KTM riders take command in Rotorua
It appears there is nothing anyone can do to slow the progress of KTM superstar Hamish Harwood.
The 2018 New Zealand Motocross Championships are now at the halfway stage – with the second of four rounds being held near Rotorua on Sunday – and there the 22-year-old from West Auckland was again in devastating form.
Just as he had at round one of the series near New Plymouth three weeks earlier, Harwood took his KTM 250 SX machine to again dominate the MX2 (250cc) class on Sunday, his hat-trick of wins perhaps just "business as usual" now for the defending champion.
With his six wins from six starts in the MX2 class thus far, Harwood looks well on track to make it three national MX2 titles in a row this season.
"That’s the plan anyway," he says.
And that wasn’t the only time that a CML KTM Racing Team rider was heading to a podium ceremony at Rotorua on Sunday – as well as Harwood topping the MX2 podium, the team’s MX1 class rider, visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs also ended his day standing on the podium top step.
Gibbs won the MX1 class on Sunday, his 1-3-1 score-card over the three races meant he had edged six points closer to series leader Kayne Lamont (Altherm JCR Yamaha) and, with two rounds (and six races) remaining, he’s well placed to make good his title threat.
Defending national champion Cody Cooper (Honda Racing Team), from Mount Maunganui, was second best in the MX1 class on Sunday after finishing 2-1-4 in the three races.
Lamont ended the day third overall and he remains the series leader in the MX1 class, although perhaps a little concerned to see his 15-point advantage now shaved to just nine points.
Gibbs, 29, says he has "taken big steps" since the opening round of the series.
"I have only been back on a bike six weeks since the operation to have a rod removed from my leg following a crash in 2016. I managed to keep my core fitness while I was sidelined, but there’s no substitute for time on the bike and that’s what this visit to New Zealand is all about.”
Another CML KTM Racing Team rider, also visiting from Australia, 16-year-old Mason Semmens made sure the high-profile race team was also represented solidly in the third championship category, the 125cc class.
Yarra Valley rider Semmens finished the day overall runner-up to Mangakino’s Maximum Purvis (Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team), the second time in a row now that he’s had to accept the No.2 spot, but again it was Semmens who looked the most likely to derail Purvis’ charge towards the 125cc title.
Semmens led the second 125cc race of the day, before Purvis pounced, and he was kicking himself afterwards that he had "let that one slip away".
Semmens had won one of the three 125cc races at round one and again he kept Purvis honest on Sunday.
"I’ve had better days," he says.
"In the second race, Purvis got by me and took the win with just two corners to go. I wasn’t happy that I let him do that."
Semmens is 12 points behind Purvis in the championship standings, but anything is still possible.
Third best in the 125cc class standings after round two on Sunday is Rotorua’s Joshua Bourke-Palmer, 38 points behind Semmens.
"I will be double-classing at the next two rounds of the series, racing the 125cc class and the MX2 class too," says Semmens. "I will be riding the 250cc KTM when I go back to do the nationals in Australia this season, so I need to get prepared for that."
The New Zealand series will continue with racing in Hawke’s Bay on Sunday, March 11, and then it all wraps up at Taupo on Saturday, March 24.