It was a frustrating case of “what ifs” for the Kiwi contingent at the seventh round of 10 in the Australian Motocross Championships on the Sunshine Coast at the weekend.
New Zealand duo Kayne Lamont and Hamish Harwood have been solid contenders to win the MX2 (250cc) class across the Tasman this season, but, unless their luck changes over the three remaining rounds, either of them celebrating another Australian title win might be out of the question.
Mangakino’s Lamont won the Motocross Development (Under-19 years) title in Australia in 2012 and Takaka’s Harwood won the exact same title last season.
Both these young men have since stepped up to the MX2 class for 2014 and both riders have looked to be solid performers.
Lamont, the 2014 New Zealand MX2 champion, won the opening round of the Australian series near Melbourne back in March, but he crashed out of the opening race at round two at Appin, in New South Wales, in April.
The Husqvarna Red Bull WIL Sport BikesportNZ.com rider finished sixth in race two but had disappointingly slipped down from first to fourth in the standings, with Luke Clout (Serco Yamaha YZ250F) becoming the new championship leader.
The 21-year-old rebounded at round three at Wonthaggi, in Victoria, and was suddenly back up to second spot, just 13 points adrift of Clout.
But it was of the good, the bad and the ugly for Lamont at round four of the series at the Murray Bridge circuit, in South Australia, in May.
The good aspect of racing for Lamont was that he convincingly won the first of two MX2 (250cc) class races.
But then came the bad – Lamont was caught in a first-turn skirmish at the start of race two and dropped his bike. He picked up his bike and saw the handlebars and levers bent out of shape. By the time he’d managed to straighten it all out, he was last away by quite a considerable distance.
The ugly aspect was that he’d lost more ground on series leader Clout.
His experiences at round five of the series at Wanneroo, on the outskirts of Perth, Western Australia, in May could have come straight from the “believe it or not” files … Lamont takes up the story:
“I was getting down into bed the night before the racing, and I leaned down on my elbow, on the collarbone I broke in 2013, which jarred it. I was rolling around in pain in bed.
“I battled away with it all day (at round five in Perth), but in the second race of the day I had a crash which completely stuffed it. It’s weird that something stupid like that destroyed my day and possibly my championship hopes too.”
He was now back in fifth position in the championship overall, extremely frustrating for a young man who had shown so much potential early on.
At round six, at Swan Hill in Victoria last month, Lamont had another tough day and he slipped one more place to sixth overall in the series standings after finishing sixth and 12th in his two races.
He was fired up to rectify matters at round seven at Conondale, near Coloundra, on the Sunshine Coast, a week ago, but once again Lady Luck decided she’d have some fun at his expense.
First of all he “dodged a bullet” when his bike’s drive chain snapped and narrowly missed lacerating his leg during testing at the end of Saturday’s set-up session. If that had happened on race day, at full race speed, the consequences could have been frightful, not to mention that he’d almost certainly have scored no points.
As it turned out, there was another nasty surprise in store for Lamont the following morning.
A heavy landing on a jump in Sunday’s opening race shattered a dozen spokes on his rear wheel and he was forced to quit the race while he was running in third position.
“The back end of the bike felt very wobbly, like I had a really bad flat tyre … but it was worse than that.”
He fought back to finish second and third in the next two races, putting some amazing passes on his rivals as he slammed his bike viciously into the tight corners.
This meant he had salvaged something from the day, but again he’d failed to make up ground on the points leaders.
It is tragic to think that, had his spokes not shattered and he’d held third spot for the rest of that opening race, Lamont would have won the day at Conondale.
Instead, he ended the day ranked just 10th overall with a score card that read DNF-2-3, leaving the Kiwi champion now seventh overall with just three rounds remaining.
Lamont is only nine points away from catching fourth-ranked rider Caleb Ward, but he’ll need better luck at the rounds coming up if he’s to push his way back into title contention for a podium finish to the year.
Lamont has shown awesome pace and won two of the seven rounds thus far, but two non finishes have cost him dearly.
Meanwhile, fellow Kiwi rider Harwood, from Takaka, near Nelson, has been flying under the radar; almost ignored by the Australian media despite the fact he’s second in the standings.
Consistently finishing races and pocketing solid points at every round means that the former New Zealand junior motocross champion is within strike range of leader Clout.
The 19-year-old Harwood (CMR Red Bull KTM 250) qualified fastest at Conondale on Sunday and went on to log a 2-12-5 score card in his three outings.
His second race was particularly brutal. He was caught up in “some very aggressive riding” and crashed just two laps into the race, taking an age to get going again.
“I finished fifth overall (at Conondale), which is really just an ‘okay’ day,” said Harwood.
“But it’s good for the championship and I’m still in a good position to win the title.”
The next round is set for Raymond Terrace, in New South Wales, on August 3.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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Stu Lamont shows the rear wheel of Kayne Lamont’s bike, with a dozen spokes missing, after race one at Conondale. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Hamish Harwood enters into a discussion with a track official after he was concerned about “over-the-top aggressive riding” by another rider in race two at Conondale on Sunday. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
1) Caleb Ward 91 (35, 35, 21)
2) Errol Willis 85 (25, 28, 32)
3) Luke Clout 79 (28, 23, 28)
4) Josh Cachia 78 (23, 30, 25)
5) Hamish Harwood 77 (32, 19, 26)
6) Jay Wilson 72 (24, 24, 24)
7) Brenden Harrison 65 (30, 12, 23)
8) Dylan Long 64 (22, 22, 20)
9) Kale Makeham 63 (15, 26, 22)
10) Kayne Lamont 62 (DNF, 32, 30)
1) Luke Clout 463
2) Hamish Harwood (New Zealand) 447
3) Luke Arbon 420
4) Caleb Ward 404
5) Brenden Harrison 399
6) Kale Makeham 397
7) Kayne Lamont (New Zealand) 395
8) Jay Wilson 392
9) Errol Willis 325
10) Josh Cachia 235