Top-three finish for Adrian Smith makes him champion, writes Andy McGechan

Unless he's very careful, Mokau's Adrian Smith will be his own worst enemy. The Yamaha off-road motorcycle ace is well aware that a third consecutive national cross-country crown is his for the taking in the fourth and final round of the championships near Ward, south of Blenheim, this weekend but only if he rides intelligently.

The 28-year-old Awakino Gorge sheep and beef farmer won his first New Zealand cross-country championship in 2006 and was outright winner again in 2012 and last year too, and he heads to the final round on Saturday with a clear points advantage.

Smith can only be beaten by two men, South Islander Ethan Bruce looming as his biggest threat after winning the opening round in Taranaki in February and then scoring fourth and 39th placings at the two rounds that followed, in Huntly and Westland respectively.

Only three of the four rounds are to be counted towards the championship - with riders to discard their worst result - so Maruia's Bruce (Yamaha YZ250) will obviously consign his uncharacteristic 39th placing to the bin and hope for a win on Saturday and for Smith to strike problems.


Smith (Yamaha YZ250) has finished 4-1-1 in the three rounds so far and anything worse than third this weekend will therefore become his discard result.

The only other man who could possibly beat Smith to the championship is Smith himself.

"All I need to do is ride the race and keep an eye on where Ethan Bruce is on the track," said Smith. "I have to play it smart. All I really need is a top-three finish. If Ethan is winning and I crash while trying to beat him, it could cost me the title.

"But, in saying that, I can't see myself holding back either. I do want to win this race."

Raglan's Jason Dickey (Kawasaki KX250F) is third in the championship chase, with 2-3-3 results to his credit but the title is really out of his reach.

"It's a new venue this weekend, so I don't know anything about what we might expect in terms of terrain and obstacles," said Smith. "I'm expecting flowing grassland with a few steep sections. But I just don't know until I get there. Hopefully Ethan is as much in the dark about it as me.

Maruia's Ethan Bruce (Yamaha YZ250) has an outside chance of collecting the national title (right).
Maruia's Ethan Bruce (Yamaha YZ250) has an outside chance of collecting the national title (right).

"I had a few problems with my starts at the early part of the season. That's what cost me dearly at round one. It was something to do with the jetting of the carburettor. Usually the bike fires up first kick, but it didn't at round one," Smith explained.

But that has surely been rectified, judging by the trouble-free run Smith has enjoyed at rounds two and three.

"Regardless of what happens on Saturday, whether it's me or Ethan who wins the title, it will be five Yamaha wins in a row at the nationals."

Palmerston North's Adam Reeves raced a Yamaha to win the title three years consecutively in 2009, 2010 and 2011, while Smith has won it the past two seasons.

"I've won the title three times now, but I really want to be the sport's most dominant rider by making it four titles in total and three in a row this season."

Meanwhile, Waipukurau's Ben Fryer (Yamaha YZ125) and Stratford's Karl Roberts (Yamaha YZ450F) each wrapped up their respective junior class and veterans class national titles with a round to spare at the previous round, although they would also no doubt like to finish the series with a bang on Saturday.

Fryer will probably have a fight on his hands, keeping riders such as Eketahuna's Charlie Richardson, Invercargill's Todd Keown, Hamilton's Luke Taylor, Otorohanga's Aaron King, Te Kuiti's Sean Kelly, Auckland's Jake Wightman and Marton's Ethan Breuer at bay.

The juniors race for 90 minutes, starting with a shotgun blast at about 10am , and the three-hour senior race follows immediately afterwards.