Te Awamutu’s Daniel White (Kawasaki KX250F) claimed the national junior title at the fourth and final round of the 2017 New Zealand Cross-country Championships near Cambridge at the weekend and it was probably the earlier groundwork that the Kawasaki ace had put in, as much as his tenacious performance on Saturday, that earned him the main trophy.
There were perhaps as many as four or five riders in contention for the outright title win at Saturday’s finale, but, in the end, it came down to a battle between White and Raglan’s Logan Shaw (Honda CRF250).
Whomever finished best on Saturday out of these two riders would claim the crown and Shaw had been looking the likely winner until, on the final lap, he crashed and got stuck in a bog, sensationally handing the title to White.
Saturday’s junior race was won by Oparau’s James Scott (KTM125SX), who finished ahead of Cambridge’s Seton Head (KTM 250 EXC-F) and then White, but Scott was a non-starter at the series’ earlier rounds and so was never in contention for the title.
That result, coupled with the two race wins he’d enjoyed at two of the earlier rounds, gave White the outright win. Riders were to discard their one worst result, so White skipping the second round of the series near Mosgiel in April was the obvious throw-away event for him.
White and his Wilks-Penny Motors Kawasaki KX250F were never off the podium all season, the 15-year-old wrapping up the junior phase of his career on Saturday with this milestone celebration.
“I saw Logan (Shaw) stuck in a bog. The main rut there was way too deep and so I gambled on going up the bank to bypass it,” said White.
“I held the throttle pinned and just hoped for the best and it worked out well for me. It wasn’t the safest option and I could so easily have come off the bike there.”
As well as winning the junior grade overall, White also won the national title in the over-200cc four-stroke class. Eltham’s Adam Loveridge (Husqvarna TX125) won the over-100cc two-stroke class and Dannevirke’s Ben Paterson (Honda) won the under-100cc class.
Meanwhile, in the senior ranks, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z450) has already successfully defended his title, the 26-year-old wrapping it up at the penultimate round in Marlborough two weeks earlier and he was satisfied to settle for third overall on Saturday, crossing the finish line behind former Kiwi champions Ben Townley (Suzuki RM-Z450) and Adrian Smith (Yamaha YZ250X)
White immediately transitioned to the senior ranks the following day, turning up to race with the “big boys” at the opening rounds of the combined Dirt Guide Series/NZXC Series staged at Ohakuri, south of Tokoroa.
Although up against many senior riders on 300cc and 450cc bikes, he finished a remarkable sixth overall in his senior cross-country debut on Sunday, also good enough to rank him third overall in the under-300cc four-stroke category.
Two more rounds remain for the Dirt Guide Series and there are six more rounds for the separate NZXC series as well.
Round two of the NZXC Series is due at Woodhill Forest, west of Auckland, on June 18, with the second round of the Dirt Guide Series set for Tar Hill, near Tokoroa, on June 25.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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