Tauranga's Ben Townley made it back-to-back Woodville GP wins on Sunday, but this time it was not as clear-cut as many would have expected, certainly not as convincing as Townley may have liked, although it’s early days yet and the season is only just starting to warm up.
Former world and American champion Townley (Carlton Dry Honda CRF450) won his first New Zealand Motocross GP at Woodville last season but the 28-year-old celebrated victory on the historic track last season and had been widely tipped to make it two in a row at the Honda-sponsored event this time around.
Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper (Moto City Suzuki RM-Z450) made things tough for Townley in the MX1 class battles and Australian rider Todd Waters (KTM450) made life difficult for Townley in the 'champion of champions' invitation feature race.
In the end, Townley won the MX1 class from Cooper by finishing 2-1-1 in the three outings, shading Cooper's 1-2-2 results by just three points, the fast-starting Suzuki rider forcing Townley to work hard for his pay.
In the one-off feature race, Townley found himself in third place early on, with British MX2 (250cc) class rider Jake Nicholls, on a 250cc KTM, leading at the start and Waters in second spot.
When Waters crashed spectacularly just a few laps into the race, Townley inherited second spot and then it was possibly then just a matter of time before he hunted down and eventually passed the British GP star.
Townley stretched his advantage to win the race comfortably, but, he confessed afterwards, he'd been made to work hard for it.
"I've left things a little bit later in my build-up for the nationals (which kick off near Timaru in just two weeks' time) and I guess that showed today," he said. "It was certainly a tough day at the office. I feel pretty battered and bruised. I was hitting track marker pegs all over the place."
Meanwhile, it perhaps came as no surprise that world MX2 No.4 Nicholls won the MX2 class, taking three wins from three starts.
In the senior 125cc class it was Atiamuri's Hadleigh Knight (CMR Red Bull KTM) won dominated, winning the day's first two races and then settling for third in the final outing.
The top women's class rider was Taupo's Alex Dillon (Honda CRF250), who won the day ahead of Atiamuri's Nikita Knight (KTM 250) and Rotorua's Mel Patterson (BikesportNZ.com KTM 250).
As expected, Pahiatua's United States cross-country champion Paul Whibley (Sargent Yamaha BikesportNZ.com YZ450F) won the separate river race event.
Leading results from the 52nd annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville:
Invitation feature race:
1. Ben Townley (Tauranga, Honda)
2. Todd Waters (Australia, KTM)
3. Kirk Gibbs (Australia, KTM)
4. Michael Phillips (Rotorua, Honda)
5. Jake Nicholls (Great Britain, KTM).
1. Ben Townley (Tauranga, Honda) 72 points;
2. Cody Cooper (Mount Maunganui, Suzuki) 69;
3= Justin McDonald (Christchurch, Honda) and Michael Phillips (Rotorua, Honda) 50.
1. Jake Nicholls (Great Britain, KTM) 75;
2. Scott Columb (Queenstown, Yamaha) 60;
3. Darryll King (Hamilton, Yamaha) 58.
1. Hadleigh Knight (Atiamuri, KTM) 70;
2. Cameron Vaughan (Rotorua, Yamaha) 64;
3. Logan Blackburn (Te Puke, Yamaha) 59.