Bay of Plenty rider settles for second
Being the fastest man in the country and with the most race wins does not always make you a champion and that was a bitter pill to swallow for Bay of Plenty's Josiah Natzke.
It was a fierce fourth and final round of this season’s New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taupo on Sunday and perhaps the most ferocious of them all was Transdiesel Shell Advance Kawasaki Racing Team rider Natzke.
The 21-year-old from Mount Maunganui arrived at Taupo's popular Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park second in the MX2 (250cc) class standings, just four points behind Mangakino racer Maximus Purvis, and with everything still to fight for.
Natzke had led the series from the opening round, but he lost that advantage at round three in Hawke's Bay when another rider slammed into him at the start of one of his races, forcing Natzke to battle back from nearly a lap behind.
He carved his way through traffic and finished eighth in that fateful race, his worst result of the series and one that would ultimately cost him the title.
When Purvis finished runner-up in both of the day's first two MX2 races at Taupo on Sunday, while Natzke finished third in race one and then won race two, it set up an intriguing scenario - whomever of these two riders won the day's final MX2 race would take the title for 2020.
Purvis rocketed into the lead in that final race and never looked back, although, if he had, he would have seen Natzke on another furious charge through traffic.
It was an inspiring performance from Natzke, once again proving himself one of the fastest men on the race track as he clawed his way to the No.2 spot, but unfortunately, this was not quite enough and he had to settle for the runner-up position overall for the championships, finishing the series just six points behind Natzke.
Third overall for the MX2 championship was Oparau's James Scott.
The MX2 class in particular was bulging with talent and six different riders celebrated race wins during the series - Natzke the most prolific, with four race wins to his credit over the four-round, 12-race series.
Purvis, Christchurch's Dylan Walsh and Australian Kyle Webster (who raced only at round two and three) each scored two race wins, while Scott and Australian Caleb Ward each won one race.
Natzke had consistently been one of the fastest men all season, often eclipsing even the best of the MX1 class riders (who were on 350cc and 450cc bikes), but outright speed does not always translate into trophies, especially when you often don't have luck on your side.
"I needed a better start in that last race. Purvis got in front at the start and broke away. I managed to reel him in near the end, but it wasn't enough," says Natzke.
"I should have won the championship, but I was beaten fair and square today.
"I had been racing in Europe for five years before this and it wasn't really a dream for me. I was sitting in my apartment by myself in Europe, feeling miserable. I was almost in a depressed state.
"Then I made the decision to come home and race for the Kawasaki team here and it was so cool. (Team management) Mike Cotter and Shane Verhoeven were so great and gave me so much energy and motivation. To look at where I've come from I'm so stoked about that.
"I wanted to win so bad today, but I'll take this result on the chin and move forward now."
It may be some consolation to Natzke that his 2019-20 season has been dotted with highlights - he won the MX2 class at the season-starting MX Fest event at Taupo last October and then also won the 2019 New Zealand Supercross Championships in the SX2 class, that competition wrapping up in November.
He then also won the MX2 class at the 48th annual Whakatane Summercross motocross event near Matata in late December.
Natzke has plans to race for Kawasaki in Australia later this year but that is now on hold with worldwide fears of coronavirus impacting so many sporting competitions.
Meanwhile, in the MX1 class, visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs enjoyed a five-point buffer over Mount Maunganui's defending national MX1 champion Cody Cooper at Taupo and, although Cooper won the final round, Gibbs did enough to clinch the title by four points.
There was no stopping Tauranga's Brodie Connolly from winning the 125cc class crown. In total, he won nine of the 12 races over the four rounds, taking the title ahead of Tauranga's Madoc Dixon and Auckland's Cobie Bourke.
-Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com