The Stroud surname has long been associated with motorcycling glory in New Zealand – Hamilton's Andrew Stroud a record nine-time national superbike champion for Suzuki – but now it's the next generation of racers from the famous Waikato family who are craving the spotlight.
Teenage sensation Jesse Stroud has leapt to the top of the standings in the fledgling GIXXER Cup class after a stellar performance in Canterbury at the weekend.
The GIXXER Cup class, introduced to the New Zealand motorcycling scene first the first time in December 2017, is reserved for riders aged between 14 and 21 years and all of them competing on identical Suzuki GSX150F bikes.
It is a seven-round series this year – the first two rounds were incorporated into the popular pre-nationals Suzuki Series held in December – and it shares the programme at each of the five rounds of the New Zealand Superbike Championships, which kicked off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, at Ruapuna, near Christchurch, on Saturday and Sunday.
The 15-year-old Jesse Stroud qualified fastest at Ruapuna and then won both the weekend's two GIXXER Cup races, boosting him to the top of the series standings after the three rounds for this category.
His main rival and the rider who had been first equal with Stroud before the start of the weekend at Ruapuna, Taupiri's Zak Fuller, managed second and third in the two outings and so he has slipped down to second for the championship chase.
Also impressive at Ruapuna were Feilding's Justin Maunder and Sanson's Shane Miller, with Greymouth's Clark Fountain making up the top five. There really was not a lot between these riders on the race track.
Suzuki New Zealand spokesman Peter Goldfinch said the racing was "edge-of-the-seat stuff and a thrill-a-minute", just as it has been from the first time this "nursery ground" was created to give these young riders the opportunity to make their respective road-racing debuts.
"This year's batch of GIXXER Cup riders are going faster than the riders were at the same time last year," said Goldfinch.
"What's especially encouraging is that many of the riders who gave this a go for the first time last year and now mentoring this year's first-timers. It's great to see and the GIXXER Cup pits radiate a real family atmosphere.
"These guys who are doing the mentoring all want to win these races, of course, but they are still taking the time to pass on the skills they themselves learned only for the first time a year ago.
"They recognise how much they have progressed in the sport in the space of 12 months. It makes me quite proud that we (at Suzuki) managed to make this happen for these young racers.
"There are battles within battles on the track and I can quite easily imagine that these young riders, first-timers in the sport last year or this year, might go on to become 600cc or 1000cc superbike heroes in the next four or five seasons.
"There really is a pathway there for them now and they can see that. It's interesting to note that the two top qualifiers in the Supersport 300 class at Ruapuna, Timaru's Harry Parker and Paeroa's Blake Ross, made their road-racing debuts in the GIXXER Cup class last season. We can see they have already moved up to bigger bikes and they're progressing well."
Other class leaders after the weekend's racing at Ruapuna are Whakatane's Damon Rees (superbikes); Palmerston North's Jacob Stroud (Supersport 300 class); Papamoa's Leon Jacobs (250 Production class); Christchurch's Chris Huddlestone (Superlites); Christchurch's Andrew McLaughlin (650 Pro Twins); Australia's Yanni Shaw (125 GP); Hamilton's Jesse Stroud (GIXXER Cup); Christchurch's Dennis Charlett and Will Clim (sidecars).
There will be little time for the riders to relax and gather their thoughts, with round two of the series following hot on the heels of round one, set for Levels International Raceway, near Timaru, this coming weekend.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com