The 25-year-old Taupo man, an integral member of the MC2 Racing Suzuki motocross team, is branching out this season and the motocross star could now be on track to win national titles in a couple of similar but different motorcycling codes.
The national MX1 motocross No.5 was at his explosive best at the first round of four in this season’s New Zealand Cross-country Championships near Huntly on Sunday, taking his Suzuki RM-Z450 motocross bike into the lead on lap one of the three-hour race and never looking back.
Mokau’s four-time former national No.1 Adrian Smith (Yamaha YZ250FX) finished runner-up in the three-hour race, nearly three minutes behind Groombridge, with Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade (Kawasaki KX250F), Pahiatua’s Charles Alabaster (Honda CRF450) and Howick’s Liam Draper (Husqvarna FE250) rounding out the top five.
“I had a reasonable start, although it wasn’t great, and I just set about passing riders as quickly as I could,” said the 25-year-old Groombridge.
“I was into the lead about two-thirds of the way through lap one.”
“I could see I had a good lead, so I didn’t get carried away by pushing too hard, but I won by a comfortable margin in the end.
“I had my helmet off and was already relaxing in the pits by the time Adrian (Smith) finished.
“I am pretty excited to be able to race the cross-country nationals this season. Previously there had been clashes with the dates and I couldn’t do more than one series.”
Groombridge is currently sixth overall in the parallel motocross nationals after the first of four rounds and, with that competition also tight – Groombridge just two points off fourth place – the Taupo man will be fighting wars on two (or perhaps three) fronts in the coming weeks.
Round two of the motocross nationals is set for the Manawatu region this coming Sunday and Groombridge will switch his focus to that.
He is also contemplating an assault on the New Zealand Enduro Championships this year, that series set to kick off near Christchurch on March 26.
“I want to ride as many races as I can this season.”
Groombridge and Draper had teamed up to win the Cambridge Four-Hour Cross-country race a week ago and they are both obviously at the top of their game, although Smith, Greenslade and Alabaster, among others, are expected to keep the cross-country competition extremely tight this season.
“It had been quite wet in Huntly during the week, so conditions were perfect for racing on Sunday,” said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth, from Dannevirke.
“Alabaster was perhaps the biggest mover on Sunday. He worked his way through the traffic after a bad start and that was pretty impressive. He’s obviously quite fit.”
Meanwhile, Raglan’s Logan Shaw (Honda CRF250) won the 90-minute junior race held earlier on Sunday, crossing the finish line ahead of Taupiri’s Andrew Barr (Honda CRF250) and Nelson’s Jackson Walker (Yamaha YZ125).
The top 85cc class rider was Taupiri’s Zak Fuller (Kawasaki KX85), who finished 15th overall. Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer (Husqvarna TE125) finished a remarkable 12th overall to win the non-championship junior women’s grade
Rounds two, three and four of the national cross-country series will be held respectively in Mosgiel on April 3, Taranaki on April 16 and, finally, near Nelson on May 14.
Points only the best three of four rounds are counted, so riders will discard their worst result, ensuring the battle will go down to the wire.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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