Brother Suzuki’s Andrew Stroud raced to two commanding wins in the class at the weekend’s fourth round of five in this year’s Castrol Power 1 New Zealand Superbike Championship at Feilding’s Manfeild race circuit, inching closer to the title he last held four seasons ago.
Stroud’s double race victory in the Manawatu on Sunday means the 42-year-old has stretched his lead to 43 points over the defending champion, Brisbane Suzuki rider Robbie Bugden, with just 50 points still available at the fifth and final round at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, in March.
The series extension came at Manfeild when bad luck struck main rival Bugden when his bike mysteriously ran out of power nine laps into the 14-lapper and he was forced to withdraw.
“Winning was what I had in mind coming here and that’s also what I plan to do at Hampton Downs. I can afford to settle for seconds and thirds now but I wouldn’t be a real racer if I was happy to do that,” said Stroud.
Second best Superbike class rider on Sunday was home-town favourite Craig Shirriffs (Honda), while his team-mate, New Plymouth’s Hayden Fitzgerald was third overall.
With Shirriffs finishing 3-2 at Manfeild, he has moved to third in the championship standings, with Christchurch Suzuki rider James Smith slipping to fourth and Fitzgerald remaining in fifth spot.
It was bad luck all around for Smith as he also lost his grip on the lead of the 600cc Sports Production class.
Hamilton’s Nick Cole (Kawasaki) was one of the beneficiaries after Smith and Wellington’s Glen Skachill were each penalised 20 seconds after allegedly jumping the start of race one.
That decision by track officials elevated Cole from fifth to third in race one. Cole backed that up by placing fourth in race two, that battle abbreviated to just three laps following a serious crash.
So, finishing 3-4 on the day was enough for Cole to zoom into the championship lead, now 6.5 points clear of Smith.
“This was a better weekend for me that I had expected,” said Cole. “Manfeild is not one of my favourite tracks.”
The day’s outright winner in the class was Midge Smart (Yamaha), making his first appearance in the championship and stunning with his 1-2 results.
Andrew Stroud (Hamilton, Suzuki) 178 points
Robbie Bugden (Australia, Suzuki) 135
Craig Shirriffs (Feilding, Honda) 113
600cc Sports Production:
Nick Cole (Hamilton, Kawasaki) 146.5 points
James Smith (Christchurch, Suzuki) 140
John Ross (Christchurch, Yamaha) 106