Silverdale-based former Taihape rider Hayden Smith took his Gas Gas MC125 to leap into the lead at the third round of four in the 2021 New Zealand Motocross Championships near Pukekohe on Saturday.
With Smith posting an impressive 1-1-2 score-card in Saturday’s three races in the MX125 class, he proved to be the most dominant individual of the day across any of the various bike categories.
It was certainly a furious dog-fight in the MX125 class at Pukekohe, with the series leader at the start of the day, Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon (Yamaha), dropping down the rankings, while Smith’s performance earned him the championship lead.
The 20-year-old Smith, a builder by trade, rocketed from equal runner-up and three points behind recently-crowned national junior 125cc champion Dixon, to top of the standings and now with a seven-point advantage over Clevedon’s Cobie Bourke (KTM), with Dixon now back to third overall, eight points further behind.
There is just one round – three 125cc class races – left to run, at Taupo this coming weekend.
“It was an awesome day for me, a mix of good luck and back luck actually,” said Smith.
“I was able to minimise the back luck. In race three I managed to fight back from a terrible start … I was in about ninth place I think … and then grabbed second place at the finish.
“I have struggled a bit with my starts. With me being 80 kilos on a 125cc bike, it doesn’t make things easy.”
Smith is also double-classing, racing in the MX2 (250cc) class as well, which means he endured three back-to-back 20-minute races on Saturday, an exhausting prospect even on a cool day, but even more daunting under the blazing sun at Pukekohe on Saturday.
“I have found it difficult switching back a forth between the 250cc bike and the 125cc machine, but I usually go quite well at Taupo, so I’m feeling quite confident. It wouldn’t be so bad if the races weren’t back-to-back.”
In other race action at Pukekohe on Saturday, West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood (KTM) consolidated his lead at the top of the MX1 class and Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (Yamaha) did likewise in the MX2 (250cc) class.
Smith is currently running third overall in the MX2 class, just three points behind Oparau’s James Scott (Honda), although defending champion Purvis is probably well out of reach for either Scott or Smith – Purvis enjoying a solid 40-point lead at the top.
It would still be a remarkable achievement if Smith can finish the championship on the podium in two separate divisions.
The MX125 class remains the tightest category of them all, with just 15 points to separate this top three title contenders, while another rider of the new Gas Gas bikes, Hamilton’s Dylan Westgate, is currently fifth equal with Invercargill’s Jack Symon (KTM) in the 125cc class standings, the pair of them just six points behind Matamata’s Brodie Connolly (Husqvarna).
Smith previously won the New Zealand 125cc class title in 2017 and this season has been a comeback year for him following injury, the Gas Gas star frustratingly sidelined for the past couple of years.
The fourth and final round of the 2021 series is set for Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motocross Park this coming Sunday and Smith hopes he can cap off his sensational comeback with podium results in two separate classes.
Senior NZ Motocross Champs points after three of four rounds:
MX1 class: 1. West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, 192 points; 2. Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, 169; 3. Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, 159.
MX2 class (provisional): 1. Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, 194 points; 2. Oparau’s James Scott 154; 3. Silverdale’s Hayden Smith, 151.
Under-19 class: 1. Matamata’s Brodie Connolly, 150 points; 2. Te Aroha’s Luke Van Der Lee, 145; 3. Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips 128.
MX125 class: 1. Silverdale’s Hayden Smith, 179 points; 2. Clevedon’s Cobie Bourke, 172; 3. Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, 164.
MX3 class: 1. Hamilton’s Darryll King, 137 points; 2 Whakatane’s Darren Capill, 122; Tauranga’s Brendon White, 85.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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