The West Auckland-based rider, a key member of the high-profile CML KTM Racing Team, and an overworked builder during the week, took a typical no-nonsense approach to his latest national championship campaign and for that he was rewarded at the fourth and final round of the New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taupo on Sunday when he clinched the premier MX1 class title for 2021.
He took his powerful KTM450SX-F to finish the series a solid 10-points ahead of his main rival, Mount Maunganui’s seven-time former national MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Honda CRF450).
Harwood was New Zealand junior 250 champion in 2011, the Australian Under-19 Champion in 2013, was twice Australian MX2 class runner-up (in 2014 and 2018) and was outright winner of the coveted GP trophy at the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville in 2020.
As for his New Zealand senior motocross championship crowns, Harwood won four New Zealand MX2 (250cc) titles (in consecutive years between 2016 to 2019) and double-classed in 2019 to also win the 125cc championship that year, before clinching the premier MX1 title this time around.
With this year’s success, it now makes it seven major senior New Zealand trophies won by him in the past five years.
Harwood had built up a commanding 23-point advantage after the early three rounds and he headed to Taupo for the final showdown on Sunday confident in the knowledge that the pressure was off him.
He was therefore comfortable on Sunday to see Cooper reel off three straight wins, knowing that a “steady as you go” approach would be enough to get the job done.
However, the championship chase was actually just a little bit closer than the 10-point final margin might suggest.
Harwood nearly saw his title hopes evaporate in the first of his three MX1 class races on Sunday when he and another rider collided in the first corner after the start.
Several spokes on Harwood’s front wheel were ripped out by the foot-peg on the other rider’s bike and, although Harwood recovered from last position in that race to claim third at the chequered flag, it would so easily have been a non-finish result for him and potentially a lost title too.
“It was pretty wobbly and, over the jumps, I kept looking down at the wheel to see if it was holding together. I just nursed it to the finish,” said Harwood, that statement remarkable in itself if his idea of “nursing” the bike was still fast enough to earn him a podium result.
The broken wheel replaced, Harwood finished runner-up in the next race and then crossed the finish line third in his final outing, a fist pump as he flew past the chequered flag a mix of relief and celebration.
“I’d done all the hard work before we got to Taupo really. I was just managing it from there, taking it race by race,” said the 25-year-old Harwood.
“The goal here at Taupo was just to get three good starts and finish the races. That’s all I really needed to do, although there was a scary moment in that first race when I got taken down. I was lucky to finish that race.
“I wasn’t pushing it or even going particularly fast today. I didn’t want to get in a fight and tangle with Cody (Cooper). I was cruising in the end.
“I’ll be back to defend the title next year. The bike was fantastic and it was just up to me to put it where I needed it to go.”
Meanwhile, Harwood’s young team-mate and an apprentice builder who also works with Harwood, Clevedon’s Cobie Bourke, also shone out at Taupo on Sunday, riding a 250cc two-stroke bike against the mostly 450cc four-stroke bike riders in the MX1 class and finishing the series ranked 10th overall.
The 16-year-old also rode a KTM125 in the MX125 class and finished runner-up by just 14 points to Silverdale’s Hayden Smith (Gas Gas).
This was Bourke’s second senior campaign – he finished third in the 125cc class last year and ninth in the MX2 (250cc) class, so his performances this season shows the teenager is fast developing into a senior rider of note.
“Riding two classes was pretty hard work, but I’m fit enough,” said Bourke. “My boss (Harwood) gives me plenty of time off to train. He’s obviously keen on motocross too,” he laughed.
Final leading standings in the 2021 senior NZ Motocross Champs:
MX1 class: 1. West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, 254 points; 2. Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, 244; 3. Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, 215.
MX2 class: 1. Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, 266 points; 2. Oparau’s James Scott 223; 3. Silverdale’s Hayden Smith, 204.
Under-19 class: 1. Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, 225 points; 2. Te Aroha’s Luke Van Der Lee, 211; 3. Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips 180.
MX125 class: 1. Silverdale’s Hayden Smith, 245 points; 2. Clevedon’s Cobie Bourke, 231; 3. Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, 230.
MX3 class (three rounds only): 1. Matamata’s Darryll King, 193 points; 2 Whakatane’s Darren Capill, 188; Te Awamutu’s Jed Bixley, 120.
Women’s Cup (two rounds only): 1. Motueka’s Roma Edwards, 122 points; 2. Opunake’s Taylar Rampton, 107; 3. Rotorua’s Letitia Alabaster, 100.
YZ65 Cup (one round only): 1. Oropi’s Townley, 50 points; 2. Tokoroa’s Levi Rodgers, 44; 3. Oropi’s Jaggar Townley, 40.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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