The 23-year-old builder from Royal Heights took his CML Makita KTM Racing Team bikes into battle in two separate classes at the third round of four in the Fox-sponsored 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships near Pukekohe on Sunday and further strengthened his position at the top of both categories.
Harwood (KTM 250F) had been under pressure from visiting Australian MX2 (250cc) champion Wilson Todd (LMC Husqvarna 250F) in the MX2 class battles at rounds one and two of the series – and Todd actually won the opening MX2 race at race at Pukekohe too – but then the 20-year-old from Cairns came unstuck in race two, crashing out while battling with Harwood for the lead, and he took no further part in the day’s action.
With Harwood continuing on to win race two and then settling for third in race three, it meant he was the best-performed MX2 rider for the day and had bolstered his championship advantage.
From leading the series by just three points from Todd at the start of the day, to now be 35 points ahead of the new second-ranked rider in the class, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (Altherm JCR Yamaha YZ250F), it means Harwood has more than an entire race up his sleeve as the riders now head to Taupo’s final round in two weeks’ time.
Harwood’s position in the separate 125cc championship is even stronger.
Harwood won all three 125cc races at Pukekohe – he is actually unbeaten for the series in this class – and he is now a whopping 57 points clear of his nearest threat, Ngatea-based Placemakers KTM rider Ben Broad, meaning (with a race win worth 25 points) Harwood now has more than two races up his sleeve with just three more 125cc races still to come at Taupo’s final round.
“I’m pretty happy with my 125cc class results,” said Harwood. “I only did two laps in qualifying, to save my energy, because I felt my lap times were fast enough to put me in a good position already. As it turned out, I had done enough to qualify second fastest (behind main rival Broad) and that was good enough.
“For the MX2 class, I qualified third fastest. I wasn’t too disappointed with that because I knew I could go faster and a top-five in qualifying is good enough really.
“All-in-all I had a pretty good day, except that last MX2 race, when I blew the start and was back in about 15th position. It’s a really hard track to pass on and so I was pumped to be able to fight my way through and catch up to the leaders.
“I was telling myself ‘don’t do anything silly’, ‘you don’t need to win this’. But at the same time I don’t want to win a championship just by getting seconds and thirds.
“With what happened to Wilson (Todd) today, I can even afford to let him win all the races at Taupo because winning the title is the main aim. Everyone remembers who won the championships, not who won which race or what round.”
“I last raced the senior 125cc championships in 2011 and I finished sixth that year. But I guess I’m older, wiser and stronger now,” he laughed.
What’s perhaps most surprising is that this dual-class ironman is actually not at full strength at the moment.
“I am physically not 100 percent,” he said. “I am carrying injuries in both my shoulders. I am booked in to get both shoulders operated on immediately after the Taupo weekend.”
Meanwhile, Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (Alpinestars Motul Honda CRF450) leads the MX1 class by three points from visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs (Altherm JCR Yamaha YZ450F).
The fourth and final round of the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships is set for Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park on March 10.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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