Macdonald leads Enduro Championship at halfway point
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This season's New Zealand Enduro Championships are turning into a battle of attrition.
The third round of six in the 2017 series was at Moonshine in the Akatarawa Forest, near Porirua, just over a week ago and that means the championship chase has reached the halfway stage, with Christchurch's Angus Macdonald the clear leader.
Macdonald knows that it's his championship to lose as fierce rivals such as Coatesville's Sam Greenslade, Taupo's defending national champion Brad Groombridge and Titirangi's Callan May have each experienced disappointment of one sort or another that have blunted their respective title bids.
The much anticipated battle for outright glory between Macdonald and his main challenger, Groombridge, lasted less time than it took to complete one 46-minute section at Porirua when Groombridge crashed spectacularly at high speed, forcing him to withdraw from the day.
The 26-year-old Groombridge had finished runner-up to 19-year-old Macdonald at the opening round, south of Nelson in mid-February, and he backed that up by finishing third at round two near Whangamata a week later.
Macdonald finished runner-up at Whangamata, behind Greenslade, giving the South Islander a slender five-point outright lead after two rounds.
However, with Groombridge a non-finisher at Porirua and Greenslade a non-starter (because of family commitments), while Macdonald finished third overall, it means Macdonald's championship lead has ballooned out to 17 points over the new No 2 rider in the series, Mokau's Adrian Smith.
"About three stages into the day I knew that Brad [Groombridge] was out," said Macdonald. "That news lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders, but, even with the pressure off, I was still pushing for the win today. I know now that, if I ride sensibly at the remaining rounds, the title should be mine, but anything could still happen."
Macdonald's younger brother, Hamish, won the day at Porirua, finishing just 34 seconds ahead of Smith, with Angus Macdonald and Cambridge pair Dylan Yearbury and Simon Lansdaal rounding out the top five.
Helensville's Tom Buxton had his worst result of the series thus far, finishing the day eighth overall at Porirua, but he remains third overall in the series standings.
Titirangi's Callan May had engine failure in the final section of the day and, despite his impressive performances earlier in the day, it dropped him to 23rd in the expert grade and from fourth to 10th in the overall championship standings.
One of the big movers at Porirua was Hamish Macdonald. He had been 10th overall in the standings at the start of the day, but his impressive win at Porirua has elevated him to fifth overall after three of six rounds.
"I truly didn't feel that I was riding that well today," he said. "It wasn't until the fourth test that I relaxed and got into a rhythm," he said, although the results printouts reveal that he won all but two of the day's six tests and those winning rides were the first four of the day.
Smith won the last two tests on Saturday.
"I think I was a bit scared of the course. There were some pretty steep drops on either side of me in some places today," said the 17-year-old Hamish Macdonald.
"All I can really hope for is to win my (over-200cc two-stroke) class title. The overall title is probably beyond my reach," said Hamish Macdonald, who finished outright runner-up to Groombridge last year.
Meanwhile, it's a battle of the ages in the fight for intermediate grade honours.
The leading intermediate grade riders after round three are 16-year-old Whitianga rider Blake Wilkins, 54-year-old Ellerslie rider Jeff Van Hout and 53-year-old Helensville man John Buxton.
Round four will be held near Christchurch on May 6 and then Waitawhiti Station, east of Eketahuna, hosts round five on June 3. The enduro nationals wrap up on June 5.