Waikato teenager Josiah Natzke has broken through to claim his first major win in Europe.
The 16-year-old KTM rider from Hamilton celebrated victory in his first of two races at round three of the European 125cc Motocross Championships (EMX125) at Talavera in Spain at the weekend, leading KTM Junior Team-mate Jorge Prado Gacia past the chequered flag.
He settled for runner-up position in the next race, this time behind Spanish rider Prado, the two riders therefore sharing the day’s points, although Prado got the nod for “overall” honours by way of the count-back rule, having finished higher up in the second race.
Prado continues to lead the championship standings, but Kiwi flyer Natzke has now moved up from fourth to third overall, with five rounds remaining.
The two young riders drew praise from their team manager, 10-time former motocross world champion Stefan Everts, of Belgium.
“We have to give everything to Jorge today riding in his home GP, and with the fans behind him he managed to ride a smart race. Coming here with the red plate already gave him some pressure but he’s already shown us great things. He is a super talented kid.”
Everts said the track was also perfect for young New Zealander Natzke.
“The first two rounds were not easy, but this track is perfect for him and yesterday (in the opening race) he showed us his potential. He was disappointed he didn’t win the overall but I am happy he was on the podium.”
Natzke was only fifth around turn one at the start of race two, but charged hard to be in second before the end of lap two.
He slowly chipped away at Prado’s lead which made the last lap extremely intense as the Spanish fans urged their countryman on.
It was a tight finish, with Prado holding on to win by less than a second over Natzke.
Natzke was naturally a little disappointed not to earn the overall win.
“I was able to take the win yesterday, but today I didn’t get as good a start and I had to work my way through. We both wanted it and I pushed as hard as I could the whole moto,” said Natzke.
The next round of the EMX125 championships is set for Matterley Basin, near Winchester, in southern England, on May 24.
Rounds are set to follow in France (Villars sous Ecot, May 31), Italy (Maggiora, June 14), Belgium (Lommel, August 2) and, finally, in The Netherlands (at Assen on August 30).
Natzke is a two-time senior New Zealand 125cc champion, having become the youngest ever rider to win the crown, aged 15, when he dominated the class in 2014, before successfully defending his title at the start of this year, just a week before heading to Europe.
Words by Andy McGechan – www.BikesportNZ.com
Photos by KTM Images