Team Suzuki Press Office – February 18.
Brad Groombridge: RM-Z450 – 2nd
Charles Alabaster: RM-Z450 – 3rd
Suzuki RM-Z450 riders took second and third positions in the opening round of the 2020 New Zealand Cross-Country Championships at Marton on Sunday.
Three-time national cross-country champion Brad Groombridge and Charles Alabaster showed that they are in the hunt for overall honours this season finishing second and third respectively.
Groombridge set the fastest lap time of the day as he recovered from a poor start to hunt down the early race leaders, taking his Kea Trailers Suzuki RM-Z450 to within just two minutes of the winner Paul Whibley.
Alabaster impressed too as he marked his comeback to this level of competition by taking his Motorcycle HQ Suzuki RM-Z450 to third overall; a great foundation on which to build his title bid.
Groombridge has previously won the New Zealand Cross-Country Championship title on three consecutive seasons – in 2016, 2017 and 2018 – but his title defence in 2019 had been troubled by a succession of injuries. However, with remedial surgery completed in the off-season, he was back to his best on Sunday and he said he feels positive about his title chances in 2020.
“My arm muscles pumped up a bit for me over the early laps,” Groombridge said. “I also had some brake issues when the front brake cable got tangled behind the number board. The brakes were coming and going and this caused me problems throughout the race. But I was able to put in some hard laps and caught to within a couple of minutes of Paul (Whibley). He was out front and in clear air, so that would have helped him a lot. Once I was up to second I made some gains but then decided to settle for that position on the last lap. It’s still good points for me to build on.
“There are three more rounds to go and anything can happen.”
Alabaster was also in a positive mood: “I raced the Suzuki last year but didn’t do any national rounds, so I’m pleased to get on the podium here today,” said the 27-year-old diesel mechanic.
“I passed a few riders to get up to third. That’s my best result at a nationals event for a long time and now I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. This bike is stock standard and it’s not even fitted with a bigger after-market fuel tank like some of the other guys have. I probably didn’t make the right tyre choice for this track today though,” he said, indicating towards his almost-bald rear tyre. “It was pretty slippery for me on some of those downhills!”
Round two of the New Zealand Cross-Country Championships is set for Flemington, in Central Hawke’s Bay, on March 22nd, before it heads to the South Island for round three, near Nelson on April 26th. The series wraps up near Taupo on May 23rd.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan @ www.bikesportnz.com