There simply aren't enough superlatives to describe the depth of talent, wealth of excitement, level of energy or scale of entertainment on show at the opening round of the 2019 Suzuki International Series at Taupo at the weekend.

The picturesque Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, just outside Taupo, hosted the first round of three in the popular series on Saturday and Sunday, with the organisers keeping a weather eye out for the arrival of a predicted storm.

As forecast, heavy rains did arrive midway through Sunday afternoon, forcing the meeting to be abandoned, but not before two rounds of spectacular races had already been held.

It was a satisfying outcome for everyone concerned – the event lucky to avoid most of the rough weather that lashed much of the country, with storms causing landslides, power outages and massive flooding in many parts.


But for Saturday and most of Sunday, it was frantic and fast-paced fury of a motorcycling kind which dominated proceedings, with every class boasting capacity fields and an appreciative crowd on hand to witness the action.

Whakatane brothers Damon and Mitch Rees (both Honda) had their hands full battling with visiting British superbike star Richard Cooper in the 1000cc Formula One class.

Damon Rees eventually rode off with two impressive wins and therefore leads the class by nine points from Cooper, with Mitch Rees claiming the final podium spot for the weekend, just two points adrift of Suzuki rider Cooper.

Cooper showed he is a very fast learner, having seen the Taupo circuit for only the first time at the weekend, and he'll be in unfamiliar territory again when he arrives at Manfeild on the outskirts of Feilding for round two this coming weekend, December 14-15.

The traditional series finale is on the public streets of Whanganui, with the riders tearing around the world-famous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day, December 26.

"I had some track time on Friday and learned a lot. I think I've proved I'm here for the fight," said Cooper, the 36-year-old international superstar from Nottingham.

He finished on the podium at the famous North West 200 event in Ireland earlier this year, which speaks volumes about the talent of this man, although a modest Cooper is mindful that some of the Kiwis are world class too.

"The competition here in New Zealand has been tough and I like that.


"It's nice to come over here and see that riders are as strong as they are.

"You never know, when you travel to another country, what the local riders are capable of.

"They've opened my eyes a little bit.

"Of course, they know these tracks well, and that gives them a slight advantage, but learning a new circuit is a fun thing for me.

"I'm looking forward to Manfeild next weekend. I don't know anything about that place yet either, only having seen a little bit on YouTube.

"I've heard it's a little bit easier to learn and I know the Sloan Frost Suzuki GSX-R1000 bike I'm riding will be fast there.

"I have watched the Cemetery Circuit on YouTube and that's looks like something really special.

"I think you have to treat all [public] road circuits with respect, no matter who you are or where you are. We'll just have to see how we go."

Racing was close an all classes and this augurs well for the momentum to continue over the next two weeks, with Whanganui's Cemetery Circuit street racing on Boxing Day sure to be post-Christmas another crowd-thriller.

Other class leaders after round one in Taupo are Upper Hutt's Rogan Chandler (Formula 2), 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).

Leading standings

Formula One Superbikes: 1. Whakatane's Damon Rees 51 points; 2. UK's Richard Cooper 42; 3. Whakatane's Mitch Rees 40.

Formula Two (600cc): 1. Upper Hutt's Rogan Chandler 45; 2. Te Awamutu's David Hall 44; 3. Palmerston North's Ashton Hughes 38.

Formula Three: 1. Taumarunui's Leigh Tidman 51; 2. France's Xavier Denis 42; 3. Clive's SJ Cavell 38.

Gixxer Cup: 1. Hamilton's Jesse Stroud 51; 2. Australia's Lachlan Epis 37; 3. Hamilton's Andrew Stroud 34.

Formula Sport/Bears, Senior: 1. Whanganui's Ashley Payne 48; 2. Ngaruawahia's Steve Bridge 45; 3. Whanganui's Dwayne Bishop 40.

Formula Sport/Bears, Junior: 1. Palmerston North's Robert Lammas 47; 2. Whanganui's Blane Hannah 45; 3. Auckland's Gui Mendes 43.

Post Classics, Pre 89, Senior: 1. Napier's Eddie Kattenberg 51; 2. Hastings' Gian Louie 44; 3. Invercargill's Jon Rawcliffe 38.

Post Classics, Pre 89, Junior: 1. Woodville's Kieren O'Neill 50; 2. Auckland's Scott Findlay 45; 3. Lower Hutt's Dean Bentley 40.

F1 sidecars: 1. Auckland's Peter Goodwin, Kendal Dunlop 50; 2. Australia's Jeremy Joyce, Whanganui's Louise Blythe 39; 3=. Auckland's Chris & Richard Lawrance 38; 3=. Christchurch's Dennis Charlett, Dan Jenkins 38.

F2 sidecars: 1. France's Estelle Le Blond, Belgium's Frank Claeys 51; 2. Tauranga's Barry Smith, Tracey Bryan 44; 3. Auckland's Mark Halls, Darren Prentis 40.

Supermoto: 1. Whanganui's Richie Dibben 51; 2. Tauranga's Duncan Hart 44; 3. Taumarunui's Jette Josiah 40.