The 2019-20 dirt-biking season has only just kicked off, but Taupo's Brad Groombridge is already blisteringly hot.
The multi-talented Suzuki rider has both national enduro and cross-country racing titles to his credit, has typically finished among the top four or five in the motocross nationals over recent years and even dabbled with superbike road-racing last season, with impressive results there too, but this coming season he is zooming his focus in to concentrate on just two motorcycling codes – cross-country and motocross.
The New Zealand motocross season kicked off with the big annual MX Fest event at Taupo over Labour Weekend and Groombridge was there with two bikes, a new Suzuki RM-Z450 and an RM-Z250 model as well.
Firstly he raced his 450cc bike in Saturday evening's Speedcross event – a hybrid cross between speedway and stadium supercross racing – and he worked his way through to win the second semi-final and earned a place in the grand final.
He then finished an impressive overall runner-up in the final, just behind multi-time former national supercross champion and current national MX1 motocross champion Cody Cooper.
Groombridge took the same bike to the start line in the MX1 class at the MX Fest motocross the following day and again he managed runner-up overall, again finishing behind Mount Maunganui's mercurial Cooper.
Perhaps a glutton for punishment or simply a dirt-biking workaholic, Groombridge also raced his Suzuki RM-Z250 bike in the MX2 class on Sunday, settling this time for fourth overall, despite being eliminated in the first of the novelty last-man-standing rapid-fire shoot-out series of races that ended the weekend.
Two runner-up results and a fourth overall in three different contest categories over the Labour Weekend certainly hinted that Groombridge will be a contender again when the parallel-but-separate 2020 motocross and enduro championship series kick off in the New Year.
"I'm just starting to warm-up. I had most of last season off when I had remedial shoulder surgery in April. That was one of the reasons why I went and tried road-racing. But I won't be racing a superbike this coming season, though, because it's too expensive for me to mount a serious campaign," Groombridge said.
"And I am backing away from the enduro scene too because racing that championship, in addition to everything else, kind of makes my season go all-year-around and there's no rest.
"But I'm fully focussed on cross-country motocross and MX Fest was my first motocross hit-out. I am just starting to warm up," said the 29-year-old locksmith.
"I felt good on the bikes and finally found a setting I'm happy with. We'll just keep working on that try to get my left shoulder back to full strength. It's been six months now and it's not too bad, although I'm still not 100 percent yet."
The four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships kick off at Balclutha, on February 1 and the four-round New Zealand Cross-country Championships begin near Marton two weeks later, on February 16.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com