Suzuki Men among the 'Dirty Half Dozen' in Timaru
It was a solid, workmanlike performance from the Suzuki squad in Timaru at the weekend, one that should reap rich rewards by the season's end.
Racing at the first round of four in the 2016 New Zealand Motocross Championships, the Mount Maunganui-based MC2 Suzuki Racing Team battled their way through treacherous mud, deep ruts and a talent-packed field of international and Kiwi stars to eventually occupy two of the top six spots in the glamour MX1 class.
The class was won by Australian Dean Ferris, with defending national MX1 champion Cody Cooper finishing runner-up and MC2 Suzuki's Todd Waters claiming the third podium step.
The 25-year-old Waters, like his fellow Australian Ferris a former Grand Prix racer in Europe, was quick to adapt to the changing conditions of the track, bulldozing through clinging mud early in the day (after overnight watering by track staff), before using his vast international racing experience to find fast lines as the soil hardened and formed deep grooves.
Waters and MC2 Suzuki team-mates Brad Groombridge, from Taupo, and Joaquin Fernandez, from Argentina, swapped notes on how to deal with the rough terrain, Groombridge passing on his fast-starting techniques and Gold Coast racer Waters offering up a few choice lines.
Waters finished the day with a 3-2-3 score-card, good for third overall, while Groombridge posted a 5-6-5 score-card and finished sixth overall, just two points off finishing fourth.
A crash in the last race of the day cost Fernandez dearly. He had been featuring among the leading riders in the class before the incident, but was unable to finish that final race and this saw him drop down the rankings and finish the day 14th overall.
"It was a solid performance from the boys and the team is on track for a great finish to this series," said team manager Andrew Hardisty.
"With Brad's slick starting and Todd's vast international experience, we were able to showcase the winning potential of the Suzuki RM-Z450.
"We have opened our account for 2016 with Todd third and Brad sixth and I'm satisfied with that. We can build positively on that.
"We knew this first round was going to be tough, but there are still nine races to go (three at each of the remaining rounds) and I think we're on track to grab some silverware."
With Sunday's series opener in Timaru behind them, the riders now head to the Manawatu for round two on February 28, with round three to follow at the Rotorua Motorcycle Club's track on March 13. The championship trophies get handed out at the Taupo finale on March 20.