Intense fighting is predicted for the third round of four in this season’s New Zealand Motocross Championships at a relatively new venue at Fernhill, near Hastings, this Sunday (March 11).
The circuit at Mere Road hosted the junior nationals two years ago, but it has never before hosted the seniors, which means very few riders will be able to claim the advantage of track knowledge and this should ensure some close and exciting racing this weekend.
Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont, West Auckland-based former Takaka rider Hamish Harwood and Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis maintained their respective class leads at round two of the series near Rotorua two weeks ago, but not without a battle or two and they can’t afford to rest on their laurels at Hastings.
Former national MX2 champion Lamont (Yamaha) currently holds a nine-point advantage over Australian Kirk Gibbs (KTM) in the premier MX1 class; Harwood (KTM) has a massive 28-point lead over Taupo’s Brad Groombridge (Suzuki) in the MX2 (250cc) class and Purvis is 12 points ahead of Australian Mason Semmens (KTM) in the 125cc class.
Defending MX2 champion Harwood has been the most dominant of the leading riders and it appears there is nothing anyone can do to slow the progress of the 22-year-old from West Auckland, who has been devastating at both rounds so far.
Just as he had at round one of the series near New Plymouth three weeks earlier, Harwood again dominated the MX2 class at Rotorua, his hat-trick of wins perhaps just “business as usual” now for the defending champion.
With his six wins from six starts in the MX2 class thus far, Harwood looks well on track to make it three national MX2 titles in a row this season.
His team-mate Gibbs also ended his day standing on the podium top step.
Gibbs won the MX1 class at Rotorua, his 1-3-1 score-card over the three races meant he had edged six points closer to series leader Lamont and, with two rounds (and six races) remaining, he’s perhaps well placed to make good his title threat.
Defending national MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Honda), from Mount Maunganui, was second best in the MX1 class at Rotorua after finishing 2-1-4 in the three races and he slips back from second equal (level with Gibbs) after round one to now be ranked third.
Another rider visiting from Australia, 16-year-old Semmens, fought doggedly in the third championship category, the 125cc class, but he was beaten to the chequered flag each time by Purvis.
Rotorua’s Joshua Bourke-Palmer (Yamaha) improved from fourth to third overall in the 125cc class standings after another solid performance at Rotorua, although he is a massive 38 points adrift of Semmens. Bourke-Palmer posted a 5-4-6 score-card at Rotorua.
Wairoa’s Tommy Watts (Husqvarna) finished the day third overall at Rotorua, claiming third place in each of the three races, and this moved him up from an undeserved 10th overall after round one to now be ranked fourth overall in the standings.
Racing in Hawke’s Bay this weekend, and at the final round in Taupo, will also feature the Under-19’s Cup support class.
For this new competition, riders must be aged between 15 and 19 and racing either a 125cc two-stroke bike or an 250cc four-stroke bike.
This development class is intended to provide an opportunity for the younger riders to experience racing in the senior championships and these riders may also still enter the MX2 and 125cc championship classes.
The nationals wrap up with the fourth and final round at Taupo on Saturday, March 24.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan