Outside the South Island, they must be calling him Dennis the Menace.
Nelson's Dennis Charlett, racing his superbike out of Christchurch, has become David to the Goliath factory-prepared bikes after three rounds of the national championship.
As expected, the special Suzuki 1000 bikes of Australian pro racer Robbie Bugden and Feilding's Craig Shirriffs are setting the pace at the mid-series pause. But the surprise has been the performance of Charlett on last year's Suzuki, 20 horsepower down on the leaders, which has kept them honest.
The reigning multiple champion in the 600 Supersport class, Charlett surprised many by immediately stepping up to the pace of the top men in the big-bike class on his Underground Brown Suzuki GSX1000 this summer.
After comfortably dominating the Tri Series before Christmas, Charlett returned to his home town of Nelson to win the Port Nelson Street Races for a fourth successive year on January 2.
The 44-year-old then outran all other rivals to finish third at the championship-opening New Zealand Grand Prix that weekend, and has maintained his pace since.
Following the latest round, at Teretonga near Invercargill last weekend, he remains third overall - outstripping a talented field of experienced superbike riders, including several champions.
"The superbike is very different to ride, much more demanding physically and mentally," said part-time racer Charlett.
"It's quite a step up from the 600, but fundamentally everything is the same, and it's just a question of striving to turn in consistently fast lap times."
He said the Pirelli-tyred superbike was delivering everything he expected, but he was still looking for more.
"We've done quite a bit of work on and inside the Suzuki, but we are still giving away serious horsepower to this year's bikes.
"Suzuki New Zealand and Avon City Suzuki have been marvellous in their support, though, and the Underground Brown team is happy to be on the podium.
"However, we aim to win every race we enter, and we won't be backing off now."
Charlett, who runs the Christchurch branch of a multinational company when away from the racetrack, has been racing since he was 15 and has tasted success on both sides of the Tasman.
The New Zealand Superbike championship resumes at Hampton Downs near Hamilton on March 16-17, and will end at Taupo Motorsport Park a week later.
Bugden leads with 145 points from Shirriffs (121) and Charlett (81), followed by Nick Cole (Hamilton, Kawasaki, 73) and Sloan Frost (Wellington, BMW, 68).
- © Fairfax NZ News