Suzuki riders Dennis Charlett and John Ross wrapped-up the New Zealand Superbike and 600cc Supersport classes at the fourth and final rounds of the series' at Manfield at the weekend.
Charlett arrived at the ‘double-header’ round with his main rival Nick Cole (Kawasaki) side-lined following an assault in a restaurant in Taupo the previous weekend, giving him nearly two race wins up his sleeve over the next best rider - Taupo’s Scott Moir (Suzuki GSX-R 1000). And with only five Superbike races on the three-day programme, Charlett knew that a sensible approach should allow him to clinch his first national Superbike crown. He took no risks and cruised to seventh, eighth and sixth places on Friday and Saturday; enough to wrap-up the premier class for 2014.
In the final race on Sunday, he was able to turn up the heat again and led for most of the 20-lap race, only to be passed for the win right at the end by visiting Australian Linden Magee (BMW). With several riders battling at close quarters up front, this was a fitting finale to this highly-competitive season; one that astonishingly featured seven different race winners in the Superbike class.
Said Charlett: “It was a really difficult weekend for me. Most people will probably under-rate how difficult it is to race at this level with a championship win constantly in the back of your mind. I could feel every bump on the track and was riding overly-cautious because I was aware that any little mistake or a tangle with another rider could spell disaster. Racing accidents happen so easily, and so quickly, and the first corner was madness.”
Charlett was national 125cc champion in 1999 and had previously also won the 600cc class on three separate occasions, but the Superbike title is the jewel in his crown.
In the 600cc Supersport class, John Ross (Suzuki GSX-R600) followed Charlett’s example – he was in a similar position to Charlett in that he led his class by a whopping 28 points from Toby Summers (Yamaha), putting him slightly more-than a full race ahead at the start of the weekend.
Reigning national No.1 Ross rode gingerly in Friday and Saturday’s races - and the first of Sunday’s two races - to ensure that he too wrapped up the championship.
“I felt the pressure on all the way through this series,” said Ross after successfully defending his 2013 title. “It’s been very competitive this season; the best for years. I was prepared to sacrifice a few points this weekend to make sure I won the championship.”
Hayden Fitzgerald (Suzuki) had an excellent weekend in two different divisions, winning the Superbike class overall at the weekend with 2-2-3 placings – and he then sealed the Superlites class championship on his father’s Suzuki SV650.
“That’s my first national championship – and dad (Terry Fitzgerald) won the championship on the same bike 10 years ago,” Fitzgerald said. “And we just seemed to click on the Superbike too this weekend.”