Finding the balance between hard work and fun has powered Tauranga teenager Brodie Connolly to his first senior national motocross title.
Connolly clinched the national 125cc championship at Taupō on Sunday morning by taking his ninth win in 10 races. And with title locked-up the 16-year-old racer wasted no time getting his first taste of 250cc MX2 competition.
It's been a challenging 12 months for Connolly to bounce back from a broken leg and five months off his motorcycle while he recovered.
A year ago Connolly had just made his move into senior racing and began his national campaign with a second place behind eventual champ Hamish Harwood at the opening round. Then came a practice crash and months of recovery for a badly broken right leg.
By the end of last year Connolly was back riding at club and schools events and rebuilding his pace and fitness.
''This is what I've been working for since I got back on my bike last year,'' Connolly said after clinching the title.
''I'm the fittest and strongest I've ever been now. I set the championship as my goal while I was recovering and I've put in a lot of work off the bike with cycling, running, mountain biking and time in the gym.
"Being on the LMC Husqvarna team has made it much easier at the races and my Husqvarna has been wicked to ride.''
But it hasn't all been hard work.
''One of my goals this year has been to have fun each weekend. When racing is fun I ride at my best,'' said Connolly.
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He went into the final round with eight wins and a second from nine starts and the chance to lock away the title with two races to spare. With that in mind he also entered the MX2 class, qualified fifth and switched his focus as soon as the 125cc title was secure with an opening moto win.
''In the first 125cc race I didn't do anything stupid and saved some energy for the next four races.''
Connolly had only four hours of practice on the 250cc 4-stroke machine before making his race debut in the MX2 class. He sat out the first moto to make certain of clinching the 125cc crown and then impressed with a sixth place in the most competitive of the three national classes.
The 125cc championship delivered a 1-2 result for riders in Year 12 at Tauranga Boys' College. KTM rider Madoc Dixon secured the runner-up honours, climbing back to second by taking the overall Taupō round win after a second and two race wins.
At the mid-way point of the 2020 mationals all three classes had been led by Bay of Plenty riders.
In the end defending MX1 champ Cody Cooper (Mount Maunganui) was pipped to the title by Australian Kirk Gibbs. Cooper won the Taupō final round on his Honda but only regained one point on Gibbs leaving the final margin at four points after 12 races. The battling duo each won six races.
Mount Maunganui's Josiah Natzke (Kawasaki) was a contender throughout the MX2 series leading at the half-way point but losing ground when he crashed in race two at the third round in Hawke's Bay.
Natzke rode to third in the opening moto at Taupō and scored an impressive win in race two. The MX2 title stayed alive all the way to the chequered flag in race three as Natzke pursued points leader Maximus Purvis (Mangakino).
A passing move would have equalled the scores and put Natzke ahead with more wins but Purvis crossed the line 3.4secs in front.
''I don't feel like I lost the title today,'' Natzke said.
"I lost it with the crash at the third round.''
Connolly and Dixon will be among the leading contenders when Tauranga hosts the Farmer Auto Village/Yamaha New Zealand Junior (under-17) MX Champs raced at the TECT All Terrain Park over the April 17-19 weekend.