No-one said it was going to be easy to defend his Suzuki Series title in the premier Formula One category, but Taupo's Scotty Moir is proving he's up for the fight.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
The Suzuki ace won the F1 trophy for the first time last season and now, after the Sunday's second of three rounds in this year's edition at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, on the outskirts of Feilding, he knows he's in with a good chance of repeating the feat.
However the 35-year-old father-of-one knows he’ll also probably need another Boxing Day stunner to guarantee that happens.
The Suzuki rider finished the day overall runner-up at the 2018 series opener on his home track just over a week ago and, while he is still in the No.2 position after Sunday’s second round at Manfeild, Moir has reduced his deficit to just three points from Wainuiomata’s Shane Richardson.
Moir took his Suzuki GSX-R1000 to qualify fastest early on Sunday morning, then followed that up by finishing second and fourth in the two Formula One superbike races that afternoon.
Richardson finished fourth and second at Manfeild and so the battle for F1 glory will go down to the wire.
There is just a short break before the series has its third at final round, the traditional public street race spectacular on Boxing Day, the bikes on that iconic once-a-year occasion being raced around Whanganui's famous Cemetery Circuit.
Moir dominated the day at Whanganui last year, qualifying fastest and then finishing first and second in his two F1 races – his runner-up finish in race two behind another Suzuki GSX-R1000 rider, Lower Hutt’s Jay Lawrence.
Moir also went on to win the coveted Robert Holden Memorial Feature Race.
"It's definitely a possibility that I could win again on the Cemetery Circuit," said Moir.
"Shane (Richardson) will be strong there, but he was only on a 600cc bike when he last raced there, so we don't know how well he'll go on the streets on a 1000cc bike," said Moir.
"I just need to keep in front of Shane at Whanganui really."
Also needing to be added into the equation is visiting British rider Peter Hickman.
The Isle of Man champion from Lincolnshire didn’t really feature at Taupo, but he bounced back to win both F1 races at Manfeild on Sunday, rocketing up from 11th overall after the Taupo opener to now be placed third in the series standings, just eight points behind Moir.
Despite being a first-time visitor to New Zealand, Hickman is obviously a quick learner and the curbs, tight bends, railway crossings and slick painted road markings at Whanganui should present no problems for the 2018 Isle of Man winner.
It is sure to be a scorcher at Whanganui on Boxing Day, regardless of what the weather might do.