The 2022-23 New Zealand Road-Race Nationals
CAPTION: Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (Honda No.1) leads at the start of this 1000ccc Superbikes class race at Taupo at the weekend, with his father, multi-time former champion Tony Rees (Honda No.11), right behind him and Taupo’s Scott Moir (Yamaha No.5) also chasing. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
This season’s New Zealand Superbike Championships came to a thrilling conclusion at the Taupo International Motorsport Park and Events Centre at the weekend with some riders saving their best for last.
Two of the seven classes had already been decided in the AON Insurance and Pirelli-sponsored series, but this sixth and final round of the 2022-23 season on Saturday and Sunday really turned on the charm with fantastic weather and even hotter action on the race track.
Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (1000cc Superbike class) and Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 300 class) had been able to celebrate successful 2022-23 nationals campaigns with a round to spare when they dominated and clinched the titles in their respective classes at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, the fifth round of the series the previous weekend.
Despite this, neither rider was inclined to back off and take things easy at Taupo.
Rees won two of his three superbike class races at Taupo, forced to accept the runner-up spot, behind his Christchurch-based arch-rival and friend Alastair Hoogenboezem in the final race of the weekend, and he ended the series a massive 99 points clear of Hoogenboezem, with Auckland’s Dave Sharp completing the Superbikes podium for 2022-23.
Buchanan, meanwhile, still had a job to do.
He arrived at Taupo just one point behind Supersport 600 class leader Jake Lewis, of Rangiora, and knew that a solid performance might see him clinch that title as well.
And that’s exactly what happened, with Buchanan finishing with a 1-3-1 score-card in the 600cc class at Taupo, giving him the title by five points from Lewis, with Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler claiming the third podium spot for the season.
Other title winners this season were Whitby’s Dave Fellows (Pro Twins, post-2020 bikes); Waiuku’s Bob Irving (Pro Twins, pre-2020 bikes); Christchurch’s Hunter Charlett (Supersport 150); Panmure’s Adam Unsworth and Whanganui’s Bryce Rose (F1 Sidecars) and Albany’s Mark Halls and Geoff Davies (F2 Sidecars).
Because the sidecars class was not run at either of the South Island rounds of the series this season, the third and final sidecar race at Taupo on Sunday became doubly significant for the three-wheeled brigade, with that race designated as their Grand Prix trophy race for the season.
Unsworth and Rose won the GP title for the F1 class on Sunday and all-female Whanganui crew Tracey Bryan and Jo Mickleson won the corresponding trophy in the F2 class.
Motorcycling New Zealand road-racing commissioner Andy Skelton had a broad grin on his face at the end of the weekend.
“It has been an awesome series,” he enthused. “If the close racing we witnessed is not testimony to how healthy our sport is, then I don’t know what is.
“We have just had a meeting to discuss what the sport might look like for the next three to five years and what we have seen on the race tracks over the past few months is a great foundation to build on.
“I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved here and it all comes down to a number of people who worked so brilliantly together to deliver this amazing spectacle.
“It is a real family atmosphere in road-racing too, with fathers and sons racing together, husbands and wives and brothers and sisters too, all sharing the excitement out on the race track. It really does warm the heart.”
This season’s national championship competition was supported by the following groups: Victoria MCC, Hampton Downs, Auckland Motorcycle Club, MCI, Hamilton MCC, Southland MCC, South Canterbury MCC, Cemetery Circuit and Motorcycling New Zealand.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com