Thrills, not spills, for champ

NoNational motorcycling cross-country champion Tommy Watts(left) and cousin Jack Bull at the Ashburton motorcycle park. Photo Linda Clarke

Ashburton’s Jack Bull had the pleasure of introducing his local motorcycle park to cousin and new national cross-country champion Tommy Watts this week.

“Stay on your toes,” was Tommy’s advice after the pair had completed a lap at the park off Trevors Road.

He gave the facility a big thumb’s up and said local riders were lucky to have it at their fingertips.

Tommy, 19, learned to ride on the Hawke’s Bay station where he grew up. He started competing at 12 and last weekend in Otago nailed his first national motorcycling cross-country title.

He stopped off in Ashburton on his way home for some quality riding time with cousin Jack and uncle Rocky Bull.

Tommy said he just loved riding fast and hoped to head to the United States to further his riding.

Off-course, he puts in plenty of time at the gym and on fitness, to make sure his body handles the three-hour race.

Trainer Sam Harvey makes him work hard so his body can handle the internal and external stresses of the sport.

Racing was interrupted last year by covid and Tommy has finished the new season injury free.

He headed into last weekend needing to finish ahead of his main rival Paul Whibley, who won his first national title in 2001.

Tommy finished the first day of racing just seven seconds ahead of Whibley but beat him by 44 seconds the next day.

This week, he was riding his uncle’s 20-year-old bike and giving tips to 14-year-old Jack, who goes to Ashburton College.

Rocky said riding motorcycles was in the family blood. He started riding at 5 on a Honda 50 on the same station as Tommy. He graduated to a Suzuki 75, then a RM125 two-stroke “that blew a lot of smoke”, and then an XR200 and KLX300.

There was no riding for Rocky this week though, with rehearsals for the Variety Theatre Ashburton’s next show ramping up.

Jack started on a Suzuki 50 before moving to a DRZ125 and then a Yamaha TTR250.

The pair spend a bit of time at the Ashburton motorcycle park riding for enjoyment.