Ben Townley a class above his opposition
Nobody had an answer for Ben Townley at the annual Waikato Motocross Championships near Te Kuiti at the weekend.
With the former world champion and reigning national MX1 champion on his Honda CRF450 in attendance, it probably surprised no-one that he would dominate the big bike class, and so it proved with the Bay of Plenty ace virtually unchallenged as he romped to three convincing wins in the MX1 class, racing on a fresh course just 6km north of Te Kuiti.
On each occasion the Kiwi international finished a third of the undulating North King Country track ahead of the next best MX1 class rider, Taupo's Nick Saunders.
On the comeback from serious injury, sustained in Australia in April, the Waikato Motocross Championships were just another phase in the steady buildup regime for Tauranga's Townley and "a chance for more valuable bike time" ahead of the 2013 New Zealand Motocross Championships, set to kick off near Timaru on February 10.
"It was another good workout for me," said the 27-year-old Townley, who had also dominated MX1 class racing at the Motocross Extravaganza in Taupo at Labour Weekend.
"I could practise on my own all I liked but there's nothing like the intensity of real racing, of being behind an actual start gate, to get you back into the groove.
"It was nice too, to come to a new facility like this.
"This is a legitimate motocross track and I want to compliment the North King Country Motorcycle Club for the work they've put in. This is not just a paddock with pegs knocked into the ground.
"I believe they could host national championship events here. They probably just need to slow the course down a little, put in a few more obstacles.
"It's hard for me at the moment, trying to switch back and forth between arcing motocross and supercross and I'm not 100 per cent yet, but considering I'm just six months on from the most horrendous injury of my career, I feel pretty pleased with my results."
It was even more comprehensive for the Honda boys in the MX2 class, where Taupo's Cameron Dillon led a Honda clean sweep of the podium.
With Dillon celebrating his 20th birthday the next day, it could be said that he gave himself the ideal early birthday present by winning the MX2 class.
Dillon finished 2-1-1 in his three outings, easily enough for the Taupo farmhand to claim the trophy ahead of fellow Honda men Jesse Wiki (Hamilton) and Ryan Thompson (Te Awamutu).
"Jesse [Wiki] and I were level on points ahead of the last race of the day and I knew I had to win it," said Dillon afterwards.
"I stuffed up the start when I didn't realise how slippery the freshly-watered track was, but I was up to second place halfway through lap one.
"When Jesse had brake problems, I snatched the lead and that was that.
"This was my first motocross race in about nine months since I injured myself, so to come here and win was pretty satisfying." Wiki was disappointed with the outcome.
"I hit a barrier and smashed the rear brakes on the opening lap of the final race," said the 25-year-old Hamilton scaffolder.
"That left me with no rear brakes for the whole race.
"To still finish third [behind Thompson] in that race was pretty good, but it's obviously not what I wanted."