Aucklander Tom Buxton is going places, fast.
In just his fourth season in the premier grade, the 20-year-old from Helensville is now the man to beat on the national enduro scene, although the writing had probably been on the wall for quite some time before that.
In 2014, Glen Eden’s Chris Birch (KTM) was dominating the sport at the top level here and the then 16-year-old Buxton was heralding his “arrival” in the sport by winning five out of six rounds to claim the intermediate grade trophy.
Buxton finished 10th overall on debut in the top grade the following season, in 2015.
A year later and Buxton was regularly finishing among the top 10. At the end of that 2016 season he finished with a ranking of eighth overall and actually took his KTM 200 XC to win the expert under-200cc two-stroke crown.
Last year he rode a KTM 350 EXC-F and finished the season fifth overall.
Fast forward to 2018 and he’s now the top dog after the first two rounds of this year’s five-round New Zealand Enduro Championships series – round one staged near Whangamata on Saturday and round two held near Tokoroa on Sunday.
He won the day at Whangamata on Saturday by just three seconds from 2016 national enduro champion Brad Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z250), of Taupo, and he then followed that up by winning day two at Tokoroa by 21 seconds, on this occasion finishing ahead of fellow KTM rider Sam Greenslade, from Coatesville.
“Winning round one surprised me a bit and then winning round two as well was even more of a surprise to me,” said Buxton.
“I’m riding the same bike I rode last year, a KTM 350 EXC-F, but a 2018 model, and I feel very comfortable on it. My aim at the weekend was simply to ride without making mistakes.
“It was very slippery at Whangamata on Saturday and so I couldn’t be aggressive. It was different on Sunday, quite a fast course, but again I was being cautious.
“I stalled the bike at one point today, but, other than that minor thing, it was a trouble-free run.”
Unfortunately, this may be Buxton’s only two appearances in the domestic series this season as he now heads off next month for a “fun ride” in Romania and then a serious competitive outing in Austria, at the Erzberg “Iron Giant” from May 31-June 3.
This means that Groombridge, second in the overall standings for the New Zealand championships after these first two rounds, and Greenslade, third but just two points further back, become the two men most favoured to win the Kiwi crown this season.
“It’s a bit of a shame that I won’t be here (to keep Groombridge and Greenslade honest), but I’m really looking forward to my overseas adventure.”
Round three of the New Zealand champs series is set for Maruia, near Nelson, on May 26.
Leading overall standings after two of five rounds of the 2018 New Zealand Enduro Championships:
1. Tom Buxton (Helensville, KTM) 50 points (maximum); 2. Brad Groombridge (Taupo, Suzuki) 42; 3. Sam Greenslade (Coatesville, KTM) 40; 4. Dylan Yearbury (Cambridge, Husqvarna) 38; 5. Chris Power (Paeroa, Honda) 32; 6. Jake Whitaker (Wainuiomata, KTM) 30; 7. Josh Hunger (Stratford, Husqvarna) 26; 8. Mackenzie Wiig (Napier, KTM) 23; 9. Phil Singleton (Hamilton, Husqvarna) 22; 10. Mitchell Nield (Kaikohe, Yamaha) 22.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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