It may have been a little bit like taking a knife to a gunfight, but woe betide anyone who underestimates Mokau’s Adrian Smith and his 250cc two-stroke Yamaha.
The four-time former New Zealand cross country champion was on fire at the fourth and final round of the 2017 nationals near Cambridge on Saturday, powering through traffic to eventually claim the runner-up spot in the three-hour race, beaten only by Bay of Plenty’s former motocross world champion Ben Townley and his Suzuki RM-Z450 four-stroke machine.
Third overall on Saturday was newly-crowned national champion Brad Groombridge, the man from Taupo also riding a Suzuki RM-Z450.
Unaccustomed to be as far down the pecking order as eighth overall at the start of the day – that situation the result of his failing to finish at round two of the series at Mosgiel in April – Smith was determined to make amends at Cambridge.
The 31-year-old Smith (Yamaha YZ250X) certainly did that.
In finishing runner-up on Saturday, Smith boosted himself from eighth overall to an eventual final ranking of fourth.
“I knew it was almost impossible for me to finish inside the top three this year after not finishing at Mosgiel and that was because of a silly thing like a bolt coming loose.
“So I’m pretty happy to finish fourth, all things considered.
“It was great racing between me and Ben (Townley). I was able to show him my front wheel a few times and actually took the lead a couple of times.
“My left ankle was run over by another rider at the start of the race, so that was sore to begin with. Buy my mind switched off to the discomfort and it didn’t really bother me after the first lap.
“Ben and I had a great battle, back-and-forth at the front, but he had way more power than me and I couldn’t match him on the fast bits.”
And so the No.4 will stay on Smith’s Yamaha for another season after he had also earned that ranking in 2016 and it’s a number that’s perhaps doubly significant because it also represents the number of times he’s won the nationals outright.
The sheep and beef farmer battled a succession of injuries last year – cutting his hand at work before the season had even begun and then crashing over the handlebars at round two of the nationals – but he still holds the record for having won more senior national cross-country titles than any other rider.
He won the New Zealand title outright in 2006, 2012, 2013 and 2014, before giving it up to fellow Yamaha rider Paul Whibley in 2015.
It remains to be seen how much time Smith will dedicate to a nationals campaign next season, with work on the farm demanding more of him these days, but he reckons he’s still got a few wins left in him.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here