KTM Motocross Racing Team riders Kirk Gibbs and Luke Styke are continuing their most important building phase ever in the lead up to this year’s Australian Motocross Championship season.
Styke last weekend pushed on in his quest to accumulate international level competition as he carded equal fifth in the New Zealand Motocross Championship kickoff at Timaru.
Three months back in the saddle after he spent most of 2016 off the bike with a recovering Achilles tendon, Styke is working hard to add to his riding that vital last component that only exposure to top-class competition tends to extract.
His 6-5-6 haul at the weekend showed the 2013 Australian MX2 Champion certainly hasn’t forgotten how to twist a throttle, but still has a few seconds to find before he replicates the form which saw him podium his career-first MX Nats premier class outing at Horsham in 2015.
Defending Champion Cody Cooper won the round from Dean Ferris with Rhys Carter third.
New Zealander Hamish Harwood dominated proceedings in the MX 2 championship opener, winning all three races to walk away with a comfortable 11-point lead.
Team leader and 2015 Australian Champion Kirk Gibbs will take no part in this year’s New Zealand Championship, having been back on the bike for just a month after recovering from a broken femur suffered during training for the MX Des Nations in the week after last year’s MX Nationals finale.
A famously determined trainer, Gibbs has been hard at work both in the gym and at numerous tracks in Victoria, where he has based himself at present to prepare in some fresh stomping grounds.
Jay Marmont KTM Motocross Racing Team Manager: “After almost a year out of racing Luke is still finding his rhythm. He was getting good starts and staying on the bike, but we’re just missing the seat time component. As an ex-rider who raced with some of these guys just four or five months ago, I’ve been in that situation where everything is working during the week but not on race day, and when you aren’t quite there it seems worse than it really is.
Kirk is back on the bike and going exceptionally well. It wouldn’t have been smart for us to take him to New Zealand at this point; our best bet is to get him into some races over the next few months and hopefully have him where he needs to be in time for nationals.
At this stage his first race will probably be the KTM Conondale Cup on March 5.”
Luke Styke – KTM450SX-F: “You lose a lot of the intensity when you’re away from racing a while, and even though I’ve been back riding for three months, you can’t replicate what racing does. I had a massive crash at Woodville but everything is pretty good now – I’ve got a new trainer and we’re building. That’s why we’re in New Zealand – to iron out all the creases.
For the rougher tracks I haven’t got the bike quite back to where I want it yet, but once I’m more comfortable it will be easier, so for now I’m just working to get a good balance and the right feel.”
Kirk Gibbs: “I’m pretty close to 100% now. The leg feels really good on the bike and we’re happy with where we’re at. It’s been good to ride different tracks after riding the ones in Queensland for 8 or 9 years and it’s been good riding with Jed Beaton – he’s going really good so it’s good for me to chase him.
The KTM Conondale Cup will be my first race back since the injury, and hopefully we’ll squeeze in a couple more before the season starts.
It’s always hard to say where you’ll be at any given time with a recovery, and only time will tell, but things are going pretty well on the bike and I’m riding even more than I was last year. If everything goes to plan I’ll be in the right state of mind of and body when it matters. Every day I’m getting stronger and more confident in my riding.”