BUDGEN WINS NEW ZEALAND SUPERBIKE OPENER
Triple R Suzuki team rider Robert Bugden won both Superbike races at the opening round of the New Zealand Superbike Championship at Ruapuna on Sunday.
The four-time Superbike Champion had a fight on his hands with fellow Suzuki aces Craig Shirriffs, Dennis Charlett and Hayden Fitzgerald; Charlett managing to edge past Bugden early in race two and Shirriffs putting a wheel in front for a short period.
Triple R Suzuki Team Manager Red Fenton said: "We are very happy with that, but we know we can improve. I know we can get faster yet. Robbie rode brilliantly and it's looking good for next weekend at Levels Raceway for round two."
Bugden (32) said: "It was a tough old weekend, but I got through it in the end. I have not been able to win the GP title since 2007, so it's been a long time between drinks for that one. It was certainly nice to get it again today.
"It's a new bike that I'm riding this year, the L2 model, and we have a few things still to sort out. But Suzuki has been making great bikes for a long time and it was good for me today too.
"I certainly can't rest. There are a lot of fast riders to deal with. I knew I had to get past Dennis Charlett as quickly as I could at the start of race two and then Craig Shirriffs put me under a bit of pressure too. I'll go to Levels with the same positive attitude and, hopefully, we'll get the job done there too."
Shirriffs finished the day in runner-up spot, with Charlett third and Fitzgerald fourth.
In the 600cc Supersport class, it was the John Ross and Jaden Hassan show: Christchurch's Ross took his Suzuki GSX-R600 to win the first of two 15-lap 600cc class races, closing in and passing Aucklander Hassan at the start of the final lap. Try as he might, Hassan could not get back past Ross and that's how it was as the pair crossed the finish line. However, Hassan won the second race, meaning that they both ended the day level on championship points.
Suzuki's SV650s scored a 1-2-3 in the Pro Twins class with Hamish Murphy winning the day ahead of Nathanael Diprose and Nick Southerwood.
More, from a press release issued by Motorcycling New Zealand:
Grand Prix victory has extra meaning
Winning the New Zealand Superbike Grand Prix had a special meaning for Australian star Robbie Bugden in Christchurch today.
The four-times New Zealand champion won the feature race by a clear margin from Feilding racer Craig Shirriffs, although Shirriffs pushed him hard for the first half of the race and briefly led it. Both rode Suzukis.
Bugden rides for the Christchurch-based Volvo Group Suzuki Triple R Superbike Team, owned by Peter "Red" Fenton.
"The team's been through hell and back over the last two years," Bugden said, referring to the earthquakes. "It's great to do this for the team.
"That was a tough race. Midway through it I changed my mentality, gave it 100 percent and reeled off a few good laps.
"I spend three or four months a year in New Zealand now. I love the place and I love coming over."
Shirriffs, who also finished second to Bugden in the preliminary race, said he had lost time when he nearly crashed in the Dipper corner. "I thought I'd fallen off that's when he got the gap," he said.
In both races Christchurch rider Dennis Charlett (Suzuki) took third, New Plymouth's Hayden Fitzgerald (Suzuki) came fourth and Hamilton racer Nick Cole (Kawasaki) finished fifth.
Charlett was delighted with his result as this is his first season back in superbikes after a long absence.
Wellington rider Sloan Frost had been one of the favourites but crashed out of the Grand Prix on lap one after contact with another rider.
Jaden Hassan, 18, ran away with the GP in the 600cc Supersport class on his Yamaha but the Hamilton rider was pipped on the final lap of his preliminary race when local racer John Ross got his Suzuki in front at the end of the main straight. In race 2 behind jon Ross, was Alastair Hoogenboezem (Triple R Superbike, Christchurch) on his Suzuki GSXR 600.
Two other GP classes went to Australians, Troy Guenther (Honda) in 125 GP and Luke Burgess (Kawasaki) in 250 Production. Other GP winners were: Superlite, Neil Smith (Blenheim, Yamaha); Pro Twins. Hamish Murphy (Wellington, Suzuki); and Sidecars, Spike Taylor (Masterton)/Astrid Hartnell (Wanganui).
NZ Motorcycle Grand Prix meeting, Powerbuilt Tools International Raceway, Ruapuna, Christchurch.
Superbikes Race one: Robbie Bugden (Australia) Suzuki 1; Craig Shirriffs (Feilding) Suzuki 2; Dennis Charlett (Christchurch) Suzuki 3; Hayden Fitzgerald (New Plymouth) Suzuki 4; Nick Cole (Hamilton) Kawasaki 5; John Ross (Christchurch) 6. Race two, New Zealand Grand Prix: Bugden 1; Shirriffs 2; Charlett 3; Fitzgerald 4; Cole 5; James Smith (Christchurch) Honda 6. Championship points: Bugden 50, Shirriffs 40, Charlett 32, Fitzgerald 26, Cole 22, Ross 18
600cc Supersport Race one: John Ross (Christchurch) Suzuki 1; Jaden Hassan (Auckland) Yamaha 2; Jake Lewis (Christchurch) Yamaha 3; Daniel Ormsby (Christchurch) Yamaha 4; Jeremy Holmes (Invercargill) Honda 5. Race two, GP: Hassan 1; Ross 2; Alastair Hoogenboezem (Christchurch) Suzuki 3; Lewis 4; Holmes 5. Points: Hassan and Ross both 45, Lewis 29, Hoogenboezem 25, Holmes 25.