Oropi's Ben Townley (KTM 125 SX), showing he still has the pace and skills to win a national title. Photo by Andy McGechan,

MAY 8, 2018: Former world motocross champion Ben Townley is back on the KTM bike brand he rode to win that world title and he's obviously loving it.

Though now retired from racing fulltime, the Bay of Plenty father-of-three used some of that 2014 MX2 world championship title-winning experience to good use at the weekend when he rolled up at Taupiri for this year's edition of the New Zealand Miniature TT Championships.

The two-day affair, on rolling grassland just east of Huntly, was the perfect place for the now 33-year-old Townley to strut his stuff, the flat paddock racing not too demanding in terms of fitness, although still requiring that he know how to pick lines and how to twist the throttle to the max.

As it turned out, the event also forced him to deal with the psychological stress of dealing with a set-back, a test he also passed with flying colours.

Townley rode a KTM 450 SX-F in the MX1 class and also borrowed a KTM 125 SX from the CML KTM Racing Team to ride in the Senior 125cc class.

"I didn't come here to win. I only entered for fun and to have a weekend of riding with my old Taupo mates," explained the former Taupo man, now living with his wife and children in Oropi. "But I always try to win, even though I don't do any training these days.

"I had so much fun riding a KTM125 recently that I just had to see if I could get one to race this weekend and the CML KTM team helped me out.

"You don't really need so much strength or fitness for TT racing, so I figured I'd go okay in the races."

That was a classic understatement.

Townley managed to bag a pair of third-place finishes in Saturday's first two of five MX1 class races at the weekend, good enough for third overall after day one, then followed that by finishing fourth in Sunday's first of three MX1 races.

But then he decided not to continue in the class on Sunday – concentrating instead on the 125cc battles – and he slipped down to finish eighth overall for the MX1 championship, while Taupo's Cohen Chase (KTM 450 SX-F) seemed untroubled in winning the MX1 title, posting a 1-1-1-2-1 score-card for the weekend.

But it was a different story for Townley in the 125cc class.

Townley comfortably won both 125cc races on Saturday and was out in front in the third race, early on Sunday morning, when disaster struck.

He suddenly slowed and handed the lead to Pukekohe rider Joseph Andrell (Yamaha YZ125). Then, losing power, he continued to drop back through the field, eventually nursing the bike home in seventh.

The problem was traced afterwards to failed spark plug and that was easily replaced, but this result had opened the door for Andrell to take over the championship lead.

However, Townley was back to his best in winning the final two 125cc races of the weekend and he eventually clinched the trophy by just one point from Andrell.

"Both the two host clubs (Huntly and Patetonga) for this event did a marvellous job," said Townley. "I loved the track and the borrowed bike too. I only climbed on it for the first time yesterday."

Meanwhile, Hamilton's Reef Wheki took his KTM 250 SX-F to win all five races in the combined Junior 12-16 years' 125cc and 14-16 years' 250cc class, while Oparau's Hunter Scott (KTM 85 SX) cleaned up in the Junior 13-16 years' 85cc class and Cambridge Kawasaki rider Jared Hannon was similarly dominant in winning five races from five starts in the Junior 8-12 years' 85cc class.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,