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Chandler wins inaugural Damon Rees Memorial Trophy



a black motorcycle racing

Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler has been on a title-winning pace all season and finally he reaped his just rewards at the final round of this season’s New Zealand Superbike Championships.


The six-round 2023-24 series kicked off just before Christmas, the opening two rounds incorporated within the popular Suzuki International Series, and it wrapped up at Hampton Downs, an integral part of the Star Insurance MotoFest, at the weekend just gone.


And it was at Hampton Downs where fans could see that perhaps the hard-working Chandler had left his best for last.


Chandler and his Suzuki New Zealand, Top Kat Roofing and TSS Motorcycles-sponsored GSX-R600 were almost untouchable at the North Waikato race circuit at the weekend.


He finished runner-up to just-crowned Supersport 600 class champion Cormac Buchanan in the opening 600cc race of the weekend on Saturday, before bravely winning a wet race two early on Sunday, finishing ahead of visiting Australian star Jack Favell on that occasion.


But the best of Chandler was still to come.


The third and final Supersport 600 race, delayed due to heavy rain and eventually held late on Sunday afternoon, tripled up as not only the final race of the championship series, but also the New Zealand Tourist Trophy race and the inaugural Damon Rees Memorial race too. 


Chandler got off to a flyer and eventually won this special race by 7.8 seconds from Whanganui’s Luca Durning, with international rider Favell claiming third overall. 


With a 2-1-1 score-card for the weekend, Chandler emerged as the overall Supersport 600 class winner for this event, although he was left to rue the crashes he’d suffered earlier in the series (at Taupo and Christchurch) and he had to be content with overall runner-up in this class for 2023-24. 


a motorcycle racer is awarded a trophy

“It was a very special race to win,” said the 26-year-old Chandler afterwards.


“It’s cool for the Rees family to create this award in memory of Damon (Rees).”


Rees sadly passed away in the United Kingdom in June last year, aged just 28, with the former national 600cc champion’s death due to medical issues unrelated to motorcycling.


“The Damon Rees Memorial trophy was another added part to the TT race, which is always a great race in itself to win.


“I didn’t know Damon that well. He was one of those guys a little older than me, but he was a rider to admire and I’d feel that, if I could beat someone like him or even just match his lap times, I’d be over the moon. He was someone to look up to.


“I would gauge myself against riders the calibre of Damon Rees.


“My wet track riding has been pretty good this year … apart from Taupo, obviously,” he laughed, referencing the spectacular crash he suffered on the drenched track there in December.


“Wet weather and the Suzuki seem to go well together.”


Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

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