Tommy Watts has got his eye on a berth in the New Zealand team to attend the junior world motocross championships in Australia in August.
If the Hawke's Bay rider keeps doing what he did at the third round of the New Zealand Championship at Fernhill's Ngaruroro Raceway on Saturday he will be hard to leave out. The 16-year-old Napier Boys High School Year 12 student was the best of the Bay riders with a third placing in the 18-strong 125cc 2-stroke class.
The Husqvarna rider recorded two thirds and a fourth placing. He will start the fourth and final round in Taupo this weekend 11 points behind second placegetter Mason Semmens of Australia and 14 points behind winner Maximus Purvis of Mangakino.
"It will be good to stay on the podium until the end of the final round," Watts said.
"Five riders in each class will be taken to the worlds, the team will be named after the April 21 and 22 junior nationals in Mosgiel and it will be my first worlds if I make it."
Apart from three third placings in the previous round in Rotorua Saturday's placings were Watts' best in the championship.
"It was pretty good to be the best of the Hawke's Bay riders on my home track in front of family, sponsors and supporters," Watts said.
Wairoa's Watts is a member of the Auckland-based HLR Husqvarna team and the team's key personnel were among the spectators. Watts, who is in his second season in the class, had also entered the Youth Cup class but withdrew.
"Because of the shitty weather I thought it would be better to focus on one class and that decision paid off. The rain kept coming in and when that is happening it's hard to keep your endurance levels up," Watts said.
His father, Graeme, gave him his first motorbike when he was 5 but he didn't start racing until he was 12. Watts' second placing in the 13-16 years 85cc class at last year's junior nationals in the Bay was an early indication he was on target for international selection.
He played plenty of rugby and hockey during his days at Tiaho School and in Year 7 and Year 8 at Wairoa College but in recent years has made motocross his priority.
"I've had to so I could get better and better at it," Watts said.
He heaped kudos on the input trainer Sam Harvey of Nfinite Fitness in Napier and his Tauranga-based coach, former world champion Ben Townley, have had in his success.
"I had my first one-on-one coaching session with Ben after the Rotorua round. I stayed with his family which was so cool because I got on really well with his two sons. He did all the hard yards when he was young and it's good to see him giving it back to our sport."
With second placings in all three races Aussie Kirk Gibbs, riding a KTM 450F bike, established a nine-point lead over Rotorua's John Phillips in the 27-strong glamour MXI class. Takaka's Hamish Harwood finished three points behind Phillips in third place.
Racing a KTM250, Harwood had three wins in the 41-strong MX2 class. Rangiora's Micah McGoldrick, on a CR250F, will start the Taupo round 19 points behind in second place and Taupo's Brad Groombridge is a further two points back in third.
Hawke's Bay riders Jye Deacon, Jacob McKinley and Luke McGrath finished 19th, 21st and 31st in the MX2 class. The other Bay riders in Watts class, Napier's Jacob Beal and Waipukurau's Daniel Stoddart, finished sixth and 11th respectively.
With two fourths and a third placing Daniel Barrow of Hastings, on a KTM 450, finished third behind Northland's Jonty Birrell and Te Awamutu's Jed Bixley in the MX3 class.
Taradale's Hadleigh Griffiths, on a Husqvarna 450F, finished third, 20 points behind Waikato winner Reef Wheki, in the Youth Cup class. Wheki had three wins on his KTM 250P and finished nine points ahead of Taupo's Jake Tomblin.
Hawke's Bay Motorcycle Club president Andrew Ayre was happy with how the day went.
"The first shower was perfect and it made the track better than it was. The second shower was too much after all the rain last weekend but by the time of the final race for the MXI class it had come back."