When it comes to the New Zealand Motocross Championships MX2 division, Bay of Plenty's Josiah Natzke is clearly the man to beat.
The Mount Maunganui rider crept closer to his first senior 250cc motocross crown during round two in Rotorua on Sunday.
The former New Zealand 125cc motocross champion has been racing overseas for the last few seasons and his homecoming has been impressive. The 21-year-old has dominated at several major domestic events in recent months.
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Round two was held on farmland at Horohoro, about 20km south-west of Rotorua, and by late afternoon Natzke was able to celebrate boosting his lead in the standings to eight points over the second-ranked rider Maximus Purvis, of Mangakino, a good position to be in with the championships now at the halfway stage.
Natzke also won at the opening round of the series in Balclutha three weeks ago and, although he didn't enjoy the same dominance on Sunday, he still managed to enhance his championship standings, inching two more competition points ahead.
Natzke qualified fastest early on Sunday and then comfortably won the first of three MX2 races, leading the 12-lap race from start to finish and taking the chequered flag by 15.5s from runner-up rider James Scott, of Oparau.
Race two was more of a challenge, Natzke eventually fighting through traffic to finish second, less than four seconds behind the winner, visiting Australian Kyle Webster.
He suffered a poor start in race three and had his work cut out to power through traffic from a long way back in the field.
In the end, Natzke battled to fifth position and, although frustrated by this result, he was grateful to leave Rotorua with his points lead intact and still in possession of the championship leader's red number plate.
"The first two races were really good but the last race was a missed opportunity for me," he said.
"I had a terrible start. I'm still moving forward in the championship chase, but I'm frustrated. I wanted to do better, of course."
Holding the red plate can be a huge confidence boost, a badge of honour, and Natzke is determined to keep a firm grip on it as the competition now heads to Hawke's Bay, at Mere Rd near Fernhill, for round three this Sunday.
"I'm happy to still be leading the championship and I'm looking forward to Hawke's Bay. I want to come away with enough points that I can take a good safety buffer with me, perhaps have a race under my belt, heading into the final round."
The fourth and final round is in Taupō on March 15.
Meanwhile, in the MX1 class, Bay of Plenty's defending champion Cody Cooper continues to lead the title chase after Sunday's racing, while Tauranga's Brodie Connolly still rules the roost in the 125cc class.
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