The 21-year-old from Mount Maunganui arrived at Hawke’s Bay’s Ngaruroro Raceway circuit, near Fernhill, for Sunday’s third round of four in the New Zealand Motocross Championships with the series leader’s red number plate proudly displayed on his Transdiesel Shell Advance Kawasaki KX250F bike, Natzke eight points clear at the top of the talent-laden MX2 (250cc) class.
He then proceeded to qualify fastest – ahead of visiting Australian Kyle Webster (Honda) – earning Natzke first selection for a position on the start gate, and he then converted that into a race win in the day’s first of three MX2 class races.
However, the next MX2 race was a disaster for Natzke.
He was sent tumbling when another rider smashed into him in the first corner and, badly shaken, he took an age to dust himself off, check his bike for damage and remount.
He was two-thirds of a lap behind the fast-disappearing bunch before he got going, but get going he certainly did, catching the tail end of the field and then clawing his way through the pack to eventually claim eighth overall at the chequered flag.
Perhaps gun-shy after the earlier first-turn incident, he found himself back in the field at the start of the third race too, but again he set about “minimising the damage” to his points tally and fought his way through to sixth at the finish.
Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (Yamaha) was the man to take the most advantage of Natzke’s misfortunes, finishing runner-up on the day to Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh (Yamaha), but doing enough to snatch the championship lead and it will be Purvis who now displays the leader’s red plate at the fourth and final round of the series in Taupo in two weeks’ time (on March 15).
Natzke has gone from eight points in front and top of the class at the start of the day at Fernhill, to second overall and four points behind Purvis, a massive 12-point turnaround.
“It was a tough day. I was the fastest rider on the track and winning the first race set me up for a good day. But it wasn’t to be and that’s racing for you,” said Natzke afterwards.
“When I got hit at the start of race two, totally out of my control, it took me a few minutes to check my body and bike was okay. I thought, ‘okay, if my body’s intact and my bike’s okay, then I better finish this race’. I was almost lapped by the time I got up, so I was a long way back.”
“I’ve got two weeks now to prepare for the final round and I want to come out and win it. I’m looking forward finishing it at Taupo.”
Meanwhile, there was a massive shake-up in the MX1 class as well, with an 11-point turnaround at the top of that title chase.
Australian Kirk Gibbs (Yamaha) has taken over the series lead in the MX1 class title chase, arriving at Fernhill with a six-point deficit to Mount Maunganui’s defending national champion Cody Cooper (Honda), and leaving Hawke’s Bay with a five-point advantage.
In the 125cc class, Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly (Husqvarna) continued to pile on the points at Fernhill, winning all three 125cc races on Sunday.
He now has two full races up his sleeve, a 64-point advantage over the next-best rider, Christchurch’ Marshall Phillips (Yamaha), as the riders head to Taupo for the final showdown.
It is interesting to note that Natzke was so incredibly swift at the weekend that he clocked the fastest lap time of the entire event, posting a time that was a second quicker even than Sunday’s MX1 class winner Gibbs, who was racing a 450cc bike.
Natzke is supported by Kawasaki NZ, Transdiesel, Shell Advance Lubricants, Mainstream, Bridgestone, Rekluse, Alpinestars, 100%, Un4Seen Graphics, Pro Circuit, Moto HQ, Polisport, Koromiko Engineering, RK Chains, CFX Seats, Goodbuzz, Renthal Handlebars and MTX Sprockets.
Championship leaders after round three at Fernhill on Sunday are:
MX1 class: 1. Australia’s Kirk Gibbs, 211 points; 2. Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, 206; 3. Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, 182; 4. Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont, 149; 5. Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, 138.
MX2 class: 1. 2. Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, 183 points; Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, 179; 3. Oparau’s James Scott, 172; 4. Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh 161; 5. Australia’s Caleb Ward, 143.
Under-19 class: 1. Oparau’s James Scott, 225 points; 2. Australia’s Riley Ward, 184; 3. Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, 164.
125c class: 1. Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, 222 points; 2. Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips, 158; 3. Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, 157; 4. Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, 153; 5. Rongotea’s Zac Jillings, 132.
2020 FOX New Zealand Motocross Championships calendar:
Round 1 – Balclutha, Saturday, February 1;
Round 2 – Rotorua, Sunday, February 23;
Round 3 – Hawke’s Bay, Sunday, March 1;
Round 4 – Taupo, Sunday, March 15.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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