Taranaki's Nicki Smith was all smiles as she loaded up her Kawasaki at the conclusion of a rain-soaked day's racing at Taupo recently.
Smith battled the elements and some of the best men in the business to emerge third overall in this year's Actrix Winter Road-race Championships, which wrapped up with round six at Taupo on October 29.
Now the 32-year-old rider is targeting the national championships proper.
Smith (right), based in Eltham as a supply chain co-ordinator for Fonterra, finished third in both her outings at the rain-lashed Taupo circuit, good enough to see her leapfrog her main rival, Rotorua's Corey Mudge (Suzuki SV650), and take the third step on the series podium.
Dannevirke's Geoff Booth (Suzuki SV650) easily won the class, ahead of Lower Hutt's Jon Medlin (Suzuki SV650), but Smith was thrilled to settle for third outright.
She had been fourth overall at the start of the day's racing at Taupo but twice finished ahead of second-ranked Medlin despite the atrocious conditions.
"I finished second overall for the day at Taupo and I'm pretty happy with that.
It was very slippery on the track but I'm stoked to beat (most of) the boys."
That Smith is racing at all is something of a miracle. She crashed heavily at Manfeild in June 2009, an accident that was a scary as it was painful and debilitating.
"I got run over and broke my pelvis. I remember seeing it all happen in front of me. I saw the other rider coming towards me while I lay on the ground," said Smith.
In the time since that accident, she's not only returned to the race track, but she has stepped up from a 400cc bike to a 650cc ER6 Kawasaki.
"It's heavier and more powerful," said the Kiwibike Insurance and Future Graphics and Comfort Air Taranaki-sponsored rider.
"But I just love riding it."
Encouraged by her performance over the winter, Smith now has her sights set on contesting the nationals.
"Well, I'll probably manage just two rounds of the nationals - the two North Island rounds (at Hampton Downs and Taupo) - because of the expense of getting down south.
"I've only made this decision in the past couple of weeks and I know it will be tough. The nationals are a whole different level, but I'm feeling pretty good with my racing at the moment.
"I know I'm on the pace with some of the top guys, so you never know what might happen. It's very physically demanding and I'll need to work on my fitness," said Smith.
" It's much easier for the men to throw the bikes around and I'm not a big person either."By Andy McGechan