After along delay due to Covid-19, the 2020 Bennetts British Superbike Championship got off to a dramatic start at the weekend.
Among the riders was Whakatāne's Damon Rees, racing in the British National Superstock 1000 Championship, riding for Astro JJR Racing on a BMW S1000r.
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He wasted no time acclimatising to the new conditions, making his way onto the podium in his first outing.
In his first official practice sessions of the season on Friday, Rees set a lap time of 1m 8.666s, the 12th fastest time of the day. This was just 0.446s off the top time set by Tom Neave.
Rees said he was "super happy with the day and looking forward to making more improvements on Saturday".
Qualifying was held on Saturday morning in perfect conditions and after a frantic session Rees qualified in fourth position with a lap time of 1m 7.990s, which was only 0.3s off pole position.
The first race of the British Superstock 1000 Champion kicked off in ultra-hot conditions late Saturday afternoon. The start of the race was chaotic, with Danny Kent grabbing the hole-shot, taking the lead into the first corner.
The eventual race winner Tom Neave soon found his way through the pack to take the lead, where he was able to steadily pull away from the pursuers and win by more than two seconds.
All eyes were on the battle for second position as Rees battled with Danny Kent for a number of laps. Rees eventually pulled away from the 2015 Moto 3 world champion, finishing 1.5 seconds ahead of Kent and just over 2 seconds off the race leader Tom Neave.
Speaking after the race Rees said: "There was a lack of grip for the entire race, but I just held my own and rode solid and it paid off."
The second race of the British Superstock 1000 was held on Sunday afternoon in slightly cooler conditions over 22 laps. After making a good start from his second-row grid slot, Rees held a solid third position for the opening lap, sitting a comfortable 0.7 seconds behind the race leader.
Going into lap four, Rees was looking confident - matching their pace and sitting with the race leaders until the red flag was bought out due to oil on the track at the start of lap five.
The restarted race was to be run over 16 laps.
Due to his running position at the end of the original race, Rees was moved up to the front row, restarting in third position. Once again he managed a strong getaway when the lights went out, moving up to second position into turn one and ending the opening lap in third, 0.176 seconds off the lead before another red flag bought a stop to the race.
The race was rescheduled to be run later in the day in cooler conditions over 14 laps. Starting on the front row in third position, it was an even getaway this time, with Rees slotting into second position behind Neave on the opening lap.
Rees would hold second position until lap three. By lap six there was a seven-way battle for the lead with Rees in sixth position, looking to make some moves. On lap seven Rees made his moves, passing the riders in front of him and moving from sixth to fourth position, one second off the lead.
Coming into the final two laps of the race and sitting 0.7 seconds from the lead Rees had the podium in his sights. On the penultimate lap he made his move for third passing Danny Kent, Kent would fall on the last lap trying to keep up and repass Rees. The eventual race winner was Chrissy Rouse followed by Billy McConnell in second and Rees in third position, only 1.129s off the win.
"Its been an absolute stellar start to the season and has made the delayed start all worth it," Rees said.
Leaving Donington Park after round one, Rees is the joint championship leader on 36 points.
"I'm absolutely itching to roll in to round two at Snetterton in two weeks' time. Thank you for all the messages and comments, I have read and appreciate every single one of them, a massive shout-out also goes to Carl Cox Motorsport, supporting Astro JJR Racing Team for all their hard work," Rees said.
The second round of the British Superstock 1000 Championship will take place at Snetterton on August 22-23. Live timing and coverage can be found on the BSB website.