FEBRUARY 2, 2020: Bay of Plenty’s Josiah Natzke is just where he wants to be, on top of the points standings after the opening round of the nationals.
The 21-year-old Transdiesel Eni Lubricants Kawasaki Racing Team rider from Mount Maunganui followed on from his post-Christmas win at the big annual Whakatane Summercross by also winning the day in the MX2 (250cc) class at the first of four rounds in this year’s New Zealand Motocross Championships in south Otago at the weekend.
Natzke won the first of Saturday’s three MX2 class races at Balclutha, and then finished third, behind Oparau’s James Scott and Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh, in the next race, keeping Natzke top of the table and with a four-point advantage over nearest rival Scott with just one race remaining for the afternoon.
The third and final race of the day was a barnstormer, with virtually nothing to separate the leading five riders – Australian visitor Caleb Ward, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, Walsh, Scott, and Natzke – as they fought handlebar-to-handlebar around the twisting Balclutha circuit.
Natzke eventually found a way past Scott and settled for fourth in that race, enough to seal the Kawasaki man a six-point lead over Scott as the riders now head to round two in the series, near Rotorua in two weeks’ time.
“Man, what a day it was at round one. I’m so stoked to come away with the overall win. I felt like I let myself down with what I wanted to achieve in the last two races, but anyway it was a solid day of racing,” said Natzke.
“A massive thanks are due to the whole team on the day for doing everything to make my life easier.
“I struggled the previous weekend (at the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville, where he settled for third overall). But at Balclutha I felt a lot more comfortable.
“I was the fastest rider on the track in both the first two races at Balclutha, but my energy reserves were all spent by race three. Even so, I’ve got the championship lead, so I can’t really complain.
“I love the track at Rotorua. It’s not far from my home, so I know that track well. The bike is perfect and suspension is dialled in, so I’m really happy with my situation at the moment.”
This is Natzke’s first season in New Zealand in about three years after spending time racing in Europe, and it is perhaps some of that European experience that has helped him into the position he’s now in.
Fresh after arriving home from the United Kingdom, Natzke made his debut for the Transdiesel Eni Lubricants Kawasaki team a glorious one in October when he won the MX2 class at the season-starting MX Fest event at Taupo. He then also won the 2019 New Zealand Supercross Championships in the SX2 class, that competition wrapping up in November, followed now by his success at the foot of the South Island at the weekend.
It seems Natzke is well attuned to the green bike and he’s certainly rated among the favourites to win again this summer.
Natzke is supported by Kawasaki NZ, Transdiesel Eni Lubricants, Mainstream, Bridgestone, Rekluse, Alpinestars, 100%, Un4Seen Graphics, Pro Circuit, Moto HQ, Polisport, Koromiko Engineering, RK Chains, CFX Seats, Goodbuzz, Renthal Handlebars and MTX Sprockets.
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Photos by ENI Kawasaki Race Team