The Bay of Plenty's annual Summercross dirt bike racing showcase turned into a mud bath on Sunday, but the world class skills of Ben Townley still shone brightly through the quagmire.
Tauranga-based Townley, the 2004 MX2 world champion, was unbeaten in the rain-shortened four race contest on his Honda CRF450, winning the Summercross MX1 title for the third year.
Fast starts put Townley in command on the Awakaponga track and he was not only the fastest rider but also the cleanest in demanding conditions which comprised deep standing water and massive ruts.
"This is the best event of the year and it's a shame about the weather," said Townley.
"I always want to win but one of main things about this event is it's usually a good chance to do some testing. I had the brand new 2013 Honda today but the conditions meant we couldn't really test very much.
"The track wasn't too bad except for the third race when there was so much water that we were aquaplaning everywhere.
I didn't like that," said Townley.
Summercross is traditionally the first step in Townley's preparation for the following year of international racing. "I've got a lot of training to do. Everything is geared to the Australian nationals which start in April. I'm basically in the phase where I'm building a fitness base and then in February the intensity steps up."
The conditions saw the other riders struggling to deliver much consistency.
Christchurch's Justin McDonald (Honda) was second overall - earned with two thirds and two fourths - and young British rider Alex Snow performed well and finished third riding for Josh Coppins' new Yamaha team.
Suzuki star Cody Cooper (Papamoa) retired from the fourth race and a frustrated Michael Philips (Rotorua) was on target for a podium finish but lost more than a lap after he and his Honda became tangled in a fence in the final race and slipped one point behind Snow.
The MX2 (250cc) class produced a mixed bag of results with Papamoa's Rhys Carter riding smart and delivering the best consistency with three second placings and a third. Carter, 23, is ranked No3 in the MX2 class and he edged out Mangakino's Cam Dillon (Honda) by a single point after Dillon posted two wins plus a third and seventh.
"The important thing was not to push too hard," said Carter. "In the mud you always try to keep smooth and try not to stop and then have to get going again.
"It's a good result and from here I plan to come out swinging at Woodville [the NZ Grand Prix this month] and the nationals."
Queenstown racer Scott Columb, making his debut for Yamaha, also took a win and pipped Tauranga's Peter Broxholme (Honda) by one point for the third podium spot.
The 15-21 years Youth MX class saw KTM rider Hadleigh Knight (Atiamuri) win ahead of Yamaha's Kairyn King (Rangiora). Te Puke teenager Logan Blackburn (Yamaha) made a solid return in his first ride since breaking his collarbone in October to finish third just one point behind King.
Recently-crowned world Veterans MX champion Darryll King (Hamilton) started the day riding two classes. He later opted out of MX2 but dominated the under-45 Vets racing with three wins on his Yamaha while Taranaki's Mitch Rowe (Yamaha) was unbeaten in the 45-plus category.