It wasn’t so much that his opponents had given him a hiding, but rather that he’d beaten himself up so much trying so hard to win two titles this season.
It was certainly a brutal weekend for the talented CML Makita KTM Racing Team rider at Taupo’s double-header event – he easily won the 125cc crown at this year’s New Zealand Motocross Championships, so convincingly in fact that he wrapped it up with a race to spare, but his campaign to also defend his MX1 crown was a little more problematic.
The 27-year-old Royal Heights-based former Takaka man always knew it was going to be tough this year to tackle twice as many races as most of his rivals and that was made more difficult still when organisers were forced to alter the calendar after Cyclone Gabrielle wrecked the track at Napier, the original venue for the third round of four this season.
To give the riders their full complement of races, rounds three and four would now be run over two consecutive days and, what’s more, this was at Taupo, the home track of his main MX1 class rival, Mangakino Yamaha rider Maximus Purvis.
Unbeaten after the first two rounds of the series, in Balclutha and Rotorua respectively, Harwood took his new 2023-model fuel-injected KTM125SX bike to wrap up the 125cc title by finishing 1-2-1 at Taupo’s round three on Saturday.
When he finished runner-up in the first of the two 125cc races scheduled for Sunday it was game over and he could now afford to skip the final 125cc race and conserve his energy for the final push in his MX1 class bid.
However, a succession of uncharacteristic crashes on his powerful four-stroke KTM 450SX-F model bike put paid to that, and he was forced to settle for overall runner-up, behind Purvis, in the MX1 class this season.
“Obviously I’m disappointed not to win the MX1 title as well as the 125cc title,” said a battered and bruised Harwood afterwards.
“My goal was to win it and I feel I was capable of winning it. At the end of the day, I had the speed but didn’t execute properly.
“I don’t usually make mistakes like that and crash so frequently, but this year it just didn’t work out. I blame myself for the crashes and there were a few unfortunate things that happened, but that’s racing.
“I have a lot of heart and a lot of grit and I could have just cruised around in my last race, my body was aching – both wrists, my knee, my hip, everything hurt – but I thought I’ve done a lot of work to be here, I always believe I’m capable and I always ride to win.
“On a positive note, it’s good to win another title … that makes it seven national championship wins for me now.
“I’m heading back across to Australia now to complete their series there and we’ll see what that brings.”
The MX2 (250cc) class was won by Papamoa’s Cody Cooper (Kawasaki) and the race-within-a-race in the MX2 class for under-19 honours was won by Harwood’s young CML Makita KTM Racing team-mate from Tauranga, Madoc Dixon.
Mount Maunganui’s Roma Edwards (Honda) won the women’s championship class.
2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships calendar:
Round one: February 12 – South Otago (at Balclutha).
Round two: February 26 – Rotorua (including women’s nationals).
Rounds three & four: March 25-26 – Taupo (including women’s nationals).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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