Defending F1 champion Andrew Stroud returns on a new Suzuki GSX-R1000 to defend ‘his’ Suzuki Tri-Series, which this year celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Cemetery Circuit. The Hamilton-based racer has won the last four consecutive series and is more than keen to add an unbeaten fifth when the chequered flag falls in the final race during round three, at Wanganui on Boxing Day.
The 44 year professional old alludes to an approaching decision, “You never know, this could be my last Suzuki Tri-Series. Suzuki have been so good to me over the last 12 years it’d be great to wrap up the title for them in their back yard, as Suzuki NZ are based in Wanganui – right on the race track,” Stroud says.
“I’ll be trying. I’m not there just to ride around, but everyone is getting faster, especially Nick Cole, Sloan Frost, James Smith, and Craig Shirriffs, they were all going fast at the end of last season, so it’s never easy.”
Meanwhile Nick Cole (Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R) returns even more determined to improve on his second placing in the 2011 series.
“We’ve been working in the off-season developing the Kawasaki more, and we’ve made some big changes, this year I’ll be on Pirelli tyres. I want to win races, and the series, that’s our goal,” Cole said.
A surprise 2010 race winner at Hampton Downs on a BMW S 1000 RR, Sloan Frost, 31, is riding stronger than ever on the latest and much improved Bavarian model. “The 2012 Valvoline BMW is really a step forward and is a lot easier to ride. They’ve done exactly what I’ve been wanting, the triple clamps, frame and the swingarm are a little bit different, which give the bike heaps more traction, and it also has more mid-range punch! Frost explains. “I want to win, and I know I’m capable of winning now - I’ve beaten everybody before so it’s just a matter of beating them all at once.”
With some stunning performances during the final rounds of the NZ championship last summer James Smith will want to lead from the front. Smith, of Christchurch, has joined the Castrol Honda team and this season will be racing a Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade Superbike.
Also on a Honda Fireblade for the first time is former NZ Superbike champ Tony Rees (Whakatane), who will be racing all three rounds, as well as the spectacular Ryan Hampton (Christchurch) on his CBR1000RR.
Stepping onto a Superbike for the first time since 2004 is three-time NZ 600 Supersport champion Dennis Charlett, also from Christchurch. Charlett will race Stroud’s proven GSX-R1000 from last season in his new Underground Brown team, and the 2007 South Australia and Victoria Superbike champ should not be underestimated in the big bike class.
A very fit Hayden Fitzgerald has also switched to a Suzuki NZ supported GSXR1000, and already likes its impressive torque, which he says is suited to NZ tracks, and his style. Fitzgerald was fourth in last year’s series and the New Plymouth rider wants to improve. “I’ve had one outing and it’s showing a lot of potential! It has a lot of mambo down low that will help this year,” Fitzgerald says.
Ray Clee came close to winning both races at Manfeild last year on his RCM Suzuki GSXR1000, and finished the Suzuki Tri-Series third. Joining him in the F1 category for the first time will be Australia domiciled Karl Morgan, on a similar Suzuki.
Glen Skachill is returning to defend his Formula 2 title, having won the past three years in a row. But it won’t be easy for the Wellington rider with talented racers including Jaden Hassan on his Home Buyers Reports Yamaha NZ R6, John Oliver (Bulls), Jeremy Holmes (Invercargill), Avalon Biddle (Orewa) on a Repsol Suzuki GSX-R600 (fresh from her European campaign), and Adam Chambers from the Hawke's Bay.
Supermoto series winner Toby Summers will add some class on a Yamaha YZF-R6, but also keep watch on David Hall (Te Awamutu) in his second year, and young newcomers to the F2 class Seth Devereau (Christchurch) and Aucklander Daniel Mettam.
German rider Thomas Kreutz will travel to New Zealand to race his Yamaha R6 in both F1 and F2 classes. He was second in the German Superbike championship in 2010, and placed second last year in Supersport.
Ironman Rhys Holmes (Katikati) will again ride two classes, a Yamaha YZF-R6 in F2 and his BMW S 1000R R in BEARS.
F1 Sidecars are always a major attraction for spectators and this year no less than 17 outfits are entered. Everyone will be out to put one across the defending champion combination of Adam Unsworth and Stu Dawe on their Windle F1.
Former NZ champ Aaron Lovell makes a return after almost a decade away from the sport, with champion passenger Dennis Simonson doing swinging duties. But Andy Scrivener and swinger Steve Bryan (Taupo, Sowersby Hayabusa 1300) plus the Chris Lawrance/Richard Lawrance (Auckland, Yamaha R1) pairing may pose the biggest threats.
All the top riders will be racing in the favourite support classes including Post Classic Pre ‘89, Formula 3, BEARS, and 450 Supermoto. With big names attending such as Sean Donnelly, Glen Williams, Scott Moir, Eddie Kattenburg, Steve Bridge, Dave Cole, Glen Hayden, Russell Josiah, Richard and Simon Dibben, Duncan Hart, Nick Kampenhout, and many more.
Travelling from Australia to race at Wanganui in the Pre ’89 category are Murray West (CR750) and Marcus de Caux on a TZ750.
Race fans at Wanganui will be treated to a special 60th anniversary Legendary Rider parade lap at midday, with many former Cemetery Circuit winners including Aaron Slight, Andrew Stroud on the Britten, Bob & Rod Coleman, John Hepburn and Tony Rees. More Cemetery Circuit ‘Legends’ are expected!
Plus, multi-Marlboro Series and Wanganui winner Pat Hennen will make a special return to the circuit where he made his name and will be guest of honour at the 60th reunion dinner in Wanganui on Boxing Day evening.
Organiser Allan Willacy says, “American Pat Hennen is coming back especially for the 60th reunion, and we have one of his bikes he won on [Suzuki TR750] on display in Wanganui at the information centre. It’s fantastic to have Pat Hennen back, he was third in the World 500cc Grand Prix championship, so it’s great to have him here!”
Hennen won three successive Marlboro Series for Suzuki over the summers of 1974/’75, 1975/’76 and 1976’77 riding a mix of Suzuki TR500s, a TR750, and an RG500 during his final year. The Californian won six races at Wanganui and he was also the first American rider to win a World 500cc GP.
Suzuki Tri-Series rounds are at Hampton Downs on December 8, Manfeild on December 15, and Wanganui on Boxing Day.
Gate sales for Wanganui are $30 for adults although you can save $10 for early bird pricing online at www.cemeterycircuit.co.nz. Super Passes are also available, at $60.
2012 Suzuki International Tri-Series Schedule;
Rnd 1: Hampton Downs, December 8
Rnd 2: Manfeild, December 15
Rnd 3: Wanganui Cemetery Circuit, December 26