Suzuki Series Hangs in the Balance | Sport
Pole position at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon on Sunday could decide who wins the 2016 Suzuki Series.
The pressure will be at boiling point on Sunday because Tony Rees is only one point ahead of defending Suzuki Series champion Sloan Frost, and both riders want to head to the final round at Whanganui on Boxing Day with the series lead.
Frost and Rees won a race each at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo last Sunday, where Frost secured Pole position on his Fujitsu TSS Red Baron Suzuki NZ GSXR1000. There’s a slim three point advantage between winning and coming second, so the single point for Pole could make all the difference heading to the Cemetery Circuit on December 26.
Manfeild is Frost’s home track, although he is hoping a few other competitors will put themselves between himself and Rees. “I love Manfeild, it has nice banking on the corners, there’s good grip, I really enjoy the circuit and it’s a really fast track. Hopefully we can pull back that points disadvantage because going into Whanganui I know that Tony is really fast, and I’d like to go to Whanganui not having to try so hard. So we need to get some more Suzuki’s up the front.”
Frost, 35, is pushing harder than ever while Rees is at the top of his game, and he will be very difficult to beat at Whanganui after taking all three wins last year. Rees says, “Sloan is just in the lead. I’m going to go to Manfeild and do my best, that’s all you can do really. You can’t go there protecting the lead in the three round series, you’ve got to go there and have a go.”
Last year Liechtenstein visitor Horst Saiger won the opening race on his Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R, with Frost second. Frost won race two – where Rees came second on his Honda Rider Insurance CBR1000RR, so it’s impossible to predict Sundays outcome.
“I think we will do well again, because the bike It is good now, we found some issues, so now it is much better,” Saiger said. “I don’t make plans for Manfeild. Sometimes you go there and you think you are well prepared and everything is perfect – you’re the fastest man on the planet. And then nothing comes together! And sometimes you go there and everything goes right and it is just so easy to win.”
There are several other top riders with their own game-plan. Taupo’s Scott Moir is just as fast on his Penny Homes Suzuki GSXR1000, while Toby Summer’s has the skill to make the podium for his Barnes Jenkins Insurance GSXR1000 team – if he can get better starts.
Summer’s Barnes Jenkins Insurance team-mate, James Flitcroft (UK), was coming to terms on his near-stock BMW S1000RR until a crash put the 20 year old international out of Sundays race two. Yamaha R1 rider Hayden Fitzgerald is also picking up his pace as the 32 year old New Plymouth racer learns the intricacies setting up a new bike.
But the headline act will be how fast Northern Irishman Michael Dunlop can learn Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, as well as a completely new Suzuki NZ GSXR1000 superbike. Dunlop is a 13-time Isle of Man TT winner and the current lap record holder.
A great back-story to Michael Dunlop’s first appearance in New Zealand will be if he decides to race a sidecar for the first time in his career. He successfully tested a sidecar last week at Taupo and enjoyed the experience. If he does race, it will be on a Carl Cox Motorsport BLR GSXR600 F2 sidecar and won’t it be interesting to see how he goes, not only on three wheels for the first time, but against Isle of Man Sidecar TT winner John Holden?
Holden, of Britain, and kiwi passenger Robbie Shorter won both sidecar races at Taupo although Holden, 60, isn’t so sure he’ll be able to do it again at Manfeild on Sunday on his less powerful LCR Honda 600 F2 machine.
Holden says, “I’ve never seen Manfeild so I don’t know. I think we might struggle a bit more because it is a faster circuit, so we’ll see when we get there but I will do my best!”
There’s also high interest in the pending F2 600 battle between Honda mounted Damon Rees and Kawasaki’s Shane Richardson. Both 21 year old racers are very fast around Manfeild, however it will be Richardson who has the home track advantage.
Damon Rees, Tony Rees son, holds a seven point series lead over Richardson heading to Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, but was unable to judge his speed against the competition at Taupo. “I couldn’t tell you who was faster down the straights because I never actually got to see Shane as all weekend I was riding on my own, so I don’t know,” Rees says.
“We know Shane is fast at Manfeild. I know I can ride well there too, we were there a couple of weeks ago and we were on a decent pace considering we were on old tyres. So we should go well.”
Richardson is also in a confident mood, “The plan is to take pole position and two wins against Damon. I’m banking on local knowledge of my home track to help me out, but Damon is a very capable rider, so it will not be an easy task. If I don’t win at Manfeild, a shot at the Suzuki Series title in Whanganui will be a lot further out of reach, in my eyes. Plus throwing other fast riders in the mix will make it all that much harder.”
In the Suzuki Series support classes Wellingtonian Glen Skachill leads the F3 and Post Classic categories, while Tauranga riders Duncan Hart leads Supermoto, and Colin MacGregor leads the BEARS series.
The Suzuki Series is the richest international motorcycle series in NZ with $36,550 series prizemoney, and the action continues at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon on Sunday.
Early-bird tickets for all rounds round are available at www.cemeterycircuit.co.nz and go in the draw to win a $2,995 Suzuki UK110 scooter in MotoGP colours – drawn outside Suzuki NZ headquarters at Whanganui after the racing. The winner will be notified within 6 days.
2016 Suzuki Series schedule
Rnd 2: Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, Feilding, Sunday December 11
Rnd 3: Wanganui Cemetery Circuit, Monday December 26