Monday, December 19

HASSAN SURPRISES - BUGDEN UNBEATABLE

Tri Series Action from Hampton Downs
Robbie Bugden took victory in both F1 Superbike races on his Triple R Race Team Suzuki GSXR1000 at Hampton Downs on Saturday.

The slow starting Australian didn’t have it all his own way however as defending Suzuki Tri-Series champion Andrew Stroud (Hamilton), Craig Shirriffs (Fielding) and Nick Cole (Hamilton) pushed him all the way in the opening leg.

Stroud, Bugden and Shirriffs battled hard at the front and Pole sitter Nick Cole (Kawasaki ZX-10R) was never out of the fray. Bugden snatched the lead at half race distance and was awarded the win ahead of fellow Suzuki GSXR1000 riders Shirriffs, Stroud and Red Devil Racings Cole in a shortened race.

In race two Bugden lead the field over the hill on lap one and held his position at record pace until the chequered flag. Stroud looked threatening on his David Reid Homes’ Suzuki Superbike until fading towards race end to finish second. Slightly behind the leaders Cole and Shirriffs had their own scrap for third until Cole slipped down the order, and Shirriffs crashed his Shirriffs Installation Suzuki with two laps remaining.

Last year’s upset winner Sloan Frost ran off track in the opening heat with traction control problems on his BMW, then came back from last to cross the line seventh. In heat two Frost, now living in Wellington, had another slow start before finding form to slice through the field and snatch third from Suzuki rider Ray Clee.

A resurgent Clee battled for fourth most of the race with James Smith while Superbike rookie Scott Moir, who crashed in race one, brought his Honda CBR1000RR home in sixth, ahead of Cole.

Bugden said after the racing, “I had a good weekend as I hadn’t ridden the bike until lunchtime yesterday so we’re still developing it. We lacked a bit of consistency in the first race so we made some changes and bashed out some good laps in the second race. We’re back fitter, stronger and more hungry so fired a warning shot today and our focus is on winning the nationals.”

With Bugden not riding at Manfield on Saturday for round two, Stroud knows he’ll have to lift his game to keep his rivals at bay in order to achieve an unprecedented fourth Tri-Series title - and start earning the lion’s share of the $30,000 prizemoney on offer in the richest series on the calendar.

Stroud’s GSXR1000 suffered a mystery ignition cut in race one while leading but fixed it for the second leg, riding faster than ever. “I was struggling to get into the groove in the second race but my times were 1m 03.28s which is faster than I’ve ever been around here before! For the first half of that race I was comfortable sitting behind him but I was caught behind a backmarker at the wrong time and didn’t get through then Robbie pulled a gap. I tried to catch him again but the front wheel tucked under a couple of times but Robbie is riding so well I have to be totally on top of my game to match him!”

Surprise of the series is 17 year old Jaden Hassan, who bested in both races 600 Supers favourite Glen Skachill, of Wellington, himself unbeaten during last year’s Suzuki Tri-Series. The Aucklander started each race behind early leaders and Suzuki GSXR600 riders Skachill and Dennis Charlett (Christchurch), but valiantly fought through on his Yamaha R6, taking full advantage of his home track knowledge.

Aucklander Karl Morgan (Suzuki) and 15 year old Australian Josh McGrath (Yamaha) came home fourth and fifth respectively in each leg.

Hassan recently returned from a one-off race in Japan arranged by Kiwi legend Graeme Crosby, and Hassan attributes much of his success to Crosby’s mentoring. Hassan rode with healing broken left toes yet set a new lap record, “In Japan Crosby helped me to understand what I was doing wrong on the bike with my riding and how to go around the corner rather than just go into it and out. It genuinely helped! I’ve been working on that over the last couple of weeks and on my throttle control trying to smooth my riding out,” Hassan explains.

Hassan would be thrilled to repeat his victories at Manfield on Saturday where Skachill will be very difficult to beat. “It’s going to really tough, especially with that new Suzuki and the mid-range power it has launching off the corners. My Yamaha is a least as good in the top end if not a little quicker, so we have some strengths and weaknesses but we’ll play to our strengths.”

Glen Williams took a pair of well earned wins in the popular Post Classic category, ahead of Eddie Kattenburg and 2010 Tri-Series class champion Sean Donnelly, on a much older Kawasaki machine. Steve Bridge rode an even older 1970s era Norton SBR750 Commando to a fine pair of fourth place finishes, ahead of a strong field of more powerful 1970s and ’80 bikes.

Williams enjoyed a good day at the races after also winning both F3 Sportbike races on his modified Suzuki SVR650.

Wanganui’s Adam Unsworth/Stu Dawe scored two good wins aboard their Windle Honda sidecar, ahead of the Dwayne Bishop/Dave Dennison and Darren Pate/Karl Verdellen combinations in the first heat, then Des James/Warren Miller and female racers Tracey Anderson/Jo Mickleson in the re-started second race.

The 450 Moto class provided the crowd with some exciting racing and broad-slide manoeuvres between Richard Dibben, Glen Haden, Jayden Carrick, (all Wanganui), Toby Summers (Auckland), Scott Birch (Rotorua), Casey Bullock (Taupo) and Tauranga’s Duncan Hart. Summers’ experience showed by taking both wins on his Yamaha YZF450 from Carrick and Haden in race one, and Haden and Carrick in race two.

Andrew Stroud’s eldest son Jacob enjoyed some great racing during his second ever motorcycle event in the entry-level Ultra Lites class of the Suzuki Tri-Series. Riding a low powered Suzuki RG150 the 13 year old battled with Havelock North’s Tyler Lincoln (Kawasaki KR150), who is also 13, with the pair finishing both heats ahead of more experienced adults, even if down the order. Both races were won by Otaki’s Sarah Elliott.

Source: Suzuki NZ.