The 17-year-old Yamaha rider from Cambridge finished runner-up to Kiwi cross-country legend Paul Whibley in the three-hour race in the sandy Woodhill Forest on Sunday – the second round of four in the popular Woodhill Two-man Cross-country Series – making it a Yamaha 1-2 finish to the event. And, despite Manawatu's Whibley (Yamaha YZ450FX) finishing a lap ahead of Grey, after Whibley had arrived at the timing zone just before the clock had ticked onto the three-hour mark, there really wasn't a lot of distance between the two riders for much of the race. Both men rode the event solo, enduring every minute of the three-hour marathon, leaving the two-rider Waikato pairing of Andrew Charleston and Phillip Goodwright to settle for third overall, crossing the line six minutes behind Grey (Yamaha YZ250FX). "I seem to be getting better each time I ride," said Grey, who also finished equal runner-up to Whibley at the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series, which wrapped up near Tokoroa in July. Grey shared the second overall spot with fellow Yamaha rider Callan May in that series. "I think the main reason for the improvements in my riding has been that I'm now out in the workforce (employed by one of his sponsors, at Blackwood Yamaha in Cambridge) and I'm not sitting all day in a class room. "It means I'm a lot fitter now and I've lost a lot of weight. I just move around more in my job at Blackwoods, plus I'm watching what I eat," he smiled. "I kept up with Whibley for about half the race on Sunday.
Once I pitted for fuel I lost sight of him and my pace dropped off because I couldn't see anyone ahead to chase." Grey's next big assignment is to tackle the annual Tarawera 100 cross-country marathon – a gruelling 100-mile (160-kilometre) race – near Whakatane on Saturday. Grey made his debut at the Tarawera 100 last season, finishing a creditable sixth overall. "I was pretty pleased with that, although I guess it puts me under pressure to go even better this year." Grey is supported by Yamaha-Motor New Zealand, Blackwood Yamaha, BikesportNZ.com, PWR Racing and O'Neal.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan