FEBRUARY 28, 2022:
The nation’s cross-country racing elite would probably have been green with envy when the chequered flag fell in the junior race at Marton at the weekend.
Kawasaki team-mates Jared Hannon and Tyler Brown were almost unstoppable in the junior grade at this first of four rounds in the 2022 New Zealand Cross-country Championships, held on steep Rangitikei farmland on Sunday.
The two motocross riders took their distinctive green MR Motorcycles Kawasaki bikes to finish 1-2 in the 90-minute gut-buster, separated by just 78 seconds at the end, with New Plymouth’s Josh Houghton (Husqvarna) finishing only 39 seconds further back to claim the third step on the podium.
“I don’t know what the winning secret was for me today,” said Cambridge teenager Hannon. “I just think it was a matter of twisting the throttle hard and that generally keeps you going straight. Of course, if it doesn’t, then you’re in a lot of trouble,” the 16-year-old laughed.
“I was just praying I had enough fuel to finish the last lap. It was my first cross-country race on a four-stroke bike and it was awesome. And an electric start makes all the difference too.
“I didn’t expect to win. I didn’t even know I was going to be doing this race until last week. Dad told me the race was on and I decided to give it a crack.”
And while 2021 national junior 250cc motocross champion Brown would have loved to win the race against his friend on Sunday, he said that accepting runner-up spot to team-mate Hannon was still immensely satisfying.
“This is the only event anyway that I am still eligible to race as a junior, so I could not really hope anyway to win that title this year. I turn 17 shortly and will switch across to the senior ranks.
“Today was really just practice for me,” said Brown, a pupil at Onewhero Area School.
Points from only the best three results from the four rounds will be counted towards the championship titles, with riders to discard their worst result, so Brown will still possibly be a contender in the chase for senior grade glory.
“I have not raced a cross-country event in a while, so I was pretty stoked to finish second today,” said Brown. “I knew Jared (Hannon) would be fast.”
Meanwhile, Oparau’s James Scott led virtually from start to finish to win the three-hour senior race later in the afternoon, taking the chequered flag just over a minute ahead of Wairoa’s Tommy Watt and two minutes ahead of third-placed rider Wil Yeoman, of Taupo.
The next two rounds follow closely together, with round two set for farmland near Pahiatua on Saturday, April 16, and round three near Dannevirke just two days later, on Easter Monday, April 18. The venue for the fourth and final round on May 14 is yet to be confirmed.
2022 NZ Cross-Country Champs
Round One – Sunday, February 27 – Bush Riders MCC, Marton
Round Two – Saturday, April 16 – Bush Riders MCC, Pahiatua
Round Three – Monday, April 18 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC, Dannevirke
Round Four – Saturday, May 14 – Host club and venue to be decided.