But the 20-year-old builder from Silverdale, just 30 kilometres north of Auckland, blasted back into the spotlight with a scintillating performance at the 60th annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville at the weekend.
What’s more, he raced in two of the premier categories, hit the podium in one of those and all of that while he was giving the newly-minted Gas Gas bike brand its first New Zealand outing at a major race meeting.
It was a debut/comeback to remember for the Gas Gas brand and for former Taihape man Smith.
The Woodville motocross was not just the traditional annual Grand Prix title event for the sport, but also this year it represented the first round of four in the New Zealand Motocross Championships series and so that also meant Smith was well and truly back among the elite.
After his six races on Sunday – three in the MX2 (250cc) category and three in the MX125 class – Smith found himself fifth equal (level with Wellington’s Adam Moss, KTM) and second overall (behind Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, Husqvarna) in the two classes respectively and therefore solidly positioned as he heads to the second round of the championships in Rotorua in three weeks’ time.
“I’m definitely stoked with my showing at Woodville,” said Smith afterwards. “Karl Brabant (the Gas Gas team manager) did such a great job with the bikes.
“I was pretty pleased to get on the podium in the 125cc class. It would obviously have been nice to get the win in that class. I had a little bit of bad luck in the MX2 class when I got taken out (crashed into) at the start of race two, but I managed to come through the field and finish sixth. My lap times were good enough for a top-three finish. I got third in the last race.
“I’ve missed two years of nationals actually, so it’s great to be back and doing so well. In 2018 I ruptured my bowel and that put me out for a whole year. Then I had a small practice crash at the start of 2020 and broke some ribs, so that put me out of last year’s nationals too.
“I’m back to full fitness now, although I guess you can always improve, no matter how good you are.”
While Smith gave the Gas Gas brand a sparkling introduction during senior racing on Sunday, the stylish red machines were also brilliantly showcased in the junior segment of the programme on Saturday.
Auckland’s Lachlan Bourn took his Gas Gas MC85 to win the 14-16 years’ 85cc class on Saturday, his 1-1-3 score-card over the three races giving him an eight-point win over the two riders who finished equal runners-up, Whanganui’s Troy Bullock and Invercargill’s Ryan Harris, both of them on KTM bikes.
Bourn will certainly be worth watching out for, to see if he can repeat at the annual New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships near Tauranga this coming weekend.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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