The 20-year-old Honda ace was one of the biggest improvers at round two of the New Zealand Motocross Championships at Patetonga, near Morrinsville, on Sunday.
Phillips took his immaculate Hamilton Honda CRF250 to finish 6-5-3 in his three MX2 (250cc) class races on Sunday – showing improvement as the day progressed – and this has propelled him up three spots in the rankings.
With a bit of luck going his way, Phillips could achieve a top-three finish this season, an achievement that will set him up well for another stint of racing in England, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands later in the year.
Phillips had a tough time of it at the New Zealand series opener near Timaru two weeks ago, when he was just back on the bike a few weeks since his recovery from injury sustained in June last year.
He therefore found himself down in eighth spot overall at the end of the day at Timaru, but he is now positioned fifth in the points standings and just seven points behind the fourth-ranked rider, Waitakere’s Ethan Martens (Yamaha YZ250).
With the four-round series now at the halfway stage, Phillips is focussed on eliminating mistakes from his own riding, while forcing them upon his rivals.
“My starts let me down a lot at Patetonga,” said Phillips.
“We had practiced starts at home but our concrete start pad has a lot more grip than the one at Patetonga and I couldn’t get it together until the last race. I really enjoyed the track and how technical it got.
“I want to make a big shout out thanks to the factory Honda team for letting me come in and pit under their tent, and also to my sponsors, Hamilton Honda, Pirelli, Moto Graphic, Two Brothers Coaching, No Toil, and the (Belgian-based) Dirtbike-Gym race team that I’m joining up with in Europe as soon as I get my visa sorted.”
Phillips’ elder brother Michael also impressed at Patetonga on Sunday, bouncing back from the crash he sustained at round one near Timaru to place himself fourth overall for the day in the MX1 category, not too far behind fulltime professional riders Cody Cooper (Moto City Suzuki RM-Z450), of Mount Maunganui, Australian Todd Waters (Motorex KTM) and Scotsman Billy MacKenzie (JCR Yamaha Racing YZ450F).
Michael Phillips (Bel Ray Rowlinson Honda CRF450) had been stony last, 21st overall in the MX1 class after his blighted series opener, but he has remarkably now zipped up to 13th in the championship standings.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com