Ktm Riders Lead In Two Separate Categories

Ktm Riders Lead In Two Separate Categories

RIGHT: Taihape’s Hayden Smith (KTM 125), who reclaimed the lead in the 125cc class after a thrilling day of racing in the Manawatu on Sunday. Photo by Andy McGechan,

MARCH 13, 2017: The terrain can be the ultimate friend or most treacherous of foes in the sport of motocross and it became both of these things to KTM riders Hayden Smith and Hamish Harwood at the weekend.

Home turf advantage can mean a great deal in motocross and Taihape’s Smith made the most of this when he raced at Sunday’s third round of four in this season’s New Zealand Motocross Championships.

The KTM hero reclaimed the lead in the 125cc class after a thrilling day of racing at a rain-drenched Flipp's Motocross Park at Himatangi, near Palmerston North.

He had started the day level with rival Kurtis Lilly at the top of the 125cc class standings, but, by late afternoon, he was alone on top and eight points in front.

Smith took his KTM 125 to post a 2-1-1 score-card on Sunday, sand-blasting his way to the top of the standings and, with just three more races left in the series, at the fourth and final round at Taupo in two weeks’ time, he had a distinct advantage in the title chase.

“I now have an eight-point advantage, which is pretty solid,” said Smith afterwards.

“I beat Kurtis (Lilly) in every race today. It was close racing and I had a few scary moments today, but, thankfully, no crashes. I thought I was going to have a really big one, but luck was on my side today,” said Smith.

Meanwhile, defending MX2 class champion Harwood had a very different experience at Himatangi on Sunday.

Takaka-raised but Takapuna-based Harwood continues to lead the MX2 class but not without him having to endure an extremely difficult day on Sunday.

An energy-sapping sand track was perhaps the last thing that Harwood wanted to bear – he was still in pain after fracturing two ribs when he crashed late in the day at the previous round of the series near Rotorua two weeks earlier.

Though quickly on the mend, his injury kept him sidelined and unable to train and Harwood’s fitness was therefore less than 100 percent at Himatangi on Sunday, and Harwood’s 20-point advantage has almost been halved, sliced back to 11 points, after Christchurch rival Dylan Walsh came on strong at Himatangi.

Walsh won all three MX2 class races at Himatangi – with Harwood forced to settle for a runner-up finish each time.

Three more runner-up finishes at the final round should still be enough to see Harwood keep his crown, although that’s not how he plans to finish his campaign.

“I’m still pretty sore from the previous round,” Harwood confirmed.

“My fitness is down, which I why I withdrew today from racing in the MX1 class as well.

“My starts let me down today. I managed to catch up to Walsh but then made mistakes trying to search for different lines. Then I backed off because I didn’t want to risk crashing again.

“The main thing for me is to concentrate on winning the championship. Race wins don’t matter, but the title does. That’s the big picture.

“I’ll still be pushing for race wins at Taupo though. I’m not going to take the soft option (and just settle for runner-up finishes there). I want to win at Taupo.”

The series wraps up with the fourth and final round at Taupo on March 25.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,