He demonstrated that winning trophies is less about horsepower and more about bike reliability and handling and pure riding talent.
The 27-year-old plumber from Ararimu, east of Ramarama, took his Yamaha YZ125 to finish third overall at the third and final round of the popular Dirt Guide Series at Ohakuri, south of Tokoroa, on Sunday and this, coupled with his fourth overall finish at round one in May and his runner-up result at round two last month, enabled him to win the senior Dirt Guide trophy outright.
Despite lining up in the senior expert grade to race alongside riders on 250cc, 300cc and 450cc bikes, Sutton (pictured above on bike No.64) and his 125cc bike were quick off the mark when a shotgun blast signalled the start to the two-hour senior race, just after midday.
He was among the leading bunch of riders as the bikes shot off the forestry road and into the undergrowth for the first time and he found himself fifth overall at the end of the first of what would eventually be five 15-kilometre laps.
Sutton knew he didn’t need to be concerned that Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM 300XC) was leading the race, or that Titirangi’s Callan May (Yamaha YZ240FX, pictured above on bike No.918) was in the second position, because neither of these two men had raced the series opener and were therefore well behind in the series points.
Sutton’s focus instead on Sunday was on staying ahead of Cambridge rider Ashton Grey (Yamaha YZ450FX), the young man who had started the weekend just two points behind Sutton.
In the end, May snatched the lead from Whitaker and went on to win the race by one minute from Whitaker, with Sutton moving up to claim third overall, seven minutes further back, and Grey was forced to settle for fourth, crossing the finish line just over a minute behind Sutton.
This made it a Yamaha 1-2-3 for the series, with Sutton winning from Grey and May claiming third overall, despite him contesting only two of the three rounds.
May, who had also won the previous round of the Dirt Guide Series in June, took three laps before he could find a way past Whitaker on Sunday.
“I had a bit of arm pump to deal with, but was happy to stalk Jake (Whitaker) and check out his lines,” said May afterwards
“I have been away from racing for the past eight months because of injury, so it was good to be back on the pace.”
Sunday’s racing doubled also as the first round of six in the parallel-but-separate Yamaha NZXC Series and Sutton will now be hoping that he can maintain his momentum and push on to further glory in this longer series as well.
Riders such as Grey, May, and the Dirt Guide Series’ eventual fourth and fifth-ranked riders Blake Wilkins (Whitianga) and Bradley Lauder (Rotorua), among others, will no doubt be keen to continue on and challenge for glory throughout the rest of the NZXC Series too.
Taupo’s Will Yeoman (Yamaha YZ125) won the 90-minute junior races at both the previous rounds of the Dirt Guide Series and he wrapped up the junior trophy with a solid runner-up finish on Sunday.
Napier’s Bryn Codd (Yamaha YZ125), in his sole Dirt Guide Series showing, won Sunday’s junior race.
Junior runner-up for the series was Oparau’s Hunter Scott (KTM 85SX), with Morrinsville’s Liam Calley (Kawasaki KX250F) claiming third overall.
The Dirt Guide Series was sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots, Yoshimura and Forest Trail Events and SatCo Logging Equipment.
The Yamaha NZXC Series continues at Taikorea, near Palmerston North, on August 5; the Woodhill Forest on September 2; Matata on October 13; then Woodhill again, on November 10, and it finally wraps up at Waimiha on December 8.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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