CAPTION: Whakatane’s Damon Rees (right) gets some advice from his former-champion father Tony Rees before heading out onto the track at Hampton Downs, on the glorious day in 2017 that he wrapped up the national Supersport 600 title at the popular North Waikato race facility. Photo by Andy McGechan,

JANUARY 30, 2024: The upcoming Star Insure MotoFest will include a special tribute to fallen champion Damon Rees, the young rider from Whakatane who, sadly, passed away in the United Kingdom in June last year due to medical issues unrelated to motorcycling.

The event, set for the weekend of March 2-3, 2024, will be the fifth edition of the popular motorcycling festival, which also doubles as the sixth and final round in this season’s New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK).

Incorporated into the NZSBK section of the weekend’s programme will be a memorial race for Damon Rees, the final race for the Supersport 600 class of the weekend/championship being dedicated to the late racer.

His elder brother Mitch Rees is the defending national 1000 Superbike champion and currently leads the 2023-24 series after four of the six rounds and their father, Tony Rees, is currently running third overall in the same class.

Mitch Rees said he was pleased that this salute to his late brother could occur at Hampton Downs.

“Hampton Downs and the Motorcycling New Zealand road-racing commission wanted to do this memorial for Damo. The Supersport 600 championship is the class that he won back in 2017 (before heading overseas to race) and, significantly, it was sealed by him in the last race of the championship at Hampton Downs that year,” said Mitch Rees.

“We wanted to pay homage to his winning that championship title and how he achieved that. So, the last race for the Supersport 600 class this year will be the Damon Rees Memorial. That will continue on in future years too at Hampton Downs.

“We were really close, as brothers growing up and as sibling rivals on the race track and it has left a big hole in my heart that he has now gone.

“He was a hero to a lot of people. We as a family obviously pay tribute to him, but it’s cool too that a lot of other people want to remember him and celebrate the joy and friendship he brought to the sport. We all want his memory to live on.”

Meanwhile, Kiwi international Simon Crafar also returns to New Zealand as a special guest for the MotoFest extravaganza.

Crafar will certainly be one of the main draw-cards for the event, as a small-town Kiwi boy who spread his wings and tasted motorcycle road-racing glory at the ultimate level. He later went on to craft a career as a coach and he is now a commentator in the MotoGP world championships.

The Star Insure MotoFest will be an unbeatable weekend of two-wheel racing action headlined by the NZ Classic Grand Prix and the grand finale for the NZ Superbike nationals.

Joining Crafar as a special guest will be fellow Kiwi racing legends Aaron Slight, Paul Treacy and Andrew Stroud, along with an impressive display of classic racing bikes from yesteryear, all on show in the Legends Garage.

The Motul Bike Park will deliver an unprecedented mass of motorcycle eye candy for fans and other exhibitions are sure to delight the large crowds expected.

Star Insure MotoFest will certainly tick all the boxes with bike enthusiasts if the 2024 edition can match previous MotoFest spectacles.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,