All the hard work, long hours and dedication to the task have been rewarded for Wairoa motocross racer Tommy Watts.
The 2018 New Zealand Motocross Championships wrapped up with the fourth and final round in Taupo on Saturday and the 16-year-old Watts was thrilled to find himself on the second step of the series podium in the National 125cc class, just 15 points behind Kiwi international and eventual championship winner Maximus Purvis.
Watts had started the day at Taupo in fourth position on the championship table, behind Mangakino’s Purvis, Australian visitor Mason Semmens and Rotorua’s Joshua Bourke-Palmer, but he took his HLR Husqvarna Racing Team TC125 to finish runner-up in each of Saturday’s three 125cc races and that was enough to propel him to the No.2 spot for the series overall.
The hunt for National 125cc class honours was made a little easier for Purvis when Semmens crashed out of the first race on Saturday and he took no further part in the day’s racing, while Bourke-Palmer finished with a 3-3-4 score-card for the day and Watts came on strong with his performance.
“I wanted to get top-five result at least,” said Watts, who obviously surpassed that ambition.
“I wasn’t very happy with getting only 10th overall at round one. I just couldn’t gel with the track that day. But things got better after that.
“Round three at Fernhill was quite good for me, especially when the rain came in. I ride in the mud a lot at the farm with dad. I usually don’t like the Taupo track … well I like it, but it’s not one of my favourites. But it was great for me here today.
“It’s tough for Mason (Semmens) that he crashed out like he did, but that’s motocross sometimes.
“Nobody really knew who I was when I first came into this championship, but maybe they do now. I have only been racing a 125cc bike for eight or nine months now and this was my senior debut.”
A year 12 boarding pupil at Napier Boys’ High School, Watts has been ringing a few warning bells with his motocross racing over the past couple of years and those results have not gone unnoticed.
Last November Watts collected the 2017 Wairoa Junior Sportsperson of the Year award and was then called back to the stage to also collect the night’s top honour, overall Sportsperson of the Year.
The modest Watts would be the first person to say that the plaudits for hard work and long hours go also to the people behind the scenes who helped make it all possible for him – his parents, Bronnie and Graeme, his mechanic Jimmy Ashton, suspension guru Craig Guy, HLR Husqvarna Racing Team manager Howard Lilly and Patrick Stafford, of Husqvarna New Zealand.
Watts will be back next season to race for Husqvarna again at the senior nationals and no doubt he will continue to fulfil the potential he has shown this year.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan