Whakatane’s Damon Rees has come away with two pieces of silverware and a tie for the championship lead after a phenomenal Pirelli National Superstock 1000 debut from Donnington Park over the weekend.
Rees, who forfeited his NZ Superbike campaign to contest in the UK alongside the premier British Superbike championship, powered the all-new Astro JJR Racing BMW S1000r to two podium finishes across the opening two rounds of the championship, both times showcasing race-winning potential and shrewd racecraft.
Rees made an impact early in qualifying by setting the fourth quickest time, less than three-tenths off pole position.
There was drama even before the start of the season-opener when ex-BSB journeyman Chrissy Rouse stalled with a clutch failure from third on the grid causing a delayed start and only two bikes on the front row.
Once the race eventually got going Rees held a commanding third as the lead BMW behind 2015 Moto3 World Champion Danny Kent for Kawaski and Honda rider Tom Neave.
An all-mighty tussle for the lead ensued with Rees even momentarily heading the field before slipping back behind Neave who he would follow to the line to claim a heroic second on his series debut.
Fellow Kiwi Shane Richardson had a more difficult race in the sister Astro JJR Racing BMW. Starting 13th, Richardson fell victim to a gearbox issue which had plagued his practice sessions earlier in the day meaning the Cambridge rider opted to retire the bike.
Sunday’s final race was punctuated by two red flag periods which ultimately saw the race bumped to the end of the day from its original midday start.
Richardson was the cause for the first stoppage when the water hose came adrift on Lap 4, dropping liquid along the main straight which resulted in a high side crash at Turn 1 and a red flag to clean the debris.
The second attempt of a race start lasted no longer than one lap when former series champion Richard Cooper fell from his BMW at the final chicane, collecting another rider has he slide unrestrained along the floor as his bike disintegrated around him.
A 14-lap dash was therefore set up for the third attempt of a race start with Rees starting second but was technically the pole-sitter after Neave failed to make it to the gird in time and was compelled to start from the pitlane.
Neave’s younger brother Tim got the best launch of the front runners to steal the lead from Rees at Turn 1.
The Kiwi kept in touching distance with junior Neave for most of the race despite falling as far back as sixth at one stage.
Sitting fourth at the start of the penultimate lap, Rees launch his assault on Kent for third, scything his pass just before Kent fell at Turn 7 which left the Kiwi unrivalled and able to snare his second podium result of the weekend.
After his race one blunder, Rouse hung on to clinch a deserving victory two-tenths ahead of Billy McConnell.
Leaving Donington, Rees, Rouse and Tom Neave are three-way leaders of the championship with 36 points each. The series now heads to Snetterton in Norfolk for round two over the weekend of August 22-23.