Damon, you’re third in the Supersport class after returning from major injury.
I won the 2017 NZSBK Supersport title but crashed out of the ASBK season at Round 5. A very badly broken ankle put me out of the ASBK season and the entire 2018 NZSBK championship. Dad and I made a last-minute decision to attend the Phillip Island ASBK test. This was only the second time I’d been back on a bike since August. Honda Australia helped us out with a new CBR600RR and I’ve scored points in every race.
Tony, what are the logistics involved to get to all the rounds?
Shaun Clarke and Deon Coote from the Melbourne-based Penrite Honda team store and cart our bikes to the tests and rounds for a small fee. At the Phillip Island round, Ray Meade from Mondiale Shipping offered to send over Mitch’s NZ Superbike and help pay transport costs for the season so that took some pressure off. We can fly in and out. We got Damo’s 2018 CBR600RR in road trim out of the crate two days before the first round.
The boys are paying for their racing with support from Carl Cox Motorsport, BikeBiz, Mondiale Shipping, Tony Rees Motorcycles, Aaron Slight and Timaru Metal Recyclers.
Mitch, you’re in the top 15 in the ASBK Superbike class, but also pretty busy racing in NZ.
We’ve done 10 meetings since November, including a six-hour, the three-round Suzuki Series, four rounds of the NZSBK championship [Mitch finished second overall], a couple of street races and the Burt Munro Challenge.
Tony, it must be a huge balancing act running a bike shop and a race team.
Our Honda dealership is very busy and with the whole family (four of us) involved in the racing and business, it puts pressure on the other six staff members when we go racing. We call them the ‘A Team’. They are awesome and just get on with business as usual. Our dealership does a bit of everything, but, as Whakatane is in a rural district, farmers keep our sales steady and workshop busy. Team Rees Racing is NZ’s official Honda race team, but we do all the race prep at home after work.
What’s it like taking a step back from racing yourself now?
It is hard, knowing I still have a bit of pace. I’m more nervous watching the boys than when I was doing it myself, and I never thought I would be winning my third NZSBK title at the age of 49 (in 2017). I like helping the boys, as they put in a big effort, working 40-plus-hour weeks.
Your recent induction into the MNZ Hall of Fame must feel pretty special?
I have been lucky enough to enjoy motorcycling since the age of 11 as a racer, organiser, business owner and family man. It’s been a lifetime of massive adventures for my family.
While you are a multiple NZSBK champ, it’s your brilliant rides on the roads at Paeroa (10 wins) and Wanganui (7 feature race wins) that really captures the imagination.
My first road race was a street race. NZ had a few back in the day. They are very exciting, like Supercross compared to Motocross, and attract 10,000 spectators. Sadly, we don’t see that at the closed circuits.
Finally, what’s your one piece of advice for parents with kids racing?
We always want our kids to do well, but as a parent we must remember to be there to support and encourage. At the end of the day, there will always be more races and everyone always tries their best.
“I’m more nervous watching the boys than when I was doing it myself” ■