Friday, March 16

FITNESS KEY TO TT RACE THIS WEEKEND

Sunday’s gruelling Tourist Trophy superbike race at Hampton Downs could be decided by rider fitness as much as speed, top riders say.

The feature race at the penultimate round of the Castrol Power1 New Zealand Superbike Championships is raced over 20 laps on a track that makes the riders work very hard.

“There’s a lot of hard braking and it’s quite hard on tyres, that track,” nine-times New Zealand Superbike champion Andrew Stroud of Hamilton said.

Australian Robbie Bugden leads the series with Stroud an unaccustomed fifth after some misfortunes in the first three rounds. Both ride Suzukis.

“Robbie’s done the world superbike round at Phillip Island [near Melbourne] and he’s won his class in a triathlon so he’s obviously fit enough,” Stroud said.

Second-placed Sloan Frost, who trains every day, is pleased the TT race is so long.

“I’ve definitely got the fitness for that, and my Pirelli tyres will last the distance,” the Wellington BMW racer said. He was also feeling positive because he had improved the bike’s suspension since the last round.

Hamilton’s Nick Cole won the last race in the series at Teretonga -- his debut victory at championship level -- and is feeling positive as he prepares to race his Kawasaki on his home track.

“We’ve had a pretty good run the last few times we’ve been there,” Cole said. “We’ve got the bike definitely going a lot better; we’ve got a better setup than last time. I think we’ve got more speed.”

Cole also trains hard, often on a mountain-bike. . “You have to or you just get left behind,” he said.

Cole stands fourth in the series but effectively third as Christchurch rider John Ross, who is third in Superbikes and second in 600cc Supersport, is out with a broken wrist incurred in a crash at a non-championship meeting.

This season has been the closest for years and other strong contenders include Suzuki’s Craig Shirriffs (Feilding), Ray Clee (Kumeu) and James Smith (Christchurch) and the Honda trio of Hayden Fitzgerald (New Plymouth), Ryan Hampton (Christchurch) and Scott Moir (Taupo).

Ross’s withdrawal leaves reigning Supersport champion Dennis Charlett (Christchurch) with a good lead on his Suzuki but he will have to fight with Wellington Suzuki rider Glen Skachill and fast Auckland teenager Jaden Hassan who is returning to the fray on his Yamaha after a break enforced by injury.

Other championship classes are 600cc Superstock, Superlite (formerly F3), 650 Pro Twins, 125cc GP and Prolite 250. The final race in each class counts as the TT for that category.