They are great mates off the track, but fierce rivals on it, and the battle for New Zealand Superbike Championship honours became even more heated for Jake Lewis and James Hoogenboezem at the weekend.
The two Supersport 600 class riders were separated by just 10 points at the start of the third round of four of the superbike nationals at Hampton Downs at the weekend, Hoogenboezem leading the way.
But, by late Sunday afternoon, the order had been reversed and, although the Triumph team-mates from Christchurch were still hogging the top two spots, Lewis had turned the tables on Hoogenboezem and was now leading his friend by 31 points.
By qualifying fastest – and gaining a bonus point for doing that – then taking three wins from three starts at Hampton Downs, Lewis could not have done any better.
But there was also the matter of Lewis' girlfriend, former FIM European Women's Cup champion Avalon Biddle (Kawasaki), upsetting things with her own brilliant performance.
Biddle was outstanding at the weekend, twice finishing second, boosting her from fifth to fourth overall in the standings. On both those two occasions, she obviously finished ahead of Hoogenboezem, costing him valuable points and adding further to his misery. Unfortunately, Biddle finished 14th in her other race.
For a 10-point advantage to disappear and be replaced by a 31-point deficit, it shows just how quickly the dynamics of any title chase can change and, when the series wraps up at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo on March 17-18, even more high-intensity action is promised across all the various bike classes.
"I have won national titles before, but never in the Supersport 600 class, although I have twice finished third in this class, in 2013 and last season too," said the 22-year-old Lewis.
"I have a nice buffer now, but I'm taking nothing for granted.
"I was surprised to see it was Avalon right behind me on the track. I owe her big time for twice finishing second and helping me gain points over James. I think I must owe her a night out ... maybe two,” he laughed.
Meanwhile, in the premier superbike class, Wellington's former national superbike champion Sloan Frost (Suzuki) managed to extend his lead in the title chase at Hampton Downs, although he faced stern challenges throughout the weekend from riders such as his own Suzuki team-mate, Taupo's Scott Moir, Whakatane's Mitch Rees (Honda), Glen Eden's Daniel Mettam (Suzuki) and visiting Australian Robbie Bugden (Yamaha).
Other class leaders after the weekend's third round of four in the 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships are: Tauranga's Regan Phibbs (Supersport 300); Hamilton's Jordan Burley (650 Pro Twins); Christchurch's Nick Cain (250cc Production); Huia's Nathanael Diprose (Superlites); Rodney's Blayes Heaven (125GP); Pukekohe's Thomas Newton (GIXXER Cup); and Auckland's Peter Goodwin and Kendal Dunlop (Sidecars).
The superbike nationals, presented by DHL Express NZ Ltd, at Hampton Downs at the weekend was run in conjunction with the inaugural Mike Pero MotoFest, a massive “festival of motorcycling” that included demonstrations and displays from across the entire spectrum of motorcycling. MotoFest also featured meet-and-greet and autograph sessions with a slew of international motorcycling legends.
The 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships are supported by Honda Cars, providing safety/medical vehicles, Pirelli tyres, Corprint, CTAS and MX Timing and the inaugural GIXXER Cup is supported by Suzuki New Zealand.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com