Back from a six-month injury interruption to his racing career, former world motocross champion Ben Townley of Tauranga made a perfect comeback at Taupo during the long weekend.
In his first top-level race appearance since dislocating his left hip in a practice crash before the second round of the Australian MX Nationals in mid-April, Townley powered his Honda 450 to three wins from three starts in the MX1 class at Taupo's Labour Weekend MX Extravaganza.
Townley, 27, claimed the overall win ahead of Suzuki's former national champ Cody Cooper (Papamoa) on a day which began with near-perfect track conditions and ended up testing riders with heavy rain and deep mud. "Cody was right on it and showing some good form," said Townley.
"We had a good battle for most of the first race and in the second race we passed and re-passed each other all the way to the chequered flag.
"The rain started falling pretty heavily and race three was a mud race. I got a good start which is so important in those conditions."
Townley said he was pleased with the way he adapted to the changing conditions.
"With some drizzle early in the day, the track was perfect and the intensity of the racing was high.
"I enjoy racing in the mud but it's a lot more technical. You need to be really smooth and consistent and look for good traction."
Sunday's victory is the first step in a campaign that will see Townley contest most of the major domestic events this summer before lining up for the 2013 Australian Champs with the Carlton Dry Honda squad.
"The injury was a complicated one because there was damage to the top of my femur as well. It's been repaired surgically and with some hard work with Carla (Mt Maunganui physiotherapist Carla Forster) my health is really good now.
"I can't say my race fitness is good but I've got all summer to work on that."
Townley will race in the Waikato champs near Te Kuiti on November 4 and and some of the upcoming Australian Supercross events. He'll make an appearance at the BOP Motorcycle Club's annual Summercross at Awakaponga (near Matata) on December 30.
"Summercross is one of my favourite races and this year it's sponsored by Honda," said Townley.
There're also two NZ Supercross rounds, the NZ Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville in late January and the four round MX Nationals at Timaru, Patetonga, Pukekohe and Taupo in February and March, where Townley will aim to defend the MX1 class national title he won earlier this year.
"Doing the nationals last year was the perfect preparation. My big goal is Australia in 2013."
Along with Cooper finishing second at Taupo in the MX1 category, there was podium success for two other local BOP riders.
In a strong MX2 field, national champ Darryll King (Hamilton) took the overall honours with Suzuki racer Rhys Carter (Papamoa) winning the first race and taking second overall ahead of Kayne Lamont (Mangakino) and Scott Columb (Queenstown).
Tauranga's Aaron Wiltshier (KTM) was third in the 125cc class behind Hadleigh Knight (Atiamuri) and Otago's teenage female phenomenon Courtney Duncan (Yamaha), who has recently stepped up to senior racing.