Auckland Kawasaki rider Sam Greenslade finally achieved what he had been threatening to do all season when he won the fourth and final round of the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series near Tokoroa on Sunday.
The 25-year-old financial advisor put his Kawasaki KX250F into a solid position soon after the shotgun blast that signalled the start at the forest course at Tar Hill, about 15 kilometres south of Tokoroa, and then moved into third place after the opening lap.
“I got into the lead on the second lap (of five), but then had to come into the pits for fuel and that’s when (Auckland’s) Chris Birch caught and passed me for the lead.
“When Birch came into the pits a lap later, I re-took the lead and held on to win the (two-hour) race by about 40 seconds. I didn’t win by a lot, but it was comfortable enough,” said Coatesville’s Greenslade afterwards.
Runner-up on Sunday was Kiwi international and multi-time national enduro champion Birch (KTM 350 XC-F), of Glen Eden, with Reporoa motocross ace Hadleigh Knight (Husqvarna CR250) finishing third.
Taikorea’s Paul Whibley (Yamaha YZ450F) had been unbeatable in the early part of the series, winning the first three rounds, and therefore he didn’t have anything to prove on Sunday, but it still wasn’t the kind of finish to the series that he’d planned when he was forced out of Sunday’s race with mechanical problems.
It didn’t really matter in the big scheme of things, with the title already in the grasp of 37-year-old former Kiwi international Whibley, but the fight was on for the No.2 spot overall, with Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (Husqvarna TE250) and North Shore rider Greenslade close on the scoreboard.
Greenslade won this series last season and has had his work cut out trying to match Whibley this year, although he managed to finish overall runner-up to Whibley at round two and, with only three of four rounds to be counted as riders discard their worst result, it put him level with Whitaker before the start of Sunday’s final showdown.
But Whitaker opted out of the final round after sustaining an injury during the week, further removing pressure from Greenslade.
Whitaker was naturally disappointed to be unable to finish the series.
“I was frustrated I couldn’t have been on the bike at the final round of the Dirt Guide Series,” said Whitaker.
“However, I’m still happy I got to bring this cool No.1 home for winning the over-200cc two-stroke class.”
Whitaker finished third outright for the series, behind Whibley and Greenslade.
In addition to winning the final round and finishing overall runner-up for the series, Greenslade also won the battle-within-a-battle for under-300cc four-stroke class honours, while Whibley won the over-300cc four-stroke class and Gisborne’s Duncan Summerfield (KTM 200 XC) won the under-200cc two-stroke class.
Te Awamutu’s Daniel White (Kawasaki KX125) won the 90-minute junior race staged earlier in the day, leading home Ekatahuna’s Chris Dickson (Suzuki RMZ250) and Hamilton’s Lachlan Bishop (Yamaha YZ125).
The mini race was won by Taupo’s Will Yeoman (Kawasaki KX85), finishing ahead of Rotorua’s Daniel Bates (Suzuki RM85) and Te Awamutu’s Ryan White (Honda CRF150).
“It’s a shame that Paul (Whibley) and Jake (Whitaker) weren’t a challenge to me today, because it would have been nice to beat them on the track,” said Greenslade. “It was still great to beat Chris (Birch) and Hadleigh (Knight) though.
“My season didn’t start well because I needed to have a knee operation just before round one and so I wasn’t fully fit or prepared.
“I hit form again (when finishing fifth in the MX2 class and also runner-up in the MX1 class, riding the same KX250F in both categories) at the first round of the North Island Motocross Championships in August. And then I won the day in the MX2 class at the second and final round of that series in Hawke’s Bay two weekends ago.”
Meanwhile, Whibley was philosophical about his unaccustomed DNF at the final round.
“I had the holeshot and was leading the race, but then I had problems with my clutch adjuster … the thread was stripped and I couldn’t fix it. But I’d done the job and won the series already, so there was no point carrying on.
“This has been a really good series. (Organiser) Sean Clarke always produces great events and they are great to be part of.
“My next big race is to tackle the first round of the NZ GNCC at Matata, near Whakatane, this coming weekend.”
Incidentally, round two of the NZ GNCC is co-sanctioned with Whibley’s own NZXC series (set for Maddix Park, Tauranga, on November 14).
The Dirt Guide Series was sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots and Yoshimura.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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