Suzuki racer Scott Moir will be a man on a mission this summer.
The Suzuki superbike ace from Taupo finished a close runner-up in the abbreviated 2020 New Zealand Superbike Championships, which was wrapped up early in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and superbike racing worldwide since then has been just a fraction of what it was.
However, the race scene is starting to heat up once again and this puts pressure on Moir and his fellow competitors to quickly get back up to speed, especially in this relatively COVID-free country and with the popular Suzuki International Series now looming large on the horizon, that competition set to kick off in just a few weeks’ time.
The three-round series rivals even the superbike nationals in terms of popularity and typically attracts the cream of the crop across all the various bike categories.
Most focus tends to fall on the elite superbike class and Moir is among the favourites to win that class any time he heads out onto a New Zealand race track.
Moir, the Suzuki International Series outright winner in 2017 and again in 2018, said it “wasn’t the best start for me” in 2019.
“I felt crook (sick) at the first round and not quite on my game. We tried different tyres and that experimenting also put me a little bit behind my rivals.
“I’ve been riding again lately and my lap times are good. I’ve also been riding at motocross events and my fitness is good at the moment. Riding through the winter has been good for my fitness.
“I think riding motocross helps too because, when things get slippery and the bike gets out of shape, I’m fine with it.”
With the pandemic forcing an early end to the 2020 nationals, it meant Moir was denied the chance to improve his championship position, racing halted before it got to Moir’s favoured venues of Manfeild and Taupo.
But the upcoming Suzuki International Series ticks all the boxes for Moir and he’ll finally get his chance to shine.
Taupo's Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park hosts the opening round of the 2020 series on December 6, while Manfeild follows as host venue a week later, on December 13. The action wraps up on the public streets of Whanganui's famous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day.
Although one of the more-fancied riders, it certainly won’t be easy for Moir … the superbike class is bulging with talent.
Suzuki's former national and Suzuki International Series champion in the F1 class, Wellington's Sloan Frost, is certainly one who will threaten, along with Suzuki's 2019 national superbike champion Daniel Mettam, from Glen Eden.
The national Supersport 600 class champion in the 2020 nationals, Whanganui’s Richie Dibben, steps up now from a 600cc Suzuki to ride a Suzuki GSX-R1000 in the superbike class and that may throw a cat among the pigeons.
Whanganui rider Jayden Carrick will race a Suzuki GSX-R1000 this year and former 600cc frontrunner David Hall, from Te Awamutu, joins the superbike brigade for the first time, also racing one of the potent GSX-R1000 bikes.
Christchurch's Alastair Hoogenboezem, winner of the 2020 superbike class crown, has plans to make the trip north to tackle the Suzuki Series again this year, while Auckland-based former national superbike champion Jaden Hassan rejoins the fray after a five-year hiatus.
“I’m itching to go again on the GSX-R1000 Suzuki and I’m feeling confident,” said Moir.
“I know (Whakatane brothers) Damon and Mitch Rees will be fast and Dan Mettam and Sloan Frost need to be respected too, but we’ll just have to wait and see. I think we all need to watch out for Richie Dibben this year too. It may be his first season on the 1000cc Suzuki, but he’s obviously very talented and a quick learner too. He has road-racing legend Brian Bernard behind him and he’s a great mentor to have.
“I’ve got a few more track days planned to blow out the cobwebs and get me up to speed. Bring it on at Taupo on December 6.”
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com