Third title a thrill for Smith

ANDY MCGECHAN
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014

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Mokau's Adrian Smith has done it again.

The 28-year-old Awakino Gorge sheep and beef farmer made New Zealand motorcycling history on Saturday when he wrapped up the 2014 New Zealand cross-country championships, racing away to a stylish win at the fourth and final round of the series near Ward, south of Blenheim.

He won his first national cross-country crown in 2006 and was outright winner again in 2012 and last year too, and he headed to Marlborough's final round on Saturday with a clear points advantage over fellow Yamaha ace Ethan Bruce and therefore heavily favoured to make it title win No 4 and three in a row.

The multi-talented Smith - who also won the New Zealand Enduro Championships outright in 2012 and won his over-200cc two-stroke class at this year's enduro nationals - knew he needed just to "ride smart and wrap up the overall win".

But, while a sensible, low-risk approach would get the job done, that has never really been Smith's nature or style.

He won Saturday's three-hour race from main rival Bruce. The young man from Maruia was able to keep Smith honest through most of the race, until a slick fuel stop from Smith before the last stint gave him the break he needed to ditch Bruce and take a comfortable win.

Bruce finished runner-up and nailed down the No 2 spot overall for 2014 - making it a Yamaha 1-2 result for the championship - while Taupo's Brad Groombridge (Suzuki) held off Rotorua's Scott Birch (Honda) and Raglan's Jason Dickey (Kawasaki) to claim the third podium spot on Saturday.

Dickey's fifth on Saturday was enough for him to secure the No 3 spot for the championship.

"It was pretty hectic at the start," said Smith. "Ethan and I were out in front and battling pretty hard. I think we opened up about a three-minute lead over the chasing bunch.

"Then he didn't have a quick-fill fuel can and I did, so that's where I got a bit of a buffer on him near the end.

"I knew I didn't have to win this final round and a top-three result would have been OK, but I actually think I rode harder on Saturday that at any other time in the series, apart from round one where I was playing catch-up after a bad start.

"I am thrilled to make it national cross-country title No 4, but probably even more thrilled to make it three in a row," said Smith.

"I'll certainly be looking to get my name on the trophy again next year too."

It was a great weekend for Taranaki riders with Smith also winning the over-200cc two-stroke class, Renny Johnston wrapping up the over-300cc four-stroke title and fellow New Plymouth man Greg Ngeru winning the under-200cc two-stroke class.

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New Plymouth's Dougy Herbert won the veterans' over-45 years' title and Stratford's Karl Roberts won the veterans' 35-44 years' title, while Birch won the under-300cc four-stroke category.

Meanwhile, Waipukurau's Ben Fryer (Yamaha YZ125) had won the junior class titles with a round to spare at the previous round, although that didn't stop him pushing hard in the 90-minute junior race staged earlier in the day.

Otorohanga's Aaron King (Honda) won Saturday's junior race, with Fryer forced to settle for runner-up spot. King's win at the weekendearned him the No 2 junior ranking for 2014.

- Taranaki Daily News

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