Rotorua’s Michael Phillips already owns the national MX2 (250cc) motocross crown and now he wants to add the MX1 (open class) title to his impressive curriculum vitae.
The 24-year-old Bay of Plenty rider picked up his second national 250cc motocross title last season and now he’s stepped up to the bigger 450cc bikes with high hopes of claiming glory there too.
After the second round of four in the 2011 Demon Energy New Zealand Motocross Championships at Patetonga, just outside Morrinsville, the Honda star knows he has the pace to do just that, although he might have to wait until the final round in Taranaki in March before he can hope to achieve that.
Phillips finished runner-up, just three points behind former Grand Prix star Josh Coppins (MXDK Rockstar Yamaha) at the opening round of the series near Timaru, just over a fortnight ago, setting himself up as the man most likely to challenge for the title won by his Honda team-mate, Christchurch’s Justin McDonald (Timaru Honda), last season.
Phillips followed that up with a blistering start to his campaign at Patetonga, taking his Honda Hamilton CRF450 to a stunning win in the day’s opening MX1 race, leaving Coppins coughing in his dust.
But the day started to unravel after that and a flat front tyre, followed by a succession of crashes, meant his assault lost the sharp edge.
“I suffered a flat tyre while leading the second race and all I could do was ride conservatively and try to salvage some points,” said Phillips.
He finished eighth in that race and then struck problems in the next outing too, being spat over the handlebars in a spectacular crash.
“The crash broke my rear brake and the best I could do was finish sixth,” he lamented.
Despite those disasters, Phillips still finished the day on the podium, behind Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (Power Balance Suzuki) and series leader Coppins, and he is just 14 points off the top spot.
“It’s a pretty positive result considering what went on today,” said Phillips. “I gave a few points away today but I can look forward now to the next round in Rotorua (on March 20).”
In the MX2 class, Phillips’ 24-year-old Honda team-mate Cody Mackie also had a day to forget but he, too, remains on target to win the title.
Australian rider Mackie took his Timaru Honda CRF250 to 7-1-8 results on Sunday, good enough only for third spot on the podium, but he is only three points behind new series leader Darryll King (MXDK Rockstar Yamaha), of Hamilton, in the championship chase and just two points ahead fellow Australian Daniel McCoy (Power Balance MotoGB Suzuki).
“It wasn’t the best day for me,” Mackie admitted. “But I still finished on the podium, so that’s okay. I just need a little bit of luck to go my way.”
Fourth overall in the MX2 class after two rounds is Wairarapa’s Luke Burkhart (CMR Race Team KTM), perhaps the fastest rider in the class but also the unluckiest.
He crashed out of the day’s first race at Patetonga but then bounced back to finish 2-1 in the next two races.
Tauranga’s Peter Broxholme (Botany Honda CRF250) is also still in the hunt for MX2 honours, finishing the day fifth equal overall to now find himself fifth overall in the series standings.
“I was consistent all day and that’s been the secret really,” said the 29-year-old Broxholme. “I have consolidated my position and will just have to see where the racing takes me at the next two rounds.”
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com