His boss did it 35 years ago, and Queenslander Kirk Gibbs was more than happy to follow this example at the weekend, winning the 2018 New Zealand MX1 crown.
KTM Australia general manager Jeff Leisk won New Zealand’s premier motocross crown during his one and only Kiwi campaign, in 1983, and this year it was the turn for Gibbs to become only the second Australian since Leisk to capture the MX1 or open class motocross trophy across the Tasman and only the fourth Australian overall since Craig Dack won the 250cc title in New Zealand in 1986 and Jay Wilson won the MX2 title in 2015.
To be fair, the 29-year-old Gibbs wasn’t even born when Leisk and Dack reigned supreme, but the winning exploits of these elder Australians are legendary and surely a part of Aussie motocross folklore.
The examples of Leisk, Dack and Wilson aside, Gibbs is actually no stranger himself to winning in New Zealand, having won major silverware on his previous visit to New Zealand in 2015, collecting the NZ GP title at the Woodville motocross that year, but this latest victory was even more special.
When the Gold Coast rider arrived at the Taupo circuit, venue for Saturday’s fourth and final round of the 2018 New Zealand Motocross Championships, he was on top of the standings and six points clear of his nearest challenger, 24-year-old Waikato rider Kayne Lamont (Yamaha).
Lamont had led the series after rounds one and two but who lost his grip at a muddy round three near Hastings the previous week, on that day allowing a consistent Gibbs to grab the series lead. Gibbs had finished with a 2-2-2 score-card at Hastings, turning a nine-point deficit into the six-point advantage.
Gibbs therefore knew he simply needed to keep a cool head to keep Lamont at bay at Saturday’s final event.
Gibbs “played it safe” and finished the day second overall at Taupo, his 1-3-3 score-card in the three MX1 races enough for him to secure the title.
Lamont experienced a “horror” weekend and managed only 10th overall for the day, while defending New Zealand MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Honda), of Mount Maunganui, won the day.
Gibbs’ MX1 title win not only broke the MX1 title drought for Australia in New Zealand, but he also broke a KTM drought in the country.
The last time a KTM rider won the premier title in New Zealand was Taranaki’s Shayne King in 1997.
“I didn’t feel the flashest in qualifying but I found a good line over the back of the circuit and made it happen. I felt like I really flowed today,” said Gibbs.
“I felt at ease and was just cruising in the end. I knew where I had to be and what I had to do in the last race and I felt fine. I wasn’t pushing hard and felt I could have raced at that pace for like an hour.
“I rode safe and sensible and brought it home.
“This is a huge confidence-booster ahead of my Aussie nationals campaign. Everything is starting to click. I have no injuries at this stage, like I did in the past couple of years.
“I can’t thank enough for the support shown to me by Karl Brabant and Patrick Stafford at KTM in New Zealand.”
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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LEADING FINAL STANDINGS:
1. Kirk Gibbs (Australia, KTM) 261 points; 2. Cody Cooper (Mount Maunganui, Honda) 250; 3. Kayne Lamont (Hamilton, Yamaha) 222; 4. Rhys Carter (Mount Maunganui, Kawasaki) 209; 5. John Phillips (Rotorua, Honda) 198.
MX2 (250cc) class:
1. Hamish Harwood (West Auckland, KTM) 297 points; 2. Brad Groombridge (Taupo, Suzuki) 227; 3. Jay Wilson (Australia, Yamaha) 197; 4. Hayden Smith (Taihape, KTM) 187; 5. Micah McGoldrick (Rangiora, Honda) 165.
National 125cc class:
1. Maximus Purvis (Mangakino, Yamaha) 294 points; 2. Tommy Watts (Wairoa, Husqvarna) 212; 3. Mason Semmens (Australia, KTM) 204; 4. Josh Bourke-Palmer (Rotorua, Yamaha) 202; 5. Grason Veitch (Dunedin, KTM) 195.
Full results can be found here: