The 16-year-old was simply unstoppable at the weekend’s 59th annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville, unbeaten in every race he started.
At an age in his racing career when it is permissible to “float” up and down between the junior and senior grades, the Husqvarna rider has grasped at any opportunity to ride, and so he was able to line up in the junior 15-16 years’ 125cc class at Woodville on Saturday and then back that up with entry in the senior 125cc class the following day as well.
Connolly took his 2020-model Husqvarna TC125 to win all three junior 15-16 years’ 125cc races on Saturday and then completed a hat-trick of wins also in the senior 125cc class on Sunday.
The popular two-day event on farmland east of the Manawatu Gorge was a perfect chance for Connolly to put in plenty of hot laps as he builds towards his second crack at winning the national senior 125cc crown – the four-round senior New Zealand Motocross Championships due to kick off at Balclutha this coming Saturday.
His success at Woodville also included him winning the coveted Roddy Shirriffs Memorial trophy, as the highest placed rider in the 125cc class aged under 22 years and, with Connolly aged just 16, he will have a few more opportunities to win that honour again in seasons to come.
Now on his way down to the nationals series opener at the bottom of the South Island, Connolly hopes for redemption after last year’s first-time bid for the senior 125cc title was shattered by injury.
He was sidelined for six months in 2019 with a broken knee bone, but is now back to 100 percent and the clear favourite to win the 125cc races at Balclutha on Saturday.
It is interesting to note that the man who won both the 125cc and 250cc titles at last year’s senior nationals, Auckland’s Hamish Harwood (KTM), has now stepped up to concentrate solely on winning the MX1 title, and so that’s at least one major obstacle removed from Connolly’s pathway to the top of the 125cc class this year.
Harwood won the MX1 class at Woodville on Sunday, the 24-year-old builder finishing ahead of Australian fulltime motocross professional Kirk Gibbs (Yamaha) and Waitakere truck driver Ethan Martens (Kawasaki).
Meanwhile, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (Yamaha) won the senior MX2 class at Woodville, beating Taupo’s Wyatt Chase (Honda) and Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke (Kawasaki) to the top of the MX2 podium.
Other class winners in the senior grades at Woodville on Sunday were Australian Charli Cannon (women’s class); New Plymouth’s Mitch Rowe (Veterans), Palmerston North’s James Galpin (River Race) and Rongotea’s Zac Jillings (Vintage MX class).
Other class winners in the junior grades on Saturday were Auckland’s Cobie Bourke (14-16 years’ 250cc class); Te Puke’s Kyan Loomans (12-14 years’ 125cc class); Invercargill’s Jack Symon (14-16 years’ 85cc class); Waitoki’s Cole Davies (12-13 years’ 85cc class); Invercargill’s Seth Morrow (8-11 years’ 85cc class); Tauranga’s Levi Townley (8-11 years’ 65cc class).
After Saturday’s opening round of the nationals, the competition heads to Rotorua for round two on February 23. Round three is set for Hawke’s Bay on March 1, with the fourth and final round in Taupo on March 15.
Connolly is supported by LMC Husqvarna, Elevate Roofing, un4seen Decals, CFX, Pirelli, Shift MX, Motorex, FMF, Scott, Pro Taper, WP Suspension, Acerbis, EBC, DID Chains, UNI, Motomuck, Flight Path, SIDI, G2 Throttles, Tamer Hole Shot Device, EZE Race Products, Vortex Ignitions and Serval Machinery Repairs.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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