Tuesday, January 24

BUGDEN STRETCHES SUPERBIKE LEAD

Robbie Bugden in action
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com 

The number three figured prominently for the Triple R Suzuki team effort at the weekend.

Suzuki men won two out of three superbike sessions at round three of the New Zealand Superbike Championships at Teretonga Park, near Invercargill on Sunday and, significantly, the day ended with Triple R Suzuki ace Robbie Bugden even further in command of the glamour superbikes class.

Australian Bugden, who previously won three consecutive New Zealand superbike crowns between the years 2007 and 2009, remains well on track to reclaim the title this year as his friend and rival, nine-times and defending champion Andrew Stroud (David Reid Homes Waikato Mobil 1 Suzuki) again suffered misfortune.

Nothing about the racing at Teretonga on Sunday was clear-cut.

Intermittent rain squalls meant tyre choices were critical for the riders and some of the traction gambles simply did not pay off, the day also shaken up when the first superbike race had to be run in two stages after a crash brought it to a premature end after just four laps.

Hamilton’s Stroud won the first stage of race one, finishing ahead of Christchurch pair Ryan Hampton and John Ross, but he had to settle for fifth place in the second leg, that race won by championship leader Bugden.

That Bugden was able to race at all was something of a miracle, the Australian crashing spectacularly during Saturday’s preliminaries.

He eventually had to borrow a similar Suzuki, belonging to Auckland’s Ray Clee, and qualified that bike in an unaccustomed ninth spot, good enough to start on Sunday but, unfortunately, near the back of the grid.

But a mixed day followed for Bugden on Sunday. He raced from the back of the pack to snatch seventh in the first part of the disjointed opening superbike race and he then won the second leg.

He raced conservatively in the wet race that followed, doing just what was required to finish ahead of his main threats, Ross and Stroud.

It was another tale of woe for Stroud, finishing 1-5 in the two-part opening race and then riding gingerly to finish an unfamiliar two laps down on the leaders, in 11th place, in race two. This was because he’d gambled on using slick tyres on a wet track that simply did not dry as he’d hoped it might.

Bugden continues to lead the superbike championship, now with an extended lead, ahead of new No.2 rider Frost, with Ross now in third position overall, Hamilton’s Nick Cole in fourth and Stroud slipping back to fifth.

“It was quite a weekend for me,” said Bugden afterwards.

“I was lucky to get away with it after my crash on Saturday. I was feeling pretty well beaten up and sore all over.

“The team did an awesome job to get my bike repaired and it all worked out good for me today.

“I’ve got a few weeks off now to rest and recover. I’ll return to Brisbane and see my doctor and hopefully be back to 100% by the next round.”

In the 600cc supersport class, defending champion Dennis Charlett (Avon Suzuki GSX-R600) came on strong, finishing 2-1 in his two outings to win the day and take over the championship lead from nearest rival Josh Ross (Suzuki), also of Christchurch.

Ross won the day’s first 600cc race but crashed out of the second leg while trying to catch the leaders.

“I have a bit of a points buffer over John (Ross) now but I’m not resting on my laurels,” said Charlett. “Anything can still happen and the championships still wide open.”

The riders now take a break until March 18 and the fourth round of five at Hampton Downs, near Huntly. The fifth and final round is set for Taupo on March 25.