It doesn’t get much closer than this.
After three rounds of cut and thrust racing, this year’s Suzuki New Zealand Cross-country Championships will go right down to the wire at the fourth and final round near Ashhurst this weekend.
Saturday’s three-hour senior race will be a fight to the death between up to half a dozen riders and it’s a similar scenario in the chase for junior honours, with at least three young men vying for the title in their 90-minute off-road race.
The first round was near Christchurch in April, with Pahiatua’s Adam Reeves (Yamaha YZF450) winning the day. Reeves crashed out of the race at the second round near Waipukurau in early May, just as Te Awamutu’s Mark Penny (Suzuki RM-Z450) made his first appearance in the series a winning one.
The third round was south of Nelson just over a week ago and it was Mokau’s Adrian Smith (Yamaha WRF250) who sipped the champagne that day.
With three different riders claiming the outright glory at each of the early rounds and solid performances throughout from riders such as Pukekohe’s Luke Ramsey (Kawasaki KX125), Whitby’s Rory Mead (Yamaha YZF450), Wellington’s High Lintott (Honda CRF450) and Palmerston North’s Morgan Dransfield (Honda CRF450), it means there’s virtually nothing to separate the top five or six riders at the top of the standings.
With riders expected to discard their one worst result from the four rounds, it’s likely that whomever wins on Saturday will take the title.
Defending national champion Cam Smith (Suzuki RM-Z450), of Marton, and Norsewood’s Kevin Hermansen (Kawasaki KXF250) are also well positioned to claim a podium spot if the leading bunch strike problems at Ashhurst.
“It’s great to see the series going down to the wire,” said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Murray Searle.
“All eyes will definitely be on this weekend’s racing. We could not have scripted a better drama.”
In the battle of the women, Invercargill’s Kylie Dorr (Suzuki RM250) (pictured above) has a comfortable series lead but, with riders able to ditch their one worst result, it means that
Raetihi’s Letitia Alabaster (Yamaha YZF250) could snatch away the crown at Ashhurst.
In the junior racing at Nelson, Napier’s Lance O’Dea (Suzuki RM-Z250) won ahead of Raetihi’s Charles Alabaster (Yamaha YZF250), while Feilding’s Jordan Wilson (KTM 125 EXC) came home third.
That sets it up for another nailbiter near Ashhurst on Saturday with any one of those three riders capable of winning the title outright.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com