Bay of Plenty motorcycling ace Brad Groombridge has notched up yet another win at the popular annual Acerbis Four-Hour cross-country race near Taupo.
The Suzuki man from Taupo was the pre-race favourite to win this popular stand-alone event on Saturday and he didn’t disappoint.
He is now a record five-time outright winner of the marathon dirt bike race, an incredible four times now as a solo (ironman) rider.
Although he admits this year’s victory was probably his hardest-fought, he took the chequered flag a solid 23 seconds ahead of main rival Paul Whibley.
Third overall was the two-rider Rotorua combination of Barry Morris and Cam Negus, finishing 15 minutes further back.
Groombridge had found himself stuck in traffic soon after the shot-gun blast signalled the start at 11.30 am and he was faced with the mission of trying to slice through the congestion before the leaders opened up too much of a gap over him.
He swiftly weaved between riders and trees in an attempt to put himself into contention for the win and, although a four-hour race is never won on the opening lap, he managed to take the lead at the start of lap two, surprising Whibley with a quick pass as they exited the pit zone.
“Soon after that a lapper was ahead of me and, when I yelled at him to move over, he panicked and collided with me. Paul (Whibley) took the lead, but I soon caught back up to him,” the 27-year-old Groombridge explained.
“I had trouble with my goggles fogging up and so I ditched them. I couldn’t really see that well through most of the race because I ended up doing about five of the seven laps without goggles.
“It was tough trying to work out a spot where I could pass Paul without getting filled in by the dirt roost from his rear tyre. I managed to make that happen.
“It’s a tough race to ride solo, but I’ve been doing a lot of riding lately to build up my fitness. I will also be racing the motocross nationals in two classes this year, the MX1 and the MX2 as well. This should set me up well for defending my national cross-country title later in 2018.”
Groombridge is no stranger to riding solo at the Acerbis Four-Hour cross-country race – the gruelling marathon was also previously won outright by Groombridge in 2013, 2014 and last year too, on all three occasions competing as an ironman and each time riding a powerful 450cc four-stroke Suzuki RM-Z450.
He had created history with his 2013 victory, that win making him the first man to win it as an ironman, and he had also previously won the race outright in 2010, on that occasion part of a two-rider team, sharing the riding duties that day with Hawera’s former national motocross champion Daryl Hurley.
Run by Taupo company Epic Events, the Suzuki-backed event has been growing in popularity each year and more than 350 riders signed up this time around to tackle the gruelling dirt bike marathon, the venue again near Kinloch, about 25 minutes’ drive west of Taupo.
A wide cross-section of riders from various motorcycling codes came come together to race through the trees and over the pumice and sand of the Central Plateau, forming up as two-rider teams or simply choosing to go it alone as an ironman contestant, making this one of New Zealand’s premier off-road bike events.
The separate class winners were Groombridge (ironman big bore, 1st overall); Howick’s Liam Draper (ironman small bore, 4th overall); Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (junior 16-19 years ironman, 15th overall); New Plymouth’s Tony Parker (vets 35-44 years ironman, 25th overall); Papamoa’s Brendon McHardy (masters, over 45 years ironman, 72nd overall); Otorohanga’s Jan-Maree Pool (ironwoman, 92nd overall); Auckland’s Luke Mobberley and Damon Nield (big bore team, 5th overall); Raglan’s Jason Dickey and Brandon Given (small bore team, 10th overall); Rotorua’s Callum Dudson and Ethan Harris (junior team, 16-19 years, 13th overall); Morris and Negus (vets team, combined age of over 80 years, 3rd overall); Huntly’s Roger and Jake Russell (father and son team, 31st overall); Rotorua’s Nicolette Epps and Melissa Patterson (women’s team, 88th overall) and Auckland’s Rachel and Anthony Parker (mixed gender team, 56th overall).
A special Richie Ebbett Memorial Trophy was presented at the event for the first time this year, given to a “deserving rider” and Taupo’s Dan Harris was this year’s inaugural recipient.
“Dan (Harris) gives everything a go and is so enthusiastic and encouraging of others, just as Richie Ebbett was,” said event organiser Claire Bullock.
The 90-minute Motomuck Junior 90 race again acted as a “curtain-raiser” to the main race and that was won by Cambridge rider Seton Head, with Cambridge’s Callum Paterson runner-up and Napier’s Bryn Codd claiming the third podium spot. The top 85cc bike rider in this 90-minute race was Taupo’s Wil Yeoman.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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