Motorsport: Champ eager for another title

By Eric Thompson

Andrew Stroud out to beat young guns breathing down his neck.

Andrew Stroud starts his road racing campaign at Hampton Downs today. Photo / Terry Stevenson
Andrew Stroud starts his road racing campaign at Hampton Downs today. Photo / Terry Stevenson

Defending champion Andrew Stroud will have his sights set on a fifth consecutive championship when the New Zealand motorcycle road racing season fires into action this weekend at Hampton Downs.

It's the opening round of the Suzuki Tri-Series, which then moves on to Manfeild, December 15 with the final round at Wanganui on Boxing Day.

The $30,000, plus an extra $6000 from Wanganui.com, makes it one of the richest series in New Zealand and has attracted a record number of riders.

Stroud will campaign a new Brother Suzuki GSXR1000. The 44-year-old is one of the stalwarts of Superbike racing and has a long association with Suzuki.

If some of the younger riders think Stroud might be there for the taking they couldn't be more mistaken. The Hamiltonian is as keen as ever to get more wins and another title.

"I still enjoy it when the pressure is on and like getting out on to the track," said Stroud. "This could be my last season so I'll be trying my hardest - I haven't completely made my mind up yet.

"I'm riding the new GSXR, which has more power and a smoother delivery. It's a bit easier to ride and at Hampton Downs last week I was coming on to the front straight in third gear instead of second.

"I reckon we must be getting close to 300km/h now. It's quick but Sloan Frost beat me at the Auckland round last weekend, however, it was the first time I've used it [the new Brother GSXR] so there's more to come yet."

Stroud didn't have it all his own way last year having been pushed hard from the new crop of riders. He banked on the old adage, points mean prizes, and despite having to share honours with the likes of Nick Cole and Aussies Robbie Bugden and Dan Stauffer, still managed to grab the title.

"Everyone's getting faster and faster and although there aren't any overseas riders in the Superbike class, there's still Nick Cole, Sloan Frost, James Smith and Craig Shirriffs to worry about," he said.

Cole took the scrap to Stroud and won't be content with last year's second place in the series. He and his team have been working on their Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R during the off-season and have made some significant changes, and have also switched to Pirelli tyres.

"I want to win races, and the series, that's our goal," Cole said.

Frost put the cat among the pigeons on his BMW S1000RR at Hampton Downs in 2010 by winning a race. According to reports this year's bike is a step forward and a lot easier to ride.

"I want to win, and I know I'm capable of winning now - I've beaten everybody before so it's just a matter of beating them all at once," said Frost.

As Stroud pointed out, Smith is also developing into a rider to pay attention to. During the final rounds of the New Zealand championships last year Smith was flying and will be out to prove it was no flash in the pan.

He has joined the Castrol Honda team this season and will be racing a CBR1000RR Fireblade. Former national Superbike champion Tony Rees will be contesting all three rounds for the first time also on a CBR1000RR.

Joker in the pack may well be three-time NZ 600 Supersport champion Dennis Charlett who is returning to the big boy's class and will campaign Stroud's 2011 GSXR1000. It would be very unwise to underestimate the 2007 South Australia and Victoria Superbike champion and it would be done at your peril.

Three-time Formula Two winner Glen Skachill is returning to defend his F2 title and will be challenged by the talented Jaden Hassan and Avalon Biddle who's fresh back home from her European campaign.

There's an international taste in the F1 and F2 categories with the 2010 German Superbike champion Thomas Kreutz (also 2012 German Supersport runner up) flying halfway around the world to race a Yamaha R6.

F1 Sidecars are always a major attraction for spectators and this year 17 outfits are entered along with Post Classic, F3, BEARS and 450 Supermoto.

- NZ Herald

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