A family affair at the top of Enduro rankings
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At its grass roots, motorcycling is a sport for all the family. And New Zealand has a long and proud history of producing national and even world title contenders from the same household.
It was heartwarming stuff to see 49-year-old multi-time national superbike champion Tony Rees, still in his leathers after his intense final race at Hampton Downs earlier this year, running down the pit lane to congratulate youngest son, Damon, who had just won his first national road-race title.
Son Mitch also raced the superbike nationals this season, with success, while wife and mum Vicki managed their campaigns.
Often we see former motocross world champion Shayne King leaning over the shoulder of his young sons, Curtis and Rian, as he offers them final words of advice before their junior motocross battles.
At enduro or cross-country events, former national champion Kevin Archer can often be seen passing on advice to his champion daughter and fellow Kiwi international Rachael Archer.
But brotherly love was briefly put on hold over Queen's Birthday weekend as the 2017 New Zealand Enduro Championships went down to the wire in a battle between sibling rivals Angus and Hamish Macdonald.
Although the racing was close, the teenagers knew it would take either a disaster or a miracle, depending upon the point of view, for 19-year-old Angus not to win the crown this year.
Angus (Sherco 300 SEF-R four-stroke) had led the six-round series from the start, winning round one near Nelson in February, while 18-year-old Hamish (Sherco 300 SE-R two-stroke) finished a disappointing and uncharacteristic 17th that day.
But Hamish (bellow) refused to quit and had soon risen back up the rankings to threaten his brother's dominance, the two Sherco men first and second in the championship standings at the start of the double-header Queen's Birthday Weekend.
Rounds five and six that weekend were separated by just two days -- racing on muddy farmland at Waitiwhiti, east of Pahiatua, on the Saturday and in forestry south of Tokoroa on the Monday.
In the end, Hamish finished third at Waitiwhiti and Angus was fourth, but the mathematics was simple -- if Hamish won the day at Tokoroa, Angus still needed only to finish eighth or better to claim the championship title.
And this is how it panned out: defending national enduro champion Brad Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z450) celebrated his first win of the series with a victory at Tokoroa, while Adrian Smith (Yamaha YZ250X) was runner-up and Sam Greenslade (KTM 250 EXC-F) was third. But all eyes were focused on the Macdonalds.
Angus eventually finished the day fourth overall, but, significantly, ahead of his main rival Hamish, who crossed the finish line fifth, 28 seconds further back. And that settled the issue.
Unfortunately for the brothers, it was not a Macdonald and Sherco 1-2 finish to the series, with the final round win by Suzuki's Groombridge enough for him to snatch the No. 2 spot overall.
But the Macdonald boys did both win their separate bike classes, Angus claiming over-300cc four-stroke bike class honours and Hamish winning the over-200cc two-stroke class.
Groombridge won the under-300cc four-stroke class (after riding the smaller version of the bike at the earlier rounds) and Mitchell Nield (Yamaha YZ125) won the under-200cc two-stroke class trophy, with the veterans' trophy going to Dougy Herbert (Husaberg TE300).
"The secret was to be consistent and I was on the podium at nearly every round," said an elated Angus Macdonald afterwards.
"The weight was off my shoulders before the start of the final round because I knew I could afford to finish as far back as eighth and I'd still win it.
"So I wasn't taking any risks at Tokoroa. I have learned a lot over the past few years and I know you don't have to be the fastest rider all the time to win."
Hamish scored the most wins this season, dominating at round three, near Pahiatua in March, and round four, near Greta Valley in May, but his 17th placing at round one in February was costly.
"Considering how far back I was at round one, to come back and claim third overall is pretty good actually," said Hamish.