What a difference a year makes – from a zero result to maximum points in just 12 months signifying a remarkable turnaround for Suzuki hero Richie Dibben in Supersport 600 competition.
The 30-year-old Whanganui bike shop owner was simply untouchable at the opening round of this season's New Zealand Superbike Championships in Canterbury at the weekend, starting his national title campaign in the best way possible.
The five-round annual series kicked off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Ruapuna) in Christchurch and, right from the first moment that Dibben rolled his Suzuki GSX-R600 out onto the track on Saturday morning, he was in total command.
Dibben was sensational in every outing in the Supersport 600 class, as the virtual newcomer to the competition qualified fastest and then won all three 600cc races on Saturday and Sunday.
The third race victory, which also gave him the prestigious Grand Prix title win for 2020, was perhaps the highlight, as he won the gruelling 15-lap race by a solid 3.9 seconds over fellow Suzuki rider David Hall, from Te Awamutu, with Manukau's Toby Summers third.
That final race result also gave a Hall a share of second overall for the weekend, putting him level on series points with Palmerston North-based former Greymouth rider Ashton Hughes.
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Hughes and Hall are 29 points behind Dibben as the riders now head to Timaru for round two of the series this weekend.
A multiple time Supermoto champion in the Suzuki Series, Dibben made his Supersport class debut last year, but he suffered several set-backs that effectively derailed any attempt by him to shine.
But that has certainly not been the case so far this time and his disastrous 2019 campaign has been banished to the memory banks.
"I scored no points in the two South Island rounds of the series in this class last season," Dibben said.
"Round 1 last year at Ruapuna was cut short after oil was spilled on the track and the meeting abandoned, then I crashed and suffered concussion at Round 2 [at Timaru].
"But everything has gone perfectly for me so far this season. I planned on just staying consistent and not doing anything silly.
"David [Hall] is riding well and put me under a bit of pressure, but I rode well enough to maintain the buffer and take the win.
"They were long races, but I felt pretty good. I'm pretty stoked with the weekend.
"I have the wife and kids with me this week, so we will stay down here in the South Island and spend a bit of time away from the bikes.
"But I'm looking forward to racing again at Levels International Raceway, Timaru, this coming weekend."
Meanwhile, Whangamata's Ben Rosendaal produced a solid start to his title defence in the 650 Pro Twins class, leading an 11-rider Suzuki sweep at the top of the class.
Whangaparoa's Nathan Jane, on another Suzuki SV650, settled for second overall, just two points behind Rosendaal, while Zak Fuller chimed in with results that placed him third overall, just three points further back, after this opening round.
Fuller is a fine example of the value of Suzuki's popular Gixxer Cup competition, as the teenager from Taupiri spent two seasons racing a Suzuki GSX150F in the fledgling class – which has the tagline 'Growing Future Champions' – before promoting himself to the larger 650cc machine.
In the headline class, Whakatane's Damon Rees qualified fastest in the glamour Superbikes and led at the start of the first of the weekend's three races.
But, when he ran off the track on that opening lap of the race, dropping to 11th and last on the track, it left the way clear for local favourite Alastair Hoogenboezem to inherit the No 1 position.
Rees's elder brother and team-mate, Mitch Rees, was now in second spot and he kept Hoogenboezem honest until Mitch Rees crashed spectacularly on the seventh lap of 10, allowing Hoogenboezem's team-mate and fellow Christchurch man Jake Lewis into the No 2 spot and that's how the race finished.
However, eyes were mostly fixed on the brave fight-back from Damon Rees, who rocketed from last place to third at the final flag, setting a new Ruapuna lap record of 1m 29.189s in the process.
Damon Rees then backed that up with two superb race wins on Sunday, the last race of the weekend also counting for Grand Prix trophy honours.
He was therefore overall winner of the class at Ruapuna, although this has been declared provisional as engine checks are yet to be undertaken on several machines.
With Hoogenboezem adding a pair of runner-up placings to his score-card on Sunday, it meant had to settle up for overall runner-up for the event in the superbike class, albeit ending the weekend just two points behind Damon Rees.
Other class leaders after the weekend's racing are Whangarei's Jason Hearn (Supersport 300); Christchurch's Dennis Charlett (250 Production, support); Christchurch's Matthew Hoogenboezem (Supersport Lightweight, support); Auckland's Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (Sidecars); Invercargill's Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 150) and Nelson's Tyrone Kuipers (GIXXER Cup 150, support).
Other GP title winners for the weekend were Auckland's Nathanael Diprose (Supersport 300); Whangaparoa's Nathan Jane (650 Pro Twins); Auckland's Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (Sidecars) and Invercargill's Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 150).
Dibben is supported by Barracks Sports Bar, Totalspan, Bernard Racing, Garmac Engineering, David Jones Motors, Roger Crowley Solicitors, Mike Paul Building Inspectors, BikesportNZ.com and Steel It.