Team Suzuki Press Office – March 25.

Australian Robbie Bugden stayed cool in scorching conditions to retain his Kiwi Superbike crown at the fifth and final round of this season's New Zealand Superbike Championship at Taupo on Sunday.

Defending champion Bugden took his Triple R Suzuki GSX-R1000 to Taupo at the weekend with a solid 21-point advantage over Craig Shirriffs (Oxygen Air Suzuki GSX-R1000). And with a 28-point gap back to third-ranked rider Dennis Charlett (Underground Brown Suzuki GSX-R1000), it meant the title was his to lose and an outright win for Shirriffs really only a remote possibility.

Shirriffs gave himself a sniff of a chance of taking the title for a first time when he won the day's first of two Superbike races, finishing just ahead of Bugden. The revised points standings showed Bugden with a 16-point lead with just one race to go, meaning that, even if Shirriffs won the final outing, sixth place or better would be enough to wrap it up in Bugden's favour. Bugden remained calm and raced his way to fifth in race two.

Meanwhile, Shirriffs crashed out when he was running in second spot in that final race and, while Shirriffs did recover his bike and carry on, he managed only sixth at the chequered flag, giving Budgen the premier Kiwi crown for a fifth time 17 points clear of Shirriffs.

"I was pushing hard at the start of that second race, hoping to create a break on the field, but everyone simply came with me," said the 32-year-old Bugden. "When I saw that Craig had crashed, I backed it off a bit. I'd done the maths and knew what I had to do to win the title today."

Making it a Suzuki 1-2-3 by finishing the series third overall, 15 points behind Shirriffs, was last year's 600cc Supersport class champion Charlett.

The 44-year-old grandfather won the pre-season Suzuki Tri Series and he said he was satisfied to earn a podium spot in the nationals. Charlett also won the New Zealand TT title when he won the second race at Hampton Downs the previous weekend.

Another Suzuki star, John Ross, stepped forward to claim the 600cc Supersport title left vacant by Charlett. Ross was impressive throughout the series and although the 31-year-old landscaper was overshadowed at the final round, finishing the day just third overall, it was enough for him to clinch his first national road racing title ahead of Jaden Hassan and Jake Lewis.

Final positions in this class, from second spot down, remain in doubt with a protest yet to be decided.

Suzuki also won the Pro Twins class, with Hamish Murphy (Suzuki SV650) taking the silverware.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan@ www.bikesportnz.com
Follow Team Suzuki Racing
Powered by Midlands Performance© Suzuki Motor Corporation 2004-2022