Brace yourselves for what could be the hottest New Zealand Superbike Championship season in many years, with a talented brigade of “young guns” threatening to steal the thunder from the established heroes.

The 2018 nationals kick off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch, next month (6-7 January), with rounds to follow at Timaru’s Levels International Raceway on 13-14 January and at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park near Meremere on 3-4 March, before wrapping up at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo on 17-18 March.

Most eyes will no doubt focus on the premier Superbike class, where Wellington’s 2016 champion Sloan Frost and Whakatane’s 2017 champion Tony Rees are again expected to go head-to-head for the title, with others likely challenging including Taupo’s Scotty Moir, Glen Eden’s Daniel Mettam, Christchurch’s Alastair Hoogenboezem and New Plymouth’s Hayden Fitzgerald, to name a few.

However, if the pre-national Suzuki Series – currently underway – offers any clues, it could be that these men get shunted aside by a brigade of rising young stars determined to knock the “old guard” off the top.

Whakatane’s Mitchell Rees, who finished sixth in the Superbike class at the nationals last season, is just 24 years old, but he proved himself a force to be reckoned with at the Suzuki Series opener in Taupo last weekend.

If he can reproduce that same sort of form, he will certainly impress in 2018, as perhaps will Superbike newcomers Taupo’s Connor London, Lower Hutt’s Glen Skachill and Clive’s Adam Chambers if they choose to tackle the full national series.

The Supersport 600 class, too, will be a fiery affair. Perhaps Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler and Manukau’s Toby Summers loom as the most likely favourites, with Kiwi international Avalon Biddle, from Orewa, Whangaparoa’s Nathan Jane and Feilding’s Ashton Hughes also likely to feature.

The two men who fought a see-saw battle for top 600cc honours last year – eventual winner Damon Rees, of Whakatane, and Wainuiomata’s Shane Richardson – will possibly not be contenders in 2018.

Rees is recovering from injury and expected anyway to step up to the Superbike class when he does make a comeback, while Richardson has international commitments that may prevent him making a viable Kiwi campaign.

All the various other classes – Supersport 300 (previously called Lightweight Production), Superlite, 250 Production, Pro Twins, 125GP/250 Mono and Sidecars – are overflowing with talent and it is almost impossible to pick a winner and perhaps even less so in the newly-created Suzuki GIXXER Cup class.

Also included as support classes in 2018 will be Formula One (basically last season’s Superbike-spec machines on harder tyres), Supersport 600B, Supersport 150 (Round 1 only) and the Carl Cox Motorsport Hyosung Cup (Rounds 3 and 4 only).

The GIXXER Cup is set aside for riders aged between 14 and 21, with all riders on identical Suzuki GSX150F bikes, and it got off to a storming start at the opening round of the Suzuki Series in Taupo last weekend.

Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud, the 15-year-old son of nine-time former national Superbike champion Andrew Stroud, scored back-to-back wins on Sunday. He leads the class by 10 points from the “West Coast Warrior”, 14-year-old Greymouth rider Clark Fountain, with Paeroa’s Blake Ross, Taupiri’s Zak Fuller and Whanganui’s Ollie Dennison completing the top five.

This GIXXER Cup class continues with races at rounds two and three of the Suzuki Series – at Manfeild this coming weekend and at Whanganui on Boxing Day – but will also be run through the national series, making it a seven-round contest.

Riders will count six of seven rounds from these two separate competitions, discarding points from their one worst round, to determine the inaugural GIXXER Cup Champion for 2017-18.

The 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championship is supported by Honda Cars, providing safety/medical vehicles, Pirelli, Corprint, CTAS and MX Timing and the inaugural GIXXER Cup is supported by Suzuki New Zealand.

Tickets for rounds one and two are on sale here:



Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com