Kiwi road race star rises in Europe

By Andy McGechan

Motorcycle champ continues to impress, writes Andy McGechan

Rangiora's Jake Lewis (pictured left racing in New Zealand) is now making an impact overseas. Pictures / Andy McGechan,
Rangiora's Jake Lewis (pictured left racing in New Zealand) is now making an impact overseas. Pictures / Andy McGechan,

New Zealand's Jake Lewis could be the next motorcycle road-race champion from this part of the world - certainly if he continues to impress in Europe.

The young man from Rangiora raced his way to the No3 spot in the 600cc supersport class at last season's New Zealand Superbike Championships, before immediately packing his bags to tackle the eight-round European Junior Cup.

He tasted immediate success, taking his Honda CBR500R to victory at the international series opener at Aragon, in Spain, in April.

He had mixed results in the rounds that followed in Holland and Italy, but was still fourth overall as the riders arrived at Silverstone for the fifth round of eight a week ago, the race sharing the programme as a support class to the World Superbike Championships.

Lewis struck gold again, becoming the first rider to win two races in the championship European Junior Cup. Starting from eighth position on the Silverstone grid, the Kiwi was leading at the end of the opening lap before being involved in a titanic fight with 13 other riders for the next six laps.

With positions changing quickly, it was difficult to predict the outcome and, as the riders were halfway around the final lap, a collision including several of the leading bunch brought out the red flags, meaning the result would be taken from the previous lap.

This gave the victory to the young South Islander, while Britain's James Flitcroft claimed second position and Hungarian Richard Bodis took third.

"I raced in Europe last year, too, and that was a real eye-opener. These European riders are just so fast. It is such a big jump in the level of competition [compared to racing in New Zealand]," said Lewis.

The European Junior Cup is the entry-level class to the World Superbike Championships and is open to riders aged 14 to 19 from all around the world. All competitors ride identical Honda CBR500R bikes, and the rider who wins the series earns a paid-up ride in a 600cc superstock world championship team.

Three other Kiwis are also entered in the Cup this season - Wellington's Sam Croft and Aucklanders Connor London and Blayes Heaven.

Croft finished 16th at Silverstone, while London and Heaven finished 25th and 26th respectively.

The Honda CBR500R used in the European Junior Cup has only recently been introduced into the New Zealand market. It is also a LAM's (learner approved motorcycle) model, meeting the rules which changed along with the licensing laws last October to base learner restrictions on a bike's power-to-weight ratio, rather than on capacity.

"LAM's is a much more sensible approach to licensing," said Blue Wing Honda's events and race team co-ordinator, Auckland's Peter Finlay.

"These are great bikes ... They are easy to ride and yet still very capable on and off the race track for both new and seasoned riders. It's great to see Jake performing so well and that he's enjoying racing the new Honda CBR500R."

Championship standings

1. Jake Lewis, New Zealand, 66

2. Guillaume Raymond, France, 56

3. Robin Anne, France, 56

4. Michael Canducci, Italy, 55

5. Augusto Fernandez, Spain, 46

6.J ames Flitcroft, Britain, 45

- NZ Herald

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