Bel Ray Pro Rider Suzuki Team rider Rhys Carter raced to victory in his comeback ride from injury at the weekend’s annual Whakatane Summercross in New Zealand.
The 25-year-old, who was forced to abandon his successful Australian Motocross Championship campaign due to a broken wrist in July, posted a 2-1-2-2-5 score-card aboard his RM-Z450, winning the MX1 class by two points from Rotorua's John Phillips, with reigning national MX1 champion Cody Cooper taking the third spot on the podium, another four points further back.
The Bel Ray Pro Rider Suzuki Team was naturally thrilled to see Carter so quickly back to top form, especially since their other MX1 class rider, Brad Groombridge, was less than 100 per cent at the weekend after tearing his shoulder ligaments in a mountain bike crash just before Christmas.
Groombridge had brought great success to the Suzuki team in the lead-up to the weekend, winning the MX1 class at the big annual MX Fest at Taupo in October, winning the Acerbis Four-Hour Cross-Country Marathon a week later and then dominating the Auckland Motocross Championships at the start of December. And, even at less than full fitness, Groombridge managed to finish inside the top 10.
But it was Carter's heroics that kept the spotlight on the Bel Ray Pro Rider Suzuki Team and was an especially significant victory for him, beating his former flat-mate Cooper; the man who was also his former Suzuki team-mate and who has held the national MX1 crown for the past two seasons.
Said Carter: "Today has caught me a little bit by surprise. Of course it felt great to beat the champion. I qualified fourth fastest and that, in itself, was something of a surprise, particularly considering that this was my first time behind a start gate in such a long time. For me to get good starts and run up the front of this class is a great confidence-builder for me ahead of the nationals; which kick off in Taranaki on February 8. My fitness feels good and I'm feeling comfortable on the bike. What a way to come back!”
Bel Ray Pro Rider Suzuki Team Manager Andrew Hardisty said: "Our riders performed brilliantly and Rhys' result was the cherry on top. Brad had a tough day on the bike with his recent injury to cope with. I'm very proud of our MX2 (250cc) class riders, Logan Blackburn and Campbell King; most notably Logan, who finished runner-up in the final MX2 race and all the signs are good for our next big event, the annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville on January 24-25."