Team Suzuki Press Office – January 12.

Reigning New Zealand Superbike Champion Dennis Charlett kicked-off his 2015 title assault with a heroic victory at the weekend’s opening round at Ruapuna in Christchurch.

The 46-year-old Suzuki New Zealand-backed rider put his GSX-R1000 into a 19-point lead after three days of drama-packed action where he suffered a heavy crash on Friday, breaking his finger and toe, yet fought through the pain barrier to take two wins and two second places.

Said Charlett: “I wouldn't say it was a good weekend, but it worked out okay in the end. I crashed while scrubbing in brake pads on Friday as I was cornering into the sweeper and was instantly high-sided. It was a big crash by my standards and I broke the ring finger on my left (clutch-operating) hand and a toe on my left (gear-change) foot.

“I managed to avoid going to hospital and managed to ride four or five laps of the qualifying session and I qualified fifth fastest. It was the best that I could do. After icing my foot, I headed into Friday's race running on pure adrenaline. I was in so much pain, I don't know how I did it, but I won the first race of the championship; then had to be helped off the bike afterwards.

"I was feeling much better on Saturday but I was still sore and my foot swollen. I was pretty beaten-up," he added.

Then, from fifth position on the starting grid, he stunned everyone with another holeshot in the first of two races on Saturday.

“I just put my head down and went for it. I would just have to deal with whoever challenged me and in both cases it was (fellow Suzuki rider) Jaden Hassan, from Auckland. He got past me and I couldn't hang onto to him, so settled for second both times," Charlett explained.

“I had some physiotherapy and a spa bath on Saturday night and on Sunday morning I felt remarkably good."

The final Superbike race of the weekend was also designated the New Zealand Grand Prix race and Charlett described this as the most difficult race of his career.

Charlett said: “This was the only race all weekend that I didn't holeshot and James (Smith) was able to stretch out a bit of a lead. It was weird because it was drizzling at one end of the circuit and dry at the other and James started slowing in the rain. I pushed him a bit to try to force him into making a mistake and I think he just let me past. He started pushing me back but I held on and took the win. It was an unbelievable weekend really.”

Charlett leads Smith after the opening round, with Hassan third, 21 points further back and John Ross (Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Sloan Frost (Suzuki GSX-R1000) rounding-out the top five.

Christchurch's Hoogenboezem brothers, James and Alastair, dominated the 600cc Supersport class. Between them, the two Suzuki GSX-R600 riders won every race; James finishing the weekend 33 points ahead of sibling rival Alastair.

Words and photo: Andy McGechan @ www.bikesportnz.com

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