With just a handful of points to separate the top three riders in the premier MX1 class, the fourth and final round of the New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taupo on Sunday was always going to be a nail-biter.
Two Australians and a Kiwi would battle for the top spot in the MX1 class with just five points between series leader Cody Cooper and Australian pair Todd Waters and Dean Ferris.
Riding for the MC2 Suzuki Racing Team, Waters had come on strong at the previous round in Rotorua a week earlier and, just three points behind Cooper, he was perhaps in the best position to strike.
However, as would be expected, the crowd favourite was Bay of Plenty’s defending champion Cooper (Honda Racing Team CRF450) and he didn’t disappoint the home fans, doing just what was required to get the task completed – finishing 2-1-2 in his three races on Sunday – winning the title for a fourth consecutive season.
Unfortunately for Waters, fogged-up goggles in the day’s first MX1 race hindered his chance to progress and he was forced to settle for third.
Twice more he crossed the line in third position – although watching his remarkable charge through almost the entire field after crashing in turn one in the last race of the day worth the spectator entry fee alone – and this earned him third overall in the championship, behind fellow-Aussie Ferris.
Fourth best overall at the end of the series was Queenstown’s Scott Columb (Whyteline Kawasaki), with Waters’ MC2 Suzuki Racing Team-mate Brad Groombridge, of Taupo, rounding out the top five.
It was an impressive performance from the MC2 Suzuki Racing Team, the only team to finish with two riders inside the top five in the glamour MX1 class, and, while disappointed to finish the championship third overall, Waters was satisfied that he had achieved his main aim of the campaign, to build strength and confidence ahead of the Australian domestic series, set to kick off at Horsham, in Victoria, on April 3.
For Groombridge also the motocross nationals were a build-up of sorts.
He will now switch his attention to tackling two other parallel series – the New Zealand Cross-country Championships and the New Zealand Enduro Championships.
The 25-year-old locksmith won the opening round of the cross-country nationals near Huntly last month and will be keen to build on that at round two near Mosgiel on April 3, while he will also ride his 450cc Suzuki in the enduro nationals, set to kick off near Christchurch this coming Easter weekend.
“I was pretty consistent throughout the (motocross) series and really enjoyed my time with Todd (Waters). We shared quite a few laughs. I’m really looking forward to the other championships now too,” said Groombridge.
The other two championship classes were mostly settled before Taupo’s finale.
In the MX2 (250cc) class, Takaka’s Hamish Harwood (KTM) started the day with a 13-point lead over his nearest rival, Australian Jed Beaton (Yamaha), and, in the 125cc class, Ngatea’s Ben Broad (KTM) was 23 points ahead of his closest threat, Taupo’s Wyatt Chase (Yamaha).
Both Harwood and Broad prevailed on Sunday with solid, sensible riding and claimed their respective titles.
© Words and photo by Andy & Bridget McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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