The multiple championship-winning rider from West Auckland was in scintillating form at his first big work-out of the 2020-21 motocross season on senior race day on Sunday, the 25-year-old taking his CML Racing Team KTM 450F to win the opening MX1 race at the big annual two-day MX Fest event in Taupo.
He then twice finished runner-up to multi-time former national MX1 champion Cody Cooper and Harwood led the class overall after the three regulation races after Cooper had finished only fifth in the opening race.
The riders then lined up for the novelty shoot-out segment of the race programme.
It started with the top 36 riders from the 125cc, MX2 (250cc) and MX1 categories and, after a succession of one-lap sprints, with riders eliminated each time, it came down to a three-rider, one-lap dash for glory, Harwood lined up alongside fellow “survivors” Cooper (Motul Honda) and Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont (JCR Yamaha).
Cooper won that race, with Harwood runner-up and Lamont third and that’s also how the MX1 class was decided overall.
Harwood and Cooper were actually level on points in the final count-up, but Cooper got the nod for the No.1 spot thanks to the count-back rule.
Nonetheless, Harwood drew great praise and confidence from the equal-first finish being achieved so early in the season.
With “more work to do” before the national championship series, starting in February, national MX1 No.3 Harwood has shown he will be a serious title contender again in 2021.
“I actually felt a little bit off today,” Harwood confided. “I didn’t feel I could be as aggressive as I’d have liked. All in all, though, I’m happy. It’s a new bike and I’m getting used to it still. I wasn’t being too cautious … I was just trying to ride smart.
“I’ll just keep up my training now. I’m not at 100 percent full fitness yet, but I’m in a good position for this early in the season.”
Also outstanding during junior racing the previous day were KTM stalwarts Tyler Brown (14-16 years’ 250cc class), from Pukekawa, Hamilton’s Dylan Westgate (15-16 years’ 125cc class), Te Puke’s Flynn Watts (12-14 years’ 125cc class), Pukekohe’s Reuben Smith (12-16 years’ 85cc class) and Taupo’s Declan Connors (8-11 years’ 85cc class), each of these individuals the winner of their respective category.
This made it a KTM clean sweep in the junior grade.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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