth position. The battle for second was now a three-way fight between Damon Rees, Daniel Mettam and Alastair Hoogenboezem.
Damon Rees had set his best lap of the race on lap four and had closed to within half a second of the race leader Mitch Rees.
The start of the final lap saw the top four riders covered by less than a second. Mitch Rees won the race by 0.311 seconds, taking a debut win for the new Honda CBR1000RR-R, brother Damon Rees finished in second which made it a Team Rees Honda one-two.
Suzuki's Daniel Mettam rounded out the podium in third together with Championship leader Alastair Hoogenboezem, who missed the podium by just 0.151 seconds, finishing in fourth.
Commenting on the contact between himself and Moir, Damon Rees explains:
"I hit the side of him because he cut my nose off, so I was a little pissed off about it. Hopefully, it’ll teach him a lesson. We will have a go in the next one, hopefully, bring home another Honda one and two."
After a short delay in the race schedule due to an earlier sidecar fire, the second Formula 1 race of the weekend got underway. The run to the first corner was congested and saw the riders three abreast down the straight.
Mitch Rees braked the latest and took the lead into turn one ahead of Scott Moir and Damon Rees. At the end of the opening lap, Alastair Hoogenboezem had moved up to third position, passing Damon Rees.
By lap three there was a three-way battle for the lead between Mitch Rees, Scott Moir and Alastair Hoogenboezem.
Yamaha’s Alastair Hoogenboezem looked comfortable and had settled into a good race rhythm behind the Suzuki of Moir.
Starting lap five Hoogenboezem passed Moir for second. Hoogenboezem looked to close the gap to the race leader Mitch Rees, who had started to pull away. By lap six Hoogenboezem and Moir had caught Mitch Rees it was now a three-rider fight for the win.
Going into the final lap, Mitch Rees held a 0.071 second lead over Hoogenboezem who was determined to win the second race after just missing out on the podium in race one.
As the riders approached the hairpin for the final time, Hoogenboezem dived up the inside of Mitch Rees and took the lead. Mitch Rees tried to retaliate going into Higgins but was unsuccessful.
"I did not think he was going to pass me there, I had no more"
commented Mitch Rees about Hoogenboezems pass.
Hoogenboezem won by 0.196 seconds, denying Mitch Rees and Honda their second win of the day. Hoogenboezem says
"We were caught napping in the first race, even the start of the second race was not fantastic, I got told to put my elbows out."
After a close-fought race, Taupos, Scott Moir finished third just 0.765 seconds behind the race winner.
After Round 2, Alastair Hoogenboezem has extended his lead in the Suzuki International Series Formula 1 Championship by 9pts. Hoogenboezem leaves Manfeild on 94pts ahead of Mitch Rees now in second position on 85pts and Scott Moir on 80pts in third.
The Formula 1 Championship is still anyone’s at this point as Hoogenboezem will not compete at the Boxing Day finale on the streets of Whanganui as he turns his focus to the 2021 New Zealand Superbike season which kicks off on 9 January 2021 at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch.
Words: Michael Wincott