It was steady as she goes for Christchurch's Dennis Charlett on the rain-drenched streets of Whanganui on Boxing Day, but the ultimate victory was his.
The 44-year-old father-of-four and grandfather-of-two already had one hand on the main trophy for this year's Suzuki Tri Series competition - a seven-point lead over his nearest rival, Wellington's Sloan Frost (BMW S1000RR) - but one false move on the infamous Cemetery Circuit could have spelled disaster for the superbike star.
Charlett (Underground Brown Suzuki GSX-R1000) had accumulated enough points at the first two rounds of the series, at Hampton Downs and Manfeild, that he could afford to relax as the riders headed to Whanganui for the traditional Boxing Day finale.
But with tropical storm clouds gathering over the already treacherous, concrete curb-lined circuit, he knew nothing was guaranteed.
Charlett's strategy was to ride sensibly and merely collect the points he needed to get the job done, although his hard-charging through the field in both Formula One races seemed to defy that.
The Canterbury crusader said he rode "reasonably conservatively", finishing fourth and third in his two F1 outings, enough to wrap up the F1 title at his first attempt.
Hamilton's Nick Cole (Red Devil Racing Kawasaki ZX10R) won both races at Whanganui but he was in catch-up mode after experiencing difficulties in the earlier rounds, and he eventually finished the series only seventh overall. Frost finished third and second on the slick streets of Whanganui and wound up three points short of catching Charlett.
Third and fourth overall in the series were fellow Suzuki stars Hayden Fitzgerald, of New Plymouth, and Ray Clee, of Auckland, with Christchurch's Ryan Hampton (Honda) rounding out the top five.
"I'm pretty pleased to finish third overall.
"That's an awesome way to kick off the season," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald's father, Terry, was an early casualty at Whanganui, crashing his bike during qualifying in the F3 class.
He was taken to Whanganui hospital with multiple broken bones. This meant he slipped from third to finish seventh overall in the F3 category.
Meanwhile, Palmerston North's Glen Williams was a double title winner, the Suzuki ace claiming the silverware in both the Formula Three and Post Classics pre-89 classes.
Auckland's Jaden Hassan (Yamaha R6) rode conservatively at Whanganui to wrap up the Formula Two class.
Whanganui's Richard Dibben (Honda) won the super moto class.
The BEARS (non-Japanese bikes) class was won by Katikati's Rhys Holmes (BMW 1000RR).
The day was cut short at Whanganui because of safety concerns when the skies opened with a huge downpour just before 5pm and this meant the stand-alone feature race, the Robert Holden Memorial, was not contested for the first time in the event's 60-year history.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you think New Plymouth's recycling collection system is up to scratch?Related story: Council wheels out new approach to recycling
Get Taranaki's frequent news and sport updates