The four-round 2021 New Zealand Motocross Championships winding up in Taupo on Sunday, with Silverdale-based former Taihape man Smith on the hunt for glory in two separate categories.
In the end, he had to accept the No.3 ranking in the MX2 (250cc) class and, while that’s already more than many riders ever achieve in a lifetime of racing, he doubled down by following through on his threat to win the highly-charged MX125 class title.
The 20-year-old Smith took over the championship lead in the 125cc class at the series’ previous round at Pukekohe a week earlier and when he then wrapped it up at Taupo on Sunday he became a rare two-time champion in the class. He had previously won the New Zealand 125cc motocross title in 2017.
The intervening past couple of seasons went ahead without Smith as he fought to recover from injuries and deal with pressing work commitments.
So his victorious comeback to the sport this year was particularly sweet.
Riding one of the distinctive red new Gas Gas MC250 bikes in the MX2 class and a Gas Gas MC125 in the smaller engine capacity class, Smith was the only rider (of the very few) to tackle two categories to also finish on the podium in both.
The way the day’s racing programme worked, it meant Smith had to endure back-to-back 20-minute races three times at Taupo on Sunday, an exhausting schedule for the young man.
But he was more that up to the task.
Smith’s best result in the MX2 class during this series was a runner-up finish in one of the races at Pukekohe, but, by also consistently finishing no worse than sixth in his other races, he was able to give the Gas Gas brand an extremely positive debut season in New Zealand.
In the 125cc class, Smith beat off challenges from Clevedon’s Cobie Bourke (KTM), Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon (Yamaha), Hamilton’s Dylan Westgate (KTM), Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly (Husqvarna) and New Plymouth’s Rian King (KTM) on Sunday, eventually clinching the title by 14 points from Bourke, with Dixon capturing the No.3 ranking.
“I’m over the moon. I’m just happy to be healthy again,” said Smith.
“I’ve missed two years of the nationals and I’m just happy to be back. I don’t think the win has sunk in yet.
“It’s tough weighing 80kg on a 125cc bike, but the Gas Gas machinery was awesome. The list of people I need to thank is huge. I’m going to have to write a big list so that I can rattle them all off at prize-giving.
“The 125 was awesome, simply flawless. And the 250 is also a really fun bike to ride. My goal was to be on the podium in both classes, but after round two (at Rotorua in February) I was starting to get a bit worried.
“But I really like Pukekohe and Taupo too, so I started getting the points I needed. I would have liked to go 1-1-1 in my three 125cc races at Taupo, but I finished 1-1-5 on the day. My partner Mia and I had done the mathematics and we knew what was required.”
Meanwhile, West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood (KTM) celebrated winning his first national championship title in the MX1 class on Sunday, while Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (Yamaha) made it back-to-back title wins in the MX2 class and Bay of Plenty’s Connolly became the New Zealand Under-19 champion (as best-performed rider aged under 19 in the MX2 class).
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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