Scotty Columb almost faster than a speeding bullet
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Could South Islander Scotty Columb really be Superman in disguise?
He may have a nine-to-five job to hold down during the week, but at the weekends he transforms into an bona fide super hero, almost as fast as a speeding bullet, possibly more powerful than a locomotive and probably even able to leap small buildings in a single bound.
But, seriously, the 32-year-old Columb is as authentic as they come and not actually from Krypton, but from the tourist Mecca of Queenstown.
Now a privateer racer, former national champion Columb stepped back into the cauldron of nationals competition to cross swords again with the full-time professionals this year.
Columb dressed up in his Alpinestars apparel, pulled on his Bell helmet and took his stock standard, straight-out-of-the-crate Kawasaki KX450F into battle in the New Zealand Motocross Championships series this season and, when the last bike was switched off at the end of the day at the fourth and final round in Taupo on Sunday, Columb had a national ranking of No.4.
Columb had been brilliant at fending off stern challenges from the elite of New Zealand's 450cc motocross riders and also offering up a challenge to the three full-time professional racers who finished just ahead of him.
The battle for the podium was being waged between defending New Zealand MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Honda), from Mount Maunganui, with two visiting Australian professionals in Gold Coast rider Todd Waters (Suzuki) and Kyogle's Dean Ferris (Yamaha), but Columb was always close enough to pounce on the three former Grand Prix racers if the opportunity presented itself.
Columb was consistently fourth, finishing in that position in seven of the series' 12 races and his worst result was an 11th, giving him enough to wind up the championship seven points ahead of Taupo's Brad Groombridge, who finished fifth overall, and 31 ahead of the sixth ranked rider, Takaka's Hamish Harwood.
"Cody is extremely hard to beat in New Zealand and Waters and Ferris were ninth and 11th respectively in the world championships last year, so they're among the world's best. When I raced the world championships in 2008, I finished 29th, so I was never really at that level either," Columb explained.
"I had nine months off racing last year and wasn't sure in what direction I wanted to take my racing. But then (bike dealer) Mark Whyte came along and he was so passionate about racing and got me back into it with help from Mike Wilkins at Kawasaki in New Zealand.
"I couldn't have been happier this season. The bike was awesome to ride and it really suited my style. It handles great and had plenty of usable power. It's as stock standard as you can get but I managed to get consistent results and that's what counted.
"I managed to keep with Cody, Dean and Todd for a few laps and I can hold my head high with my achievements this year."
The next major events for Columb will be to tackle the annual Michael Godfrey Memorial Motocross over the Queen's Birthday weekend, followed by the big annual Tarawera 100 cross-country race near Kawerau in July.
"The last time I rode the Tarawera 100 was in about 2003. It's a tough time of the year for me because the track near when I live in iced over in winter. But I know I have a bike I can be competitive on."