The 25-year-old Suzuki ace was in his first comeback ride after sustaining a broken wrist in July, forcing him to abandon his successful Australian Motocross Championship campaign, and it was perhaps only an optimist who would have figured Carter could be fit enough to challenge for the premier MX1 class crown in his New Zealand debut on the big bike at the big annual Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas.
However, he not only challenged for the main trophy, he took it away with him late on Sunday afternoon.
The Bel Ray Pro Rider Suzuki Team was naturally thrilled to see Carter so quickly back to top form, especially since their other MX1 class rider, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, was less than 100 percent at the weekend after he’d torn his shoulder ligaments when he crashed his mountain-bike while training just before Christmas.
Groombridge had brought great success to the Suzuki team in the lead-up to the weekend, winning the MX1 class at the big annual MX Fest at Taupo in October, winning the Acerbis Four-Hour cross-country marathon a week later and then dominating the Auckland Motocross Championships at the start of December.
And, even at less than full fitness, Groombridge managed to finish inside the top 10 at the weekend.
But it was Carter’s heroics that kept the spotlight on the Bel Ray Pro Rider Suzuki Team.
In his first competitive outing in six months, Carter posted a 2-1-2-2-5 score-card, winning the MX1 class by two points from The Honda Shop Racing Team’s John Phillips, of Rotorua, with his Honda team-mate and reigning national MX1 champion Cody Cooper, of Mount Maunganui, taking the third spot on the podium, another four points further back.
It was perhaps an especially significant victory for Carter, with him beating his former flat-mate Cooper, the man who was also his former Suzuki team-mate and who has held the national MX1 crown for the past two seasons.
“Today has caught me a little bit by surprise. Of course it felt great to beat the champion,” said Carter afterwards.
“For me to get good starts and run up the front of this class is a great confidence-builder for me ahead of the nationals (which kick off in Taranaki on February 8).
“My fitness feels good and I’m feeling comfortable on the bike. What a way to come back,” he exclaimed.
Bel Ray Pro Rider Suzuki team manager Andrew Hardisty, of Mount Maunganui, was naturally thrilled with the weekend’s outcome.
“Our riders performed brilliantly and Rhys’ result was the cherry on top,” he said.
“Brad (Groombridge) had a tough day on the bike with his recent injury to cope with. I’m very proud of our MX2 (250cc) class riders, Logan Blackburn and Campbell King, most notably Logan, who finished runner-up in the final MX2 race.
“All the signs are good for our next big event, the annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville (on January 24-25).”
In other senior class results from the weekend, Rotorua’s Mike Phillips won the MX2 class ahead of Hamilton’s Josiah Natzke; Auckland’s Nikki Scott won the women’s class ahead of Tauranga’s Jessie Waterhouse; New Plymouth’s Mitch Rowe won the veterans’ over-45 years’ class ahead of Taupo’s Bevan Weal; Taupo’s Daniel Scrimgeour won the veterans’ 35-44 years’ class ahead of Inglewood’s Larry Blair and Taupo’s Wyatt Chase won the Youth MX class ahead of Ngatea’s Ben Broad.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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