Thursday, February 16

ITS PAEROA TIME AGAIN

Aussie superbike star Dan Stauffer is looking forward to a special thrill when he competes in the Paeroa street races on Sunday.

The Mobil 1 Battle of the Streets meeting, which annually attracts more than 10,000 spectators, is perhaps the only opportunity in the world for riders to legally go more than 250kmh down the main shopping street of a town.

“You feel like you’re doing something naughty -- it’s exhilarating,” Stauffer says.

Australia has no street racing but Stauffer adapted very quickly to this Kiwi form of racing, winning first time out at Paeroa last year and again at Wanganui – the other big street meeting – on Boxing Day.

To win again, Stauffer will have to push extra hard through the bumpy corners of the hacksaw-shaped circuit as his Yamaha – lent by former superbike champion Tony Rees of Whakatane – does not have a fully developed engine.

“The Yamaha hasn’t quite got the top speed of the other bikes but I think the handling package we’ve got makes it probably one of the best-handling bikes out there,” Stauffer says. “That’s more of an advantage than our speed disadvantage, I suppose.

“It’ll be pretty close. Ryan Hampton rode pretty well there last year – he gave me a run for my money in a few races. Sloan Frost went well there last year as well.”

Honda rider Hampton, from Christchurch, is particularly fast in street races and Wellingtonian Frost is now an established front-runner on his BMW.

Other strong contenders include Hampton’s team-mate Hayden Fitzgerald from New Plymouth, Kumeu rider Ray Clee on a Suzuki, Rhys Holmes from Katikati on a BMW and Tony Rees who is bringing out the Yamaha on which he won the 2005 national championship.

The 600cc bikes, racing here as Formula Two within the top class, can give the superbikes a hard time on a mainly tight circuit like Paeroa. Leading contenders include Karl Morgan on a Suzuki, Jamie Galway on a Triumph and Marcus Beagley on a Kawasaki.

The Supermoto bikes are always spectacular on a street circuit as the riders slide them into the corners, and the same applies to the sidecars.

The racing also includes Senior and Junior Classics (based on engine capacity) and two classes of Post Classics, up to 1972 and up to 1982. Formula Three caters for smaller capacity bikes, and BEARS takes in British, European and American bikes.

Altogether there are more than 170 entries, and racing starts about 11am on Sunday.