Motorsport: Track prime for ATV champs

By Colin Smith

The high-flying four-wheelers are in action this weekend with top quad-bike riders from around the country heading to the Bay of Plenty to compete at the North Island ATV Champs.

Although it has North Island title status the event at Pongakawa is boosted by a contingent from the South Island expected to number seven riders and headed by Amberley's Ian Ffitch, the NZ champion in the 450cc Premier class and a 26-year veteran of quad bike racing.

Ffitch said making the trip from Canterbury to the Bay of Plenty with his 450cc Premier class Honda racer is worthwhile.

"The track is definitely a good challenge and it's a well-run event by a good bunch of people," said Ffitch, who raced professionally in the US during the 1990s.

But Ffitch said pre-event favourite status in the 450cc Premier class belongs to Rotorua's Jason Jepsen racing a Yamaha.

"I'll probably struggle for a while till I get used to the track," Ffitch said.

"It's a soft pumice track which whoops out quickly and it's totally different to what I usually race on down here.

"Jason is hard enough to beat on any weekend and on his home track I think he's going to be hard to beat."

The Pirini Motorbike Park at 935 Pongakawa Bush Rd is the venue for the Motorcycling NZ sanctioned championship event with two full days of racing.

"We've got 66 entries with some riders entered in two classes and there are always a few more arrive at the last minute," said event organiser Rob Hunt.

Although wet weather in recent weeks has interrupted some track preparation, the 1.8km natural terrain track with spectacular jumps is expected to be in prime condition for the event.

There are 11 titles up for grabs including 8- to 11-year-old 100cc mini riders, four junior classes and three senior grades plus Women's and Veterans' (40-plus) categories. The Premier 450cc and Open 0-750cc Expert classes are the fastest of the four-wheel machines. Each title is raced over a seven-round format with four races on Saturday and three more on Sunday.

Wet-weather test

The first round of the BOP Kart Club 2012 Club Champs turned into a test of wet-weather driving skills and chassis set-up on Sunday.

While the sun emerged for the final round all of the racing was completed on wet-weather tyres with the closest racing coming from the Rotax Lights and Cadets classes.

Adam Bell topped the Cadets class for the day by winning four of his five races and finishing four points clear of Hunter Cheetham. Fulton Penny also scored four wins and headed the 10-strong Rotax Lights field with Scott Briscoe's win in the fourth heat proving decisive in securing second place with a two-point advantage over Chrisden Lee.

Round two of the BOP Club Champs, with the racing switching to the clockwise track format, will be on September 9.

McClymont wins

Tauranga's Brent McClymont won the NZ Competitor of the Year award for the saloon car class at the annual NZ Speedway Awards function in Auckland on Saturday.

It was the third time he has won the saloon car category and follows another consistent season in which he drove his K-Mac Corvette to runner-up finishes in the New Zealand Championship, NZ Grand Prix and also third in the North Island Champs.

McClymont was also a finalist in the overall Sportsperson of the Year category, which was won by New Zealand Super Stock champion Joe Faram of Hawke's Bay.

McClymont currently has his car fully stripped and ready for sandblasting ahead of the 2012-13 season where his quest for further success includes a South Island venture in February for the New Zealand Champs at Cromwell and the Grand Prix at Dunedin.

Motocross series

Round four of the Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club's Tony Rees Honda Winter MX Series is being raced this Sunday at the Awakaponga motocross track. Sign-on is from 7.45am-8.45am with riders' briefing at 8.45am and practice starts at 9am.

The five-round series, which caters for mini, junior and senior riders, finishes on September 16.

The BOP Motorcycle Club has also confirmed dates for Summercross 2012, its annual motocross showcase event. Summercross Mini, Junior and Womens racing will be on Saturday, December 29, with Senior racing on Sunday, December 30.

Aussie Nationals

The last phase of the Australian MX Nationals begin this weekend with the penultimate round at Moree in northern NSW on Sunday.

Three Bay of Plenty riders will be in action with Suzuki's Cody Cooper (Papamoa) and Honda racer Michael Phillips (Rotorua) currently fifth and 11th in the Open Class.

Papamoa's Rhys Carter continues his late-season foray into the Australian scene riding a Suzuki RM-Z250 in the Pro Lites class where he posted two top-10 finishes on his debut last month. The final round is at Coolum in Queensland on August 25-26.

Rain dates

New dates are being sought for two local motorsport events that were rained out at the weekend. The Tauranga Motorcycle Club is looking for improved weather to open its new trail riding loop at the TECT All Terrain Park and Motorsport BOP will also reschedule the tarmac hillclimb at Ohauiti Rd which was called off on Sunday.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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