Anyone can probably win on a good day, but it's how a racer handles the bad days that truly make a champion.
It was a tough day at the office for Oparau's William Hakawai-Maikuku at the third round of six in the NZXC Series at the steep and sandy Taikorea Motorcycle Park, just outside Palmerston North, on Sunday.
But the Kawasaki ace still came away with his series lead intact in the junior 85cc/150cc class.
Hakawai-Maikuku took his Kawasaki KX85 to finish the day runner-up to Napier's Bryn Codd, but he still maintained his stranglehold on the top spot.
Hakawai-Maikuku has finished 1-3-2 in the series thus far and nearest rival Codd has an 11-2-1 score-card, giving the Oparau teenager a solid 10-point advantage over Codd at the top of the points table.
However, with only five of the series' six rounds to be counted,as riders discard their one worst result, anything can still happen before it all wraps up near Pahiatua in December.
"I've been racing only three years now, but I'm getting better each time I ride. I have had (young Kiwi international) James Scott helping me out with advice and his family has been a great help to me too," said Hakawai-Maikuku, a year eight pupil at Te Awamutu Intermediate.
"I've been learning that I need to calm down a bit. I was always getting angry when things didn't go my way, but I think I have that under control now.
"I got third overall in the trail bike class at the mini nationals when I was 11, but it's been tough making the transition from a four-stroke to a two-stroke bike. I need more strength to hold on and there's a lot more power to handle. But I'm loving the Kawasaki."
Codd and Hakawai-Maikuku actually finished fifth and sixth overall in the all-capacities junior race on Sunday, battling against riders on 125cc and 250cc machines.
Te Awamutu's Rachael Archer won the junior race overall and she now holds a slender lead over Waimauku's Nick Wightman at the top of the junior 125cc-250cc standings.
The mini grade riders were sent out onto the main track with the juniors and the finishing order was Taupo brothers Will Yeoman and Josh Yeoman, first and second respectively, followed in third by Masterton's Johnny Falloon. All three were on Kawasaki bikes.
The next round of the NZXC series is set for Matata on October 15.
"I want to thank Pete McPhee from Kiwi Rider magazine for all that I've achieved. I wouldn't be anywhere without him," said Hakawai-Maikuku.