Mettam and Frost feel heat at Manfeild
Suzuki riders Daniel Mettam and Sloan Frost shared the feature race wins in sun drenched conditions during the second round of the 2017 Suzuki Series at Manfeild on Sunday.
Aucklander Mettam didn’t have race one all his own way in the F1 Superbike class however as Taupo’s Scott Moir rocketed off the line on his CD van der Meer Builders GSXR1000 and let the fast-track pack until the final turn of the opening lap where he almost crashed. Honda Rider Insurance CBR1000RR-mounted Mitch Rees, of Whakatane, took over the lead on lap two with fast starting Northern Ireland rider Lee Johnson hot on his heels on a Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 as he quickly came up to speed during his first NZ visit.
Mettam held third at this early stage of the race although he put a nice pass on Johnson with no quarter asked, or given. Frost held fourth when Tony Rees crashed at turn one, where a following rider clipped Tony’s hand as he slid off the track, which may force the 50 year old veteran to miss defending his Robert Holden Memorial title at Whanganui on Boxing Day.
Mettam says, “I managed to take the win in race one after a tight race with Mitch, and in the last race I was chasing Sloan down but the race was cut short two laps so I finished second. I was planning a move but it didn’t happen so that’s racing and I’m happy with the overall win.”
At the same time a fierce battle developed between Mettam and Mitch Rees, and shortly after Frost ran off the track after he missed a gear shift, which effectively put him last as the high speed freight train had 11 riders within a couple of hundred metres of the leaders all race long.
Mitch Rees made a late charge to the line however it was Mettam who took a well earned win by a bike length from Mitch. Third was New Plymouth rider Hayden Fitzgerald (bLU cRU Yamaha YZF-M1) who passed Johnson near the end of the race to snatch the final podium spot, ahead of Moir and Alastair Hoogenboezem (Christchurch) on an M1 Motorsport BMW S1000RR.
In what must be one of the closest F1 Superbike finishes ever, the top ten riders finished within 11 seconds of the leader.
Race two was yet another torrid battle between several riders who all wanted victory in front of the large Manfeild crowd. Entertained they were. Frost shot his Sloan Frost Fujistu TSS Red Baron Suzuki GSXR1000 into the lead at the start with Mettam, Moir, Fitzgerald and Johnson hot on his heels.
Frost was pushed all the way to the line as Mettam and Moir constantly swapped places behind the Wellington rider. The high-speed Suzuki GSXR1000 freight train went on to take the chequered flag in that order.
In the sizzling heat Mitch Rees struggled to maintain the same traction level as the opening leg and held fourth to race end, with Fitzgerald right behind.
Equal second with Mettam in the series Mitch Rees feels no pressure. “Race one was an awesome race with Dan, right down to the wire so to be on the podium again was awesome. I tried to get a run around the outside and see if I could out-drive him (to the line) but he weighs less than me,” Rees says. “They were going faster in the second race and I didn’t have the grip. It’s only my second season and I’m going faster than ever before, and if we’re at the front fighting for wins, if we’re fifth or twelfth, so long as we are going faster that’s all I want.”
Again, all the riders were on pace and the top nine places crossed the finish line within 11 seconds.
Lee Johnson is on fire on a new bike with new tyres and a totally new track in a different country, “It’s so good to be here, the weather is awesome, the track is good and the people have been unbelievable the way they’ve looked after us. They can’t do enough for you, it reminds me of back home in Northern Ireland so it’s really nice and I’m enjoying it,” Johnson says. “In qualifying we were only 0.2s off pole so I knew then we’d be in the mix for the race but I struggled a little with the brakes, we tried one thing for race one and they weren’t so bad but I couldn’t make a pass safely. We changed the master cylinder and lever for the second race but it was the wrong thing so it wasn’t safe to carry on so we DNFd,”
The last person to win at Whanganui other than Tony Rees is Scott Moir, in 2014.
With 89 points Moir retains his lead in the 2017 Suzuki Series as he heads to one of his favourite tracks, the famous Cemetery Circuit at Whanganui on December 26. Mettam and Mitch Rees are tied on 82 points behind so there will be no rest and everything to play for at the street circuit.
Shane Richardson and Toby Summers shared the F2 600 spoils after two races at blistering pace in blistering temperatures. Summers day started out the hard way after he suffered a high-speed crash at the ‘Sweeper’. Summers walked away but the team had a lot of repair work to do before race one.
