He’s winning races and he’s just warming up.
Taupo’s Ben Townley is making a steady and well-measured return from injury, but already the 24-year-old off-road motorcycle ace is starting to impress.
Townley won the opening round of this year’s Bel Ray Cross-country Championships near Huntly on Sunday, taking over the lead and dominating from the second lap of the two-hour endurance race.
“It was quite a convincing win … despite the stars of the sport who were lined up against him,” said Metalman KMP Kawasaki team manager Mike Ramsey.
“He really showed his class today. He’s still not 100% ready to race motocross at the top level but he showed he’s definitely on the way back.”
Townley (Kawasaki KX450F) finished the race ahead of such notable riders as Mokau enduro ace Adrian Smith, Whitby’s national enduro champion Rory Mead, Auckland enduro legend Chris Birch, national under-200cc cross-country champion Luke Ramsey, of Auckland, Whangamata enduro ace Jason Davis and Auckland cousins Karl and Chris Power.
Townley, who was MX2 motocross world champion in 2004 and East Coast Lites Supercross Champion in the United States in 2007, said he “totally botched the start” of the race.
“The conditions were really dry and dust made visibility a problem but I picked off rider after rider and had taken the lead by the end of lap one,” said Townley.
“I just rode consistently from there.
“I want to say thanks to the Metalman KMP Kawasaki team for their support and to my day, Grant, and Scotty Wilkins for their help as well.
“I’m not a great cross-country rider and not a big fan of enduros but I had raced these Bel Ray events as a junior in past years and really enjoyed them.”
The event was a part of Townley’s build-up towards returning to top-level motocross and he will continue to ride his Kawasaki KX450F in other major events in New Zealand — the Whakatane Summercross at the end of December, the New Zealand Motocross Grand prix at Woodville in January and the Auckland Motocross Championships — before resuming his international career.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com