Dennis Charlett achieved one of the best results of his long motorcycle racing career as he won the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ruapuna in Christchurch yesterday.
The 45-year-old local favourite claimed the opening round of the NZ Super Bike Championship, riding his Suzuki to win all three races in the Superbike class from Nick Cole on a Kawasaki.
Charlett led and controlled all 20 laps of the feature race held in hot and blustery conditions. For much of the race Cole shadowed him before dropping back to conserve tyres and settle for podium points with three rounds left in the national series.
"It was awesome," the super-granddad said. "It hasn't been easy but the team and sponsors have really pulled together this weekend.
"Winning the Grand Prix and getting my name on the cup with a lot of famous names is really something.
"I'm getting better with age and better with grandchildren, I've got three grandchildren now."
Engine problems in Friday's practice sessions had concerned the team heading into Saturday's qualifying and race one.
Also of concern was Cole's domination at their last encounter at the Whanganui Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day where he won the event and clinched the Suzuki Tri-Series from Charlett.
"The Tri-Series has always been about preparation," commented Charlett.
"My eye has always been on the national series. Today I just kept an eye on my lap times and held something in reserve for the end. It was always going to be difficult to pull away from Nick but he had a few problems and luck came our way."
Cole was prepared to settle for three second placings.
"I had a couple of moments where I lost grip on the front end of the bike," Cole said.
"It is a good start to the season with a lot of races to go. This is the best result coming away from round one of the nationals that we have ever had."
Fastest qualifier Hayden Fitzgerald pulled out after six laps with an oil leak but later in the day won the Superlite GP class title. Until that point the front three had created a gap on the rest of the field.
This left Taupo's Scott Moir (Suzuki) in an unthreatened third position, while Australian Linden "Magoo" Magee (BMW) finished fourth in front of Sloan Frost (Suzuki).
Eight different classes each raced for their own NZ Grand Prix title. In the Supersport class Christchurch's John Ross (Suzuki) won from Alastair Hoogenboezem (Suzuki) and Toby Summers (Yamaha).
European Junior Cup champion Jake Lewis had planned to compete in the Supersport class.
Back home on holiday, the 18-year-old from Rangiora ran into engine problems during Friday practice.
Fans weren't disappointed as long time mentor Grant Ramage lent him a Kawasaki 250 Production class bike and he went on to win all three races including the GP title.
Tyler Lincoln (RS125) won the 125GP title; Royd Walker-Hoult (Suzuki) the Pro Twin class. In Post Classics the title went to Eddie Kattenburg (Yamaha) while the pairing of Aaron Lovell and Dennis Simonson (LCR1000) won the sidecars.
The series now heads to Timaru for the second round this weekend before heading north for the final two rounds in March.
- © Fairfax NZ News