Monday, February 14

STROUD FIRMS HIS GRIP ON TITLE

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

Waikato warrior Andrew Stroud may well be blazing his way to a record ninth national superbike championship title.

Stroud took his Suzuki GSX-R1000 to another pair of wins on Sunday -- at the third round of five in this season’s Castrol Power 1 New Zealand Superbike Championships in Christchurch -- strengthening his grip on the coveted superbike crown as the series edged past the halfway stage.

Stroud qualified in pole position on Saturday and then backed that up with a perfect day’s racing at the Ruapuna Raceway circuit on Sunday.

The defending champion from 2010 finished ahead of three-time former champion Robbie Bugden (Triple R Suzuki GSX-R1000) in race one and then edged out Taranaki’s Hayden Fitzgerald (Blue Wing Honda CBR1000) to win race two as well.

“It was a great day at the office,” Stroud confirmed afterwards.

Stroud's main rival for the superbike crown, Christchurch-based three-time former champion Robbie Bugden finished runner-up in race one but chose to use wet weather tyres for the day's second superbike race and that proved fateful as he slipped further back as the race progressed, eventually crossing the line in an unaccustomed 12th spot.

Bugden's Triple R team-mate James Smith (Suzuki), of Christchurch, finished fourth and sixth and moved up to third place in the championship standings.

“I just need to ride steadily at Hampton Downs (round four in March) and at Manfeild (the series final in April),” said Stroud.

In the 600cc class it was a similar story of double glory for Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett (Avon City Suzuki GSX-R600).

The 42-year-old Charlett won both 600cc races ahead of main championship rival John Ross (Pirelli Yamaha R6), also of Christchurch, with Taupo’s Scott Moir (Wolf Pack Racing Honda CBR 600) third both times, and with that Charlett stretched his series lead in the 600 supersport class to 22 points over Ross.

In the 600 superstock division – that class run at the same time but scored separately – Inglewood’s Midge Smart, Auckland’s Jaden Hassan and Christchurch’s Eric Oliver-Maxwell made it a Yamaha 1-2-3 when they finished in that order in both outings.

Smart now enjoys a 14-point lead over Hassan at the top of the 600 superstock standings.

Other class winners at Ruapuna on Sunday were Timaru’s Johnny Small (Pro Twins), Foxton’s Jason Easton (superlites), Tapanui’s Seth Deveraux (pro lite 250), Oamaru’s Leighton Selfe (super motard), Winton’s Phillip Mair (street stock 150), Australia’s Josh McGrath (125 GP), Wanganui’s Stephen Bron and Dennis Simonsen (sidecars).

The series now heads north for round four at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, on March 26-27, with the fifth and final round at Manfeild, near Palmerston North, on April 2-3.