Tony Rees garners top honor

On Saturday night Whakatane’s Tony Rees was inducted into Motorcycling New Zealand’s Hall of Fame, the latest honor in an impressive list of awards and achievements that the popular superbike star has garnered over his long career.

It was certainly a sweetener for the Honda rider, who had been unable to extend his tally of national title wins on the race track this season because of an injury.

Trophies began spilling off his mantelpiece from the day he started road-racing in the 1980s – he become the Shell Rider of the Year in 1987, he won the NZ Castrol Six-Hour Endurance Race in 1988 and competed with top-10 results in Japan, Malaysia, Australia and Belgium.

He was ready to have a taste of World Superbike Championship action in 1990 and he raced he final round of the series at Manfeild that year, finishing sixth overall for the weekend.

Rees was named New Zealand Road-racer of the Year in 2005.

He won the national Hill Climb title (during the Burt Munro Challenge week) in 2016 and, also in 2016, won the Robert Holden Memorial trophy at Whanganui’s world-famous Cemetery Circuit for a record seventh time. His first Robert Holden trophy win was in 1990.

He won national Open Sports Production class titles in 1997, 1998 and 1999, before winning the premier superbike crown in 2001, 2005 and 2017.

He remains one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent motorcycle road racers.

Rees was belatedly confirmed as 2017 New Zealand Superbike Champion in April last year – the delay following a mix-up with results and the legal wrangling that followed – and then, sadly, he was not able to defend his title when he crashed and injured himself during racing in December just a few weeks before the start of the 2018 nationals.

Before his 2017 superbike title wins, it had been a long time between drinks for the multi-time champion, with his previous national Superbike title win coming 12 years earlier, in 2005, making his 2017 victory even more special.

“Obviously I had not contested every championship season since 2005 and I wasn’t originally intending to race the nationals in the 2017 season either. I was merely going to act as a mechanic for my boys (Mitchell and Damon), but they said to me ‘hey, come on dad, you’re still fast, join us on the race track’. And so I did.”

It certainly brought a smile to Tony Rees’ face when Damon Rees won the New Zealand 600cc Supersport title in 2017 and Mitchell Rees finished runner-up in the Superbike class this year, proving there is something very special indeed about the Rees DNA.

Also in the 2017 season, the then 49-year-old Tony Rees added yet another major victory to his curriculum vitae when he won the iconic Paeroa Battle of the Streets event for a record tenth time.

Rees first won the premier title at the Battle of the Streets event at Paeroa more than 20 years earlier.

The event skipped a beat in 2015 when persistent rain forced the organisers to abandon the day, the first time that had been done in the entire history of the event, but Rees was back to win there again in February 2016. The Honda star made it win number 10 in 2017, the most wins by any one rider at the popular annual event.

“Motorcycling has done a lot for me,” said the humble Rees.

“The motorcycling community is an extended family worldwide. I have been able to meet, work with and race against some really great people and none of this would have happened without all the support I’ve received over the years from friends and family and especially my wife, Vicki.”

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

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