It’s true the talented West Auckland man lined up with his 350cc four-stroke KTM 350SX-F model bike to race alongside full-time professionals, all armed with 450cc machinery, but Harwood would be the first to tell you that he was never really disadvantaged.
In fact, in addition to finishing the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships ranked a solid third overall in the premier MX1 class, Harwood also managed to qualify his bike fastest at the final round at Taupo last weekend.
Harwood was New Zealand motocross champion in both the 125cc and MX2 (250cc) categories last season, but this year he opted to concentrate solely on the MX1 class.
Racing for the high-profile CML KTM Racing Team, the 24-year-old builder was never over-awed by his illustrious main rivals, Australian professional Kirk Gibbs (Yamaha YZ450F) or Mount Maunganui-based Kiwi international Cody Cooper (Honda CRF450), and he simply went about his business is typical no-nonsense fashion.
Harwood even managed to finish runner-up on three memorable occasions – behind Cooper in one race at the series opener at Balclutha in early February; behind Gibbs in one race at round three in Fernhill in early March and then again behind Gibbs in one race at last weekend’s final round in Taupo.
Harwood could even afford to relax somewhat with the rider fourth in the standings a long way behind him.
“I’m pretty happy with my season,” said Harwood. “Gibbs and Cooper are two world-class professionals, so I can’t complain about being beaten by them. I was happy with my speed and don’t think my results always reflected that.
“I had two separate surgeries, in March last year and then in May, to repair damaged ligaments in my shoulder, so had been off a bike for about nine months before this year’s nationals,” he explained.
“So to come back and finish the 2020 nationals on the podium is pretty satisfying. Mind you, I think every rider is always trying to recover from one injury or another … that’s the nature of this sport,” he laughed.
Harwood had earlier in the season savoured success by winning the main trophy at the 59th annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville in January.
He finished with a 1-1-2 score-card in the MX1 class that day.
Meanwhile, KTM riders achieved podium finishes in all the championship classes at this year’s motocross nationals.
In addition to Harwood’s No.3 ranking in the MX1 class, Oparau’s James Scott took his 250cc KTM to finish third overall in the MX2 class, with the teenager also clinching the top spot in the battle-within-a-battle for Under-19 championship honours.
In the smallest bike division, the 125cc class, Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly took his Husqvarna to win the title, while KTM pair Madoc Dixon (Tauranga) and Cobie Bourke (Auckland) clinched the remaining two podium spots.
Harwood is supported by KTM New Zealand, CML KTM, Makita, Rucon Construction, Demon Energy, Fox, Serval Machinery Repairs, SK Designs, Pirelli, EBC, Acerbis, FMF, CFX, SIDI, Scott, DID, JT Sprockets, WP Suspension, Motorex, ODI, KTM Power Parts, Motomuck, Flight Path, G2 Throttles, Tamer Hole Shot Device and EZE Race Products.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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