West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood had to take the good with the bad at Rotorua at the weekend, but he still emerged with his title hopes intact in two categories.
The 23-year-old builder from Royal Heights took his CML Makita KTM 250F into battle in the MX2 (250cc) class at this second round of four in the Fox-sponsored 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships, determined to defend his crown and extend his championship-winning run to a fourth consecutive seasons, but he came under intense fire from Aussie invader Wilson Todd (LMC Husqvarna 250F) on Sunday.
Harwood had the measure of the 2018 Australian MX2 champion at round one of the New Zealand nationals in Taranaki two weeks earlier, but Todd fought back hard at Rotorua, winning the day with a 4-1-1 score-card over the three MX2 races.
Fortunately for Harwood, his incredible consistency, demonstrated by a 2-2-4 score-card on Sunday, has enabled him to keep hold of his series lead, although Harwood’s edge at the top of the standings has been shaved back now to just three points.
A dual-class ironman, Harwood (CML Makita KTM125) is so far unbeaten in the chase for 125cc class honours and he leads that category by 28 points from Ngatea’s former national 125cc champion Ben Broad, with Rotorua’s Josh Bourke-Palmer third overall after two rounds, 13 points further back.
“With (Tauranga’s) Brodie Connolly now (injured and) out of the 125cc class, I can tone it back a bit and just do what I need to do to get the results. The pressure is off me a bit in that class, although there are still some very fast riders there,” said Harwood. “In the MX2 class it didn’t quite go to plan for me today. I was in the lead for a lot of the first race, but then some lappers held me up and (Australian) Kyle Webster went around the outside of me. I ran out of time to pass him and was only about a second behind him at the finish. In race two I tucked the front wheel under me in the first lap and crashed. I was back in seventh or eighth and fought back to second place and wasn’t far behind Wilson Todd in the end. In race three, once again I crashed in about the third corner of the first lap and then a rider in front of me made a mistake and crashed and I went into him, hitting the dirt for a second time. I fought back to finish fourth. It wasn’t an ideal weekend for me, but I had good speed … I could have won, should have won … but things just didn’t work out for me. I’m still leading the series in the MX2 class and I have to be happy with that. It could have been worse.”
Meanwhile, another Australian, Gold Coast rider Kirk Gibbs, won the Aussie versus Kiwi battle in the MX1 class on Sunday and he is now first equal with Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper at the top of the MX1 standings.
There is no rest for the riders as round three follows this coming Sunday at Harrisville, just outside Pukekohe, with the fourth and final round set for Taupo on March 10.
Words and Photo by Andy McGechan