Tuesday, March 20

STROUD BACK IN THE RACE

Australian Robbie Bugden is perhaps now just two races away from becoming the 2012 New Zealand Superbike Champion but he can take nothing for granted after a frustrating weekend that saw his points advantage all but wiped out. 

The Triple R Suzuki ace from Brisbane finished runner-up in race one at the fourth round of five in this season’s Castrol Power 1-sponsored series at the undulating Hampton Downs circuit near Huntly on Sunday, but did not finish the second leg when his bike threw a chain and this saw his championship lead dramatically reduced.

Defending champion Andrew Stroud (David Reid Homes Waikato Suzuki GSX-R1000) was the day’s big winner – finishing first in both superbike outings – and he is now just 10.5 points behind Bugden with one round remaining, at Taupo next weekend.

Only fifth in the standings at the start of the day, Stroud fought tenaciously at Hampton Downs on Sunday and his brave efforts reaped rich rewards.

Hamilton’s Stroud had suffered a miserable campaign leading up to the weekend, thanks to dirty fuel and a crash at round one in January and his choosing the wrong tyre compound in the wet at round three, but Stroud’s fighting attitude has seen him claw his way from fifth to second in the championship standings.

“Even if I can win both races at Taupo, and Robbie (Bugden) finishes second each time, he’d still win the title by half a point. But the championship is wide open again and anything can happen,” said the 43-year-old Stroud.

“I’m really happy with the bike … it was a pleasure to ride. The tyres hung in perfectly, even in the 20-lap second race (that also counted as the New Zealand TT title race). The tyres could have gone another 20 laps.

“It’s good to be able to make it exciting for the final round. I thought it was all going to go Robbie’s way this season but I’ve managed to pick up the pace and I’m really looking forward to Taupo.”

Bugden, who previously won three consecutive New Zealand superbike crowns between the years 2007 and 2009, remains on track to claim the title at Taupo’s fifth and final round next weekend but now nothing is assured.

Meanwhile, Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett (Suzuki GSX-R600) continues to lead the 600cc supersport class, now 30 points ahead of Wellington’s Glen Skachill (Suzuki GSX-R600) – who won the day ay Hampton Downs with back-to-back wins in the class.

Another Christchurch Suzuki rider, John Ross, was a notable absentee on Sunday. He injured himself in a training crash recently and was unable to defend his spot at No.2 in the standings, but despite this, he is still in a podium position, now third in the supersport rankings.

The fifth and final round of the championship will be held at Taupo next weekend (March 24-25).


Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com - Source Suzuki NZ