Suzuki rider Daniel Mettam went on the attack at the weekend's third round of five in this season's New Zealand Superbike Championships at Hampton Downs taking two victories from three races.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Fifth overall in the premier superbike class standings at the start of the day – a massive 43 points adrift of fellow Suzuki rider and series leader Scott Moir, of Taupo – the 23-year-old Mettam knew he had to start winning races if he hoped to add the 2019 superbike crown to the Supersport 600 class title he took in the 2016 season.
Glen Eden's Mettam took his Suzuki GSX-R1000 to qualify third fastest on Saturday, but he then proceeded to win the opening superbike race of the weekend that same afternoon.
Mettam was equally impressive in the next race, early the following day, although this time he had to accept the runner-up spot after a fiercely-fought battle with Moir and Wellington's defending national superbike champion Sloan Frost (also riding a Suzuki GSX-R1000).
Perhaps saving their best for last, Mettam and Moir went on the rampage at the front of the field in the deciding final superbike race of the weekend – this race with additional significance because it was also designated as the TT Trophy race – Mettam eventually able to make his pass stick on the tenth lap of 15 and crossing the line less than a bike length ahead of Moir, with Frost taking the third podium spot.
It was a Suzuki 1-2 finish for the superbike class at Hampton Downs, with Mettam on top and Moir second overall, despite Moir failing to finish the first superbike race on Saturday.
These results also gave the series standing a bit of a shake-up.
Moir still leads the championship, but Mettam has rocketed up from fifth to second – 18 points behind Moir – while Christchurch's Alastair Hoogenboezem slips from second to third, Whakatane's Damon Rees remains fourth and Frost slips from third to fifth.
Frost had qualified on pole, but he crashed out of weekend's opening superbike race and this cost him dearly. He is just six points behind Rees and, with six more races to come of the final two rounds, there's still plenty of room for movement.
"It's been a good weekend," said Mettam afterwards.
"It's quite a long championship this year and we still have six races to go, so I'm in a good spot. I'm 100 percent confident that I will be able to push for some more race wins.
"The points gap between me and Scotty (Moir) is not much. One mistake from him or one mistake from me and a lot could change."
Meanwhile, there was a plethora of other motorcycling-related activities to capture the attention of motorcycle enthusiasts at Hampton Downs over the weekend, with the second annual Mike Pero MotoFest sharing the programme and the race track over the two days.
Kiwi MotoGP commentator Simon Crafar was a featured guest at MotoFest, appearing alongside Australian MotoGP and World Superbikes identity Chris Vermeulen, former British champion and team manager Steve Parrish, Kiwi former World Superbike Championship contender Aaron Slight and fellow New Zealand legends Hugh Anderson, Ginger Molloy, Graeme Crosby and Richard Scott.
MotoFest also featured the Mike Pero Shoei GP, Post Classic racing, the Motul Moto Trials Challenge, Legends Track Sessions, Kawasaki Trail Ride and also included the Star Insurance Bike Show and the Alpinestars Legends Dinner on Saturday night. For the first time, ACC's Shiny Side Up Bike Fest was also run in conjunction with MotoFest.
Other class leaders in the nationals after the weekend are Manukau's Toby Summers (Supersport 600), Palmerston North’s Jacob Stroud (Supersport 300 class); Papamoa's Leon Jacobs (250 Production class); Jacob Stroud (Superlites); Christchurch's Nick Cain (650 Pro Twins, provisional); Australia's Yanni Shaw (125 GP); Hamilton's Jesse Stroud (GIXXER Cup) and Christchurch's Dennis Charlett and Will Clim (sidecars).
Other TT Trophy winners on Sunday were Rangiora's Avalon Biddle (Supersport 600), Auckland’s Nathanael Diprose (Supersport 300 class); Jacobs (250 Production class); Jacob Stroud (Superlites); Whangamata’s Ben Rosendaal (650 Pro Twins, provisional); Shaw (125 GP); Jesse Stroud (GIXXER Cup) and Auckland’s Peter Goodwin and Waitoki’s Louise Blythe (sidecars).
The riders now head to Feilding for the fourth round of the series at Manfeild on March 30-31, followed by the fifth and final round at Taupo on April 6-7.