Richardson and his Wainui Joinery Kawasaki ZX-6R was in a class of his own during race one, where second position was contested by 20 year old Rogan Chandler on his Yamaha R6 and Summers, who has repaired his Carl Cox Motorsport Kawasaki ZX-6R in time, and Avalon Biddle on her MTF Finance ZX-6R. The trio finished in that order.
Race two became a hard fought affair at the front between Summers and Richardson, with Summers coming out on top for his first win in the F2 600 class of the Suzuki Series. Richardson was second with David Hall a fine third after Chandler was relegated down one position after passing another rider under a yellow flag.
Toby Summers says, “I was pushing real hard in qualifying and ran off at the fastest corner on the track, I hit the barrier and bent the bike a bit. I fixed that and had a good battle but I was lucky to stay in third because Avalon was very close. I put a new tyre on the rear for the second race and I put my head down and sat on the back of Shane, it’s the first time I’ve felt comfortable sitting there, he was struggling a little for grip. I managed to put a pass on him with a lap to go and he tried pass me back, I was out of the saddle at the Hairpin but I came out on top, so I’m happy.”
With so many international riders the Sidecar category held a lot of interest for the fans. The fast Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan proved unbeatable in both races at Manfeild on their Carl Cox Motorsport LCR1000. UK-based Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes tried to keep them honest on their much lower powered Honda 600 F2 sidecar using all their skill and talent in an effort to keep Smith in sight each race to cross the line second.
Tim Reeves says, “I got a good start in race one, I knew Barry was going to catch me so it was just a matter of holding on for as long as I could, then he just blasted me down the straight. Barry rode good, him and Tracey are doing a good job.”
There were many great battles down the order but it was Adam Unsworth and Bryce Rose who stole the show on their massively outdated 1988 Windle 1000 sidecar, especially in race two where the pair picked an on-track fight for second against a multi-world champion in Tim Reeves. Reeves won the battle although Unsworth and Rose won the crowd accolades as the Auckland-based rider was spectacularly sliding his Windle through every single corner.
Barry Smith and Tracey Bryan have won all four races on their ‘long bike’ and will be swapping it for an smaller F2 ‘chair’ to better tackle the tight Whanganui street circuit on boxing Day.
Smith recounts his day, “It pretty much went to plan, I knew with the F1 bike we had more straight line speed and after qualifying I knew we were a couple of seconds faster than Tim. The plan was to get away at the start and keep the gap constant, I rolled off a little towards the end to look after Tracey because of the heat.”
After two rounds of the F3 class no one has beaten Nathanael Diprose and his Suzuki GSXR450. Jacob Stroud has shown flashes of brilliance such as when the 19 year old Hamiltonian came from behind to catch and pass Jason Easton in the opening leg. A consistent Gavin Veltmeyer leaves the Aucklander second in the points behind Diprose, with Ashley Payne in third. Payne would be higher in the points however the Whanganui rider fell during the opening race, although he came back strong to post a podium in the restarted race two.
The Gixxer 150 cup races kept the crowd entertained as the young and mostly inexperienced racers hammered it out amongst themselves on identical 12.7Kw (17hp) Suzuki GSX150Fs at much slower speeds than any other class. Many riders have come from a motocross background to try their hand on the tarmac although some have done a little road racing before, such as 19 year old Tarbon Walker, of Whanganui.
They might not have the speed but they have the fire and there were battles aplenty between Blake Ross, Thomas Newton, Clark Fountain and Walker, to name a few at or near the front.
Jesse Stroud, 15, suffered a nasty looking crash during qualifying but the 15 year old was seen walking around the pits later in the day. With round one double winner Stroud out of the hunt it was left to Blake Ross to take victory in the first leg from Walker and Newton, then Walker took his first Suzuki Series win in the second leg ahead of Ross, and Scott Hawkes in a very close finish over the line with fourth placed Fountain.
The support classes were dominated by Ritchie Dibben in Supermoto and Glen Skachill in Post Classics as each rider won both races and remain unbeaten in the series. Brendon Coad also won both races of the new Formula Sport/BEARS class.
Early-bird tickets are available at www.cemeterycircuit.co.nz and go in the draw to win a Suzuki GSX150 if tickets purchased online. The winner will be drawn prior to Whanganui.