Tuesday, February 2

'SUMMER OF SUZUKI'


KR File Pic
The "Summer of Suzuki" continues to burn brightly after the third round of five in this season's New Zealand Superbike Championships near Timaru on Sunday.

Suzuki riders top the podium in six of the series' nine bike classes and, most significantly, lead the way in the four most prestigious categories -- superbikes, 600cc sports production, formula three and Pro Twins classes.

The superbikes battle continued to rage at round three of the series at Levels Raceway, near Timaru, on Sunday, with two Suzuki men -- Hamilton's national No.2 Andrew Stroud and Australia's defending champion  Robbie Bugden -- sharing the day's wins on their respective GSX-R1000 machines and again hogging the podium.

It was edge-of-the seat racing as there was absolutely nothing to separate the pair through both superbike races, Stroud winning the first one by just 0.09 tenths of a second from Budgen.

The Kiwi champion in 2007, 2008 and 2009, Brisbane's Budgen responded with a start-to finish win in the second race, crossing the line just three-tenths of a second ahead of Stroud after 15 furious laps.

It could easily have been a 1-1 result for the Kiwi but a final-lap challenge from Stroud didn't work out. Stroud did, however, smash the outright lap record in that race with a sizzling time of 1m 03.598s.

Stroud said he was disappointed with his result in race two.

"I was on the outside of him on the long left-hander and nearly went right around him.

"If I had the time again I would have tried to make it stick but he changed direction and I couldn't quite make it stick."

It remains a Suzuki 1-2-3 on the championship podium, too, with a first-timer in the class, Christchurch’s James Smith, finishing fourth and fifth in Sunday's two superbike races, enough to keep him third in the standings.

Even though it was Smith's worst result of the season thus far, he is not at all concerned.

"The superbike bid is really just a learning thing for me. Of course I am trying very hard to win the superbike title, but it's actually the 600cc class that I'm concentrating on.

"Winning the 600cc title is a box I want to tick before I move on to the superbikes class fulltime."

And Smith has irons burning brilliantly in that 600cc class firestorm as well.

The 29-year-old printer reckons he has double the chance to celebrate this season  -- he is the only rider to tackle two classes this season and he’s surprising even himself by standing on the podium in both of them.

Smith finished 2-1 in his two 600cc sports production class outings on Sunday, sharing the day’s overall honours with Hamilton’s Nick Cole (Kawasaki) and maintaining his six-point advantage at the top of the standings.

"I feel I'm riding well but I simply ran out of energy in my second superbike race," said Smith. "I’ve had a bad tummy bug and I’ve not been able to eat.

"But at least I hung on to third in the superbike class," he said.

"I have been on the pace in the superbike class but just not able to keep it up for the whole day today.

"We have a bit of a break now, with round four at Manfeild next month, and I’ll just keep working away at my fitness between now and then."

Formula three defending champion Glen Williams (Suzuki SV650), of Palmerston North, has meanwhile stretched his lead at the top of his class, while Dannevirke's Geoff Booth (Suzuki SV650) remains top of the pro twins class.

In the sidecars class, Wanganui pair Stephen Bron and Dennis Simonsen appear to be running away with the championship, taking their Suzuki-powered rig to another hat-trick of wins at the weekend.

Source: Suzuki NZ