It’s never easy racing such a long way from home, especially when it’s only your second outing at the top international level of 125cc motocross competition, and a young man could be forgiven for feeling that life was a bit tough.
Bay of Plenty’s Wyatt Chase was clearly the dominant 125cc rider at the New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships in Hawke’s Bay in April, easily defending his national crown, but it is a massive step up to contest the European 125 (EMX125) Championships on the other side of the world.
The 16-year-old from Taupo took his Yamaha YZ125 and qualified in 27th position at the latest round of the EMX125 series, at Mantova, in Italy, at the weekend, a significant improvement on his fortunes at the previous round in the United Kingdom a week earlier where he’d scored no points.
The UK round of the series was his EMX125 debut, although already the fifth round of eight in the series and, being a no-show at the first four rounds, it meant he realistically had no chance of featuring near the top by season’s end anyway.
But the European experience has already been a valuable one for the Kiwi rising star.
“It race one (at Mantova), I got average start due to my bike not being as fast as everyone else’s (factory-prepared machines). But I worked my way up to eighth and was there for most of the race, until I faded near the end because it was so hot and I just overheated, so I finished 11th.” he explained.
Chase’s fastest lap time was only three seconds slower than the race winner, French rider Stephen Rubini.
“In race two I got caught in a crash on the start and was dead last. They had flattened the whole track and ripped the soil deep and I just didn’t have enough horsepower, certainly not as much as the top guys, so I struggled to come back through the pack and ended up 31st for 17th overall for the event.
It was significant for Chase because he was now in the points, had moved himself off the bottom of the championship standings and was into 40th place overall.
His next EMX125 event is round seven, at Lommel in Belgium, on July 31, with his appearance at the final round in Switzerland on August 7.
Chase returns to New Zealand immediately after that and he will make his senior debut at Taupo at the big annual MX Fest event on October 23.
Meanwhile, racing in the parallel but separate EXM250cc championships at Mantova, fellow Kiwi Josiah Natzke also experienced a difficult weekend.
The Hamilton teenager did not finish the first race and then battled back to finish a remarkable fifth in the next race, earning him 12th overall for the weekend.
This was his best performance of the season thus far and puts him now 26th overall in the championship standings after eight of 10 rounds of EXM250 competition.
Natzke’s final two EMX250 rounds share the programme with the EMX125 class, coming up in Belgium and Switzerland respectively.
KTM rider Natzke had raced his way to second overall in the EMX125 championships last season.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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