The much-anticipated 2021 New Zealand Superbike Championship (NZSBK) kicks off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch this weekend.
The highly competitive Championship will see Christchurch's Alastair Hoogenboezem defend his 2020 Championship Title aboard his Yamaha YZF-R1M.
Alastair showed speed and determination at the first two rounds of the 2020 Suzuki International Series in December, where he finished first in three races and second in the fourth. However, as he did not compete at the series finale at Cemetery Circuit, it was Honda’s Mitch Rees who won the series. The competition between Alastair and Mitch is expected to be fierce this season, as the Honda‑man will be riding the latest model Honda CBR1000RR-R.
After finishing runner-up in both the 2019 and 2020 Superbike Championships, Scott Moir will be out to prove a point and go one place higher to claim the superbike crown in 2021.
Whakatāne’s Damon Rees, younger brother of Mitch, will be a wildcard in the 2021 championship. Damon decided to enter the first two rounds of the championship at the eleventh hour. He was scheduled to return to the UK mid-February and start testing for the start of the 2021 British Superstock 1000 Championship, before tighter lockdown restrictions were placed on the UK. Damon will no doubt take vital points away from the regular championship contenders at the two South Island rounds.
There will be several other riders that could take the 2021 Superbike title, such as 2019 title winner Daniel Mettam, Canterbury’s Jake Lewis, class veteran Sloan Frost, and perhaps even superbike rookie Richie Dibben.
The Supersport 600 championship is as competitive as the Superbike class. Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler, who won the 2020 Suzuki International Series Formula Two Championship, is one of the prime contenders to take the 2021 Supersport 600 crown. Rogan, who finished second in the Supersport 600 championship last year, is in prime form to go one step further in 2021.
New kid on the block Zak Fuller, has moved up from the Pro Twin class to the Supersport 600 Class for 2021, where he will be riding a Honda CBR600RR for Team Rees. Zak surprised everyone at the end of 2020 by taking a win in the final race of the Formula Two series on Boxing Day, which helped consolidate his second place in the 2020 Suzuki International Series Formula 2 Championship. With each competitive lap, Fuller will be gaining more experience onboard the Honda, and could well be a championship contender if his good form continues.
Scott Structural Engineering's Dale Finch, also has strong form coming out of the 2020 Suzuki International Series where he won two of the six races. Dale will be tough to beat at his home tracks in the South Island if last season is anything to go by.
MTF Finance Kawasaki rider, Avalon Biddle, will be looking to reclaim her Supersport 600 crown which she won in 2019. Avalon had a strong performance in the Suzuki International Series, leading the series after two rounds by making the podium in every race. If she can maintain that consistency she will be a strong championship contender.
Following the Superbike and Supersport 600 classes, comes the Supersport 300 class. This class produces fantastic, close racing and is usually the largest grid in the championship.
Timaru’s Harry Parker will be one of the favourites to take the 2021 Supersport 300 Title. Despite missing the final round of the Suzuki International Series, he managed to finish third overall in that series.
Teammate Cormac Buchanan – just 14 years old – is also expected to produce strong results in his first season in the 300 class before he heads to Europe to compete in the MotoGP Redbull Rookies Cup.
Caleb Gilmore is another talented young rider who is expected to do well in the first two rounds of the championship before he heads to Australia for the 2021 ASBK Supersport 300 season.
Other strong contenders for the championship include – and there are a lot of them – Biggles Racing Team rider Jason Hearn, TR20 supported rider Dave Fellows, Sanson’s Shane Miller, 2018 125GP NZ champion Blayes Heaven (Double Six Motorsport), Whanganui’s Luca Durning and ex-superbike rider and brother of the current superbike champion, James Hoogenboezem.
NZSBK will also host 650 Pro Twins, Suzuki GIXXER Cup, Supersport 150s and Sidecars as well as support classes at each round, such as 250 production at Ruapuna this weekend. The action from all four rounds of the New Zealand Superbike Series can be live-streamed on CTAS TV.
After Ruapuna this weekend, the riders head south to Levels International Raceway in Timaru, for Round 2 the following weekend (16-17 January). The championship will then take a short break before returning for the penultimate round at Hampton Downs on 6-7 March. The championship decider will take place a week later at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupō (13-14 March).
Words: Michael Wincott & Aaron Staples