Whakatāne brothers Damon and Mitch Rees will take supreme confidence into the rest of the season after stunning performances at the first major motorcycle event of the new season.
The Honda duo went to war with visiting British rider Richard Cooper at the first round of three in the annual Suzuki International Series at Taupō's Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park at the weekend and the Kiwi pair quickly demonstrated they were just as classy as their illustrious rival.
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Cooper may have had impressive credentials, the man from Nottingham earning a podium finish at the prestigious North West 200 in Ireland earlier this season, but at the end of it all, even he had no answer for the sheer pace of the younger of the two Rees siblings, 24-year-old Damon.
Damon took his Honda CBR1000SP1 to pole position in the glamour Formula One superbike class, setting a blistering qualifying time of 1m 26.8s.
He then roared away to impressive back-to-back wins, leading his elder bother across the finish line in race one on Saturday and then besting Cooper in race two the following day.
Cooper's 3-2 scorecard for the weekend gave him the runner-up spot in the F1 class, while Mitch Rees registered 2-4 results and had to settle for third overall, albeit ending the weekend just two points behind Cooper.
"It was a good weekend. I was fast from the start," Damon said.
"I already knew what I was capable of. I had gone under lap record pace here last week, so I knew I was on target to win this weekend. But, to be honest, I didn't think it would go this well. This is my second season on a superbike and I feel I'm riding well."
The riders now head to Manfeild, on the outskirts of Feilding, for round two in the series this weekend.
The series wraps up on the public streets of Whanganui, with the riders tearing around the world-famous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day.
"I like Manfeild and I have the lap record there on a 600cc bike, so I know I can go fast there," Damon said.
"I have not raced a 1000cc superbike on the Whanganui street circuit, so I'll be a bit of a rookie there on a superbike. But I'm not too worried because I love that place so much. When you enjoy racing on a certain track it makes it a bit easier to go fast."
When you enjoy racing on a certain track it makes it a bit easier to go fast.
Early in the New Year, Damon will head to the UK to race the British Superbike Championships in the stock 1000 class which means it will be up to 26-year-old Mitch to fly the family flag in the latter half of the nationals here.
The New Zealand Superbike Championships open with two rounds in the South Island, on January 11-12 and then a week later on January 18-19, before taking a month's break and resuming at Hampton Downs, in north Waikato, in March.
Damon will race the two South Island rounds of the nationals only, while Mitch will contest the entire five-round domestic series, that competition wrapping up at Taupō in April.
"I have not done a lot of riding lately after spending about 10 months sidelined with injury, so I'm pretty happy with my results here at Taupō this weekend," Mitch said.
"I'm still working on my fitness. I need to gain strength and lose a bit of weight. When I'm back to full fitness I'll be even faster. I'm in a good head space heading towards the nationals."
Other class leaders after round one in Taupō are Upper Hutt's Rogan Chandler (Formula Two); Taumarunui's Leigh Tidman (Formula Three); Hamilton's Jesse Stroud (GIXXER Cup); Whanganui's Ashley Payne (Formula Sport/Bears, senior); Palmerston North's Robert Lammas (Formula Sport/Bears, junior); Napier's Eddie Kattenberg (Post Classics, Pre 89, senior); Woodville's Kieren O'Neill (Post Classics, Pre 89, junior); Auckland's Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (F1 sidecars); France's Estelle Le Blond and Belgium's Frank Claeys (F2 sidecars).