Tuesday, October 13

HURLEY HEADS STANDINGS

Hawera’s Daryl Hurley (Suzuki), straight to the top of the MX1 standings. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com Words: Suzuki.

OCTOBER 12, 2009: Hawera’s Daryl Hurley has picked up where he left off last season, heading the national motocross championship standings.

The Taranaki man took an RM-Z250 to win the MX2 title last year and, with a switch back to the mighty fuel-injected RM-Z450, tasted immediate success on his return to the MX1 class as this year’s series kicked off near Timaru on Sunday.

Hurley is no stranger to racing and winning in the big bike class, having previously owned the New Zealand MX1 crown and already he’s shown his determination to reclaim it in 2009.

With three rounds to go to complete the series, it's too early to make predictions but Hurley has certainly revealed himself as the man to beat this season.

Hurley finished 2-1-1 in Sunday’s three races, while his nearest challenger, Christchurch rider Justin McDonald, came home 1-2-2. Just three points separate these two riders at the top of the standings, although Hurley feels confident he can fend off McDonald’s advances.

“I had to settle for second in the first race because my goggle roll-offs broke and visibility was a problem for me,” said Hurley. “I won the next two races pretty comfortably though.

“I’m stoked with my results,” said Hurley. “Three 30-minute races in this heat were pretty tough but the conditions were perfect. They had a great track watering system.”

Third overall on Sunday was Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, the Kiwi international making a welcome return to the Suzuki stable, while Taupo’s Brad Groombridge ended the day fourth overall, making it three Suzuki riders in the top four.

He is likely to pick up speed throughout the series as he reacquaints himself with the RM-Z450. Cooper is supported by Mount Maunganui Suzuki dealer MotoGB.

Cooper finished a remarkable fifth overall in the American nationals in 2008, the last occasion he had raced a Suzuki, and feels very comfortable on the bike.

It was similar in the MX2 class where two riders dominated the day -- Rotorua’s Michael Phillips (Honda) and Queenstown’s Scott Columb (Suzuki).

Phillips finished 1-2-1 in his three MX2 races while Columb came home 2-1-3, the pair each time finishing a long way ahead of the chasing bunch.

Just five points separate these two riders.

Both Phillips and Columb represented New Zealand at the Motocross of Nations in Italy just a week ago and Sunday’s performance by Columb was particularly impressive with the South Islander only able to catch a flight back to New Zealand the day before the nationals kicked off.

“The course was very rough, which suited me, but it was very one-lined and lappers were a real problem,” said Columb.

“I should have won the day but I crashed in the last race. It wasn’t a bad result considering it was only my third time out on the small bike this year.”

For Columb to switch from the RMZ-450 he’d campaigned in the United Kingdom to race an RMZ-250, as well as shaking off the adverse affects of jet-lag, and then still perform at this level on Sunday is testament to his versatility, fitness and strength.

In the 125cc class (which also incorporates the Under-21 title), Wanganui’s Tom Managh showed his potential for the future, finishing the day a solid second, fourth and fourth in his three races, the young Suzuki rider settling at third overall in the class, behind Waitakere’s Ethan Martens and Mangakino’s Kayne Lamont.