The 19-year-old jumped at the opportunity to compete in Australia at the weekend, making his international racing debut at the fifth round of seven in the Australian Superbike Championships at Morgan Park Raceway, south of Toowoomba. He was entered in the Supersport 300 class and lined up to race a Yamaha YZF R3 for Acid Racing, a team run by Anthony Car and mentored by 2011 World Super Stock 600 champ Jed Metcher. "This was a new experience for me, as I had never ridden overseas, at this track or on this bike," explained Chandler, who works in Wellington as an apprentice builder. "The track was super technical and fast, a really hard track to learn and the locals had a huge advantage (over me). "I started off the free practise on Friday by being 13 seconds off the pace and by the end of the weekend was only one second off the leaders.
"The racing over here is so much quicker than back home, with fields of 40 and the top 15 lapping within a second of each other. I was under the lap record of the previous year and still only had a best finish of 13th overall and 11th in class." "It was so fast this year in fact that last year's winner and fellow Yamaha rider Brandon Demmery was only two places ahead of me and World 600 Supersport Championship rider Lachlan Epis was only in seventh. Even with this being his sole outing in Australia after five rounds thus far, Chandler slots in at 23rd overall out of 33 riders in the championship standings. "I had wanted to race in the 600cc supersport class, but I just didn't have the budget for that. Acid Racing wanted to get a team going, so I took my chances and put myself out there. "I actually expected better results from myself, but I didn't really have a full understanding of just how fast they'd be over in Australia. It was a tough track to learn too and I had only 40 laps to try and get up to speed with guys who'd raced there for years." Now that he's dipped his toes into the international waters of competition there is no stopping Chandler and he will now return to race in Australia again at rounds six and seven of their national series.
He also managed to gain an entry into the 300cc support class for the MotoGP world championship event at Phillip Island on October 22. Chandler will hit the tracks in New Zealand this summer on the new 600cc Yamaha YZF R6, racing in the supersport class, sharing garage space with fellow Yamaha ace Hayden Fitzgerald, from New Plymouth. "I have learned so much from this trip to Australia," said Chandler. "I know a lot more about bike set-up and about just how far I can push a bike." Chandler isn't the only Kiwi who has been clocking up the air miles this year in the build-up begins towards the 2018 New Zealand Superbike Championships season.
Fellow Wellington man Sloan Frost and Whakatane's Damon Rees have also turning heads in Australia this season, while Orewa's Avalon Biddle has been making waves across Europe as she races in the World Supersport 300 series and Whangamata's Ben Rosendaal and Auckland's Nick Southerwood have been racing with success at the Isle of Man. Otaki's Dillon Telford has been in the spotlight in Italy and Wainuiomata's Shane Richardson has recorded some phenomenal success in the United States this year. It could be another scorcher when the annual Suzuki Tri Series kicks off at Taupo in December and when the four-round New Zealand Superbike Championships kick off at Christchurch on January 6-7.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan