Robbie Bugden on top in NZ Superbike Round 1

NZ superbikeIt is going to be another long hot summer for Hamilton’s Andrew Stroud, as he discovered at Ruapuna Park on Sunday in the opening round of the New Zealand Superbike Championship.


robbie Bugden

Robbie Bugden

It is going to be another long hot summer for Hamilton’s Andrew Stroud, as he discovered at Christchurch’s Ruapuna Park on Sunday. The former national champion is going to have his work cut out if he is to snatch back the New Zealand Motorcycle Road-race Championships superbike title from the 27-year-old Australian who stole away with it last season, fellow Suzuki rider Robbie Bugden.

It came down to the wire last year with Brisbane’s Bugden winning the championship deciding final race of the series by just five hundredths of a second from Stroud. It could be more of the same close formation flying for the two Suzuki men this season if the weekend’s action is any indicator. And 40-year-old veteran Stroud will also have to keep a close watch over his shoulder as yet another Suzuki star, Feilding’s Craig Shirriffs, gives chase on a GSX-R1000K7 almost identical to the bikes of Bugden and Stroud. In fact, it could be a Suzuki 1-2-3 in the superbike class this season, with just four more rounds to sort out the finishing order. It was Bugden and Stroud finishing 1-2 overall respectively at the series opener on Sunday and, in a carbon-copy of last season’s showdown between the two gun fighters, there was not a lot to separate the pair on the racetrack.

Father-of-six Stroud is a highly experienced international racer and he is no stranger to mixing it with Bugden, Shirriffs or anyone else for that 15th January, 2008 matter. But he knows he’s got a real fight on his hands again this season. Bugden (27) won the day’s first race, with Stroud second, Shirriffs third and Australian Yamaha rider Gareth Jones fourth. Stroud seemed to have the appropriate response when he led the second of two superbike races, with Bugden back in fourth spot. But it was in vain as that race was red-flagged and had to be re-started when Pukekohe’s Sam Smith (Yamaha) crashed heavily. Bugden got the jump as the battle began afresh and this time it was Stroud caught in a high-speed traffic jam. Stroud eventually worked his way through to catch Bugden but that’s how it ended, with Bugden first, Stroud runner-up, Jones third and Shirriffs fourth.

andrew stroud

Andrew Stroud

“Of all the Kiwi tracks, this is the one I like most,” said the 27-year-old Bugden afterwards. “It was a perfect weekend for me but it’s far from over. Different tracks will suit different riders and any of these riders could win. The new bikes are very quick. Suzuki has taken a huge leap forward with this model.”

Stroud was philosophical about his day at Ruapuna. “I didn’t think the second race needed to be re-started … Sam Smith got up and walked away … but I understand there’s a safety issue. Robbie (Bugden) put down two or three very fast laps at the re-start and got away from me, simple as that. “I closed up a lot on Robbie under brakes but he’s very good with the power when the bike’s leaned over. It was a hot pace. We both went under the Ruapuna lap record. “Both Robbie and I are impressed by the new K7 model Suzuki GSXR1000. The bike has a lot more feel, especially in the front end. It will come down to little things this year, like tyre selection. Even the track temperatures can upset the balance. It’s a fine line when you’re racing this fast. “But there are a lot of races to go. The championship’s not over yet, not by a long way,” said Stroud.

Shirriffs (34) said he was “stoked” to finish third in the day’s first superbike race. “I came here not feeling very confident at all but, in the race, I went 1.3 seconds a lap quicker that my qualifying time. Third equal overall is a good foundation for me to build on.  “This track at Ruapuna is my bogey track and I’m glad to get it over with. I feel much happier at the other circuits.”

Meanwhile, Suzuki topped the podium in the 600cc sports production class as well with Christchurch’s Dennis Charlett (Suzuki GSX-R600) heading Wellington’s Jay Lawrence (Kawasaki ZX-6R) and Christchurch’s James Smith (Suzuki GSX-R600). The evergreen Terry Fitzgerald (New Plymouth, Suzuki SV650) made his first steps toward claiming back the formula three class he has owned for so many years when he won the day’s first race on Sunday, but Palmerston North’s Glen Williams (Suzuki SV650) won the next two races to top the podium. Aucklander Karl Morgan (Suzuki SV650) scored a hat-trick in the 650cc pro-twin class.

The five-round national championships series continues at Levels Raceway, Timaru, next weekend (January 19-20), with rounds to follow at Invercargill’s Teretonga, on January 26-27; Manfeild on February 23- 24 and, finally, Pukekohe on March 8-9.


Superbikes: Race one:

1: Robbie Bugden (Australia, Suzuki)
2: Andrew Stroud (Hamilton, Suzuki)
3: Gareth Jones (Australia, Yamaha)
4: Craig Shirriffs (Feilding, Suzuki)
5: Damien Cudlin (Australia, Yamaha)

Race two (GP race):
1: Bugden
2: Stroud
3: Jones
4: Shirriffs
5: Ray Clee (Auckland, Suzuki)

600cc Sports Production: Race one (part A):
1: Matt Sadowski (USA, Yamaha)
2: Dennis Charlett (Christchurch, Suzuki)
3: Dave Sadowski (USA, Yamaha)
4: Jay Lawrence (Wellington, Kawasaki)
5: James Smith (Christchurch, Suzuki)

Race one (part B):
1: Charlett
2: Lawrence
3: Smith
4: Jason Hulme (Christchurch, Yamaha)
5: Nicholas Cole (Hamilton, Kawasaki)
Race two (GP race):
1: Charlett
2: Lawrence
3: Smith
4: Cole
5: Andrew Evans (Christchurch, Suzuki)

Formula Three: Race one:
1: Terry Fitzgerald (New Plymouth, Suzuki)
2: Steve Wood (Blenheim, Suzuki)
3: Glen Williams (Palmerston North, Suzuki)

Race two:
1: Williams
2: Wood
3: Eric deBoer (Hokitika, Suzuki)

Race three (GP race):
1: Williams
2: deBoer
3: Richard Newbery (Winchester, Kawasaki)

650cc pro twins: Race one:
1: Karl Morgan (Swanson, Suzuki)
2: Geoff Booth (Dannevirke, Suzuki)
3: Daniel McLachlan (Rangiora, Kawasaki)

Race two:
1: Morgan
2: McLachlan
3: Alan Zitnik (Alaska, Suzuki)

Race three (GP):
1: Morgan
2: Tom Bos (Christchurch, Kawasaki)
3: McLachlan

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