Rees family billed
It was textbook stuff from the Rees family last Sunday as father Tony and his eldest son Mitch wrapped up the inaugural Honda ThreeHour Endurance Race at Taupo¯’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park.
The result was perhaps highly appropriate too, because the motorcycling weekend had been billed as “Ride with Rees — a weekend with Tony Rees,” with the tagline “celebrating a New Zealand champion”.
It was an action-packed two days of activity at the popular Taupo¯ road-racing facility.
Saturday was the second of five Honda Ride Days this season and was an opportunity to ride with and learn from multi-time national superbike champion Tony Rees, 2018 national superbike No 2 Mitch Rees and also the younger sibling, 2017 national 600cc supersport champion Damon Rees.
Activities on Saturday were a perfect lead-in to the racing proper on Sunday — a two-hour endurance race for under-600cc bikes and a three-hour endurance race for bikes over 600cc — and also included an entertaining drinks and dinner evening with Tony Rees and fellow superbike legend Aaron Slight on Saturday night.
However, the following morning it all became a little more serious, with riders keen to use the separate endurance races as warming up for the upcoming road-race season.
Local favourite Scott Moir was the fastest off the start line after the shotgun blast signalled the start to Sunday’s premier threehour race, but 25-year-old Whakata¯ne man Mitch Rees wasted no time, hunting down the Taupo¯ man and snatching the lead near the end of the first of what would eventually become a 104-lap affair.
The Moir and Daniel Mettam (Glen Eden) rider combination ended up slipping to third position at the 90-minute (half-race) distance and eventually settled for fourth overall at the chequered flag.
Meanwhile, the Sloan Frost (Wellington) and Bailie Perriton (Asburton) pairing fought their way through to claim the runners-up spot, while 23-year-old Damon Rees, co-riding with Manukau’s Toby Summers, earned third step on the podium.
All leading riders were on 1000cc bikes, apart from Summers, who raced a 600cc machine.
Hamilton’s Jordan Burley and Greymouth’s Ashton Hughes, both riding 675cc bikes, claimed fifth overall, finishing two laps behind the Moir/Mettam combo.
“My team-mate Mitch (Rees) produced faster lap times than me and Sloan Frost showed a bit of pace too, pegging me back near the end of the race, but also I was conserving my tyres at that stage and not wanting to take any risks,” said Tony Rees.
“I didn’t want to throw away all the good work and just did what was needed to win it. This weekend was my first time racing since I crashed and injured myself at Manfeild last December, so I wasn’t exactly race fit anyway,” said the 50-yearold from Whakata¯ne.
“The weekend was not really about winning this race. For me, it was just important to see people enjoying themselves and the fantastic racing was a bonus.”
Co-winners of the earlier two-hour, under-600cc race were Whangamata¯’s Ben Rosendaal and Auckland’s Mat Dunlop, nearly a minute ahead of rival team Michael Patchett (Auckland) and Alex Butson (Kawakawa).
“It was a good turn-out for the ride day on Saturday. I think the success of the weekend means there will likely be a few more entries in the endurance races next year too,” said Tony.
After the weekend at Taupo¯, the Honda Track Days continue with three separate events at Hampton Downs on December 1, February 23 and April 27.
Whakatane’s Mitch Rees leading the way at Taupo¯’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on Sunday.