Bad luck seemed to plague the Yamaha ace at the opening round of the annual Dirt Guide Cross-country Series at Tar Hill, just south of Tokoroa, in June, when one incident after another turned it into an afternoon from hell for the popular racer.
The 29-year-old crashed soon after the start of the two-hour senior race and was in last position as the riders disappeared into the forest at Tokoroa and, just as he was starting to catch back up to the leaders, he crashed again, undoing all the hard work.
Despite these set-backs, Smith (Blackwoods BikesportNZ.com Yamaha YZ250F) finished fourth overall at Tar Hill, although it was not the sort of start he wanted for the four-round series.
Riders will discard their worst result, with only three of the four rounds to be counted, and Smith no doubt hopes his result from round one will wind up being his worst.
The competitors line up again at round two at Ohakuri, also near Tokoroa, on Sunday and Smith’s strategy for the endurance race is surprisingly simple – “just stay out of trouble and ride smoothly”.
Pahiatua’s Paul Whibley (Freedom Moto BikesportNZ.com Yamaha YZ450F) won the two-hour senior race at Tar Hill – finishing ahead of Howick’s Liam Draper (BikesportNZ.com Husqvarna TE125) and Wellington’s Jake Whitaker (Husqvarna TE250) – and many perhaps regard Whibley as favourite to make it two wins in a row on Sunday.
But not if Smith has anything to say about that.
“I see this as a chance to get my season back on track,” said Smith.
“I have not had much luck since the end of the nationals (where he finished runner-up to friend and arch rival Whibley) and it will be good to get one back on Paul.”
Taupo’s Wyatt Chase (Yamaha YZ125) won the 90-minute junior race at Tar Hill and, like Whibley, he will be favoured to win again on Sunday, although he can expect to be challenged again by Oparau’s James Scott (Husqvarna TC85) and Hamilton’s Lachlan Bishop (Yamaha YZ125).
The Dirt Guide series is a popular stand-alone event, separate from the nationals, and a perfect preparation for Kiwis wishing to head on to greater things, perhaps even to follow in the wheel-tracks of riders such as Whibley and Smith and race overseas.
The venue for the race this Sunday is in forestry land off State Highway One, near Atiamuri, about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo.
Round three of the Dirt Guide series is set for a new venue near Atiamuri on September 6. The fourth and final round is due to return to Tar Hill on October 4.
The series is sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots and Yoshimura.
Dirt Guide Cross-country Championships 2015:
Round one: June 14, Tar Hill, south of Tokoroa
Round two: August 9, Ohakuri, south of Tokoroa
Round three: September 6, Atiamuri (new venue)
Round four: October 4, Tar Hill, south of Tokoroa
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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