Andrell Stuns With Serious Title Challenge

It was something of a dream outing for Auckland's Joseph Andrell, the 29-year-old competing at the 2018 edition of the New Zealand Mini TT Championships near Taupiri at the weekend.

The Landscape gardener from Orewa shifts dirt for a living, but he went into overdrive at the two-day TT nationals near Huntly, stunning everyone, including himself, when he qualified his Yamaha YZ125 fastest in the Senior 125cc class, clocking a time that was a fraction of a second better than the second-quickest rider, Bay of Plenty's Ben Townley. Though now retired from fulltime racing, the 33-year-old Townley was still the favourite to win the 125cc class at the TT nationals – after all, he is a multi-time former national motocross and supercross champion, as well as 2004 MX2 world motocross champion and he was 2007 East Coast Supercross Champion in the United States. But, though he clearly respected his highly-credentialed rival, Andrell was never going to be intimidated by him.

Townley ruled proceedings on day one of the event, winning both 125cc races ahead of Andrell, but then Townley had mechanical issues (a broken spark plug) in the first of Sunday's three 125cc races, dropping him back to finish only seventh in that race. This opened the door for Andrell to take over the championship lead. But Townley was back to win the final two Senior 125cc races of the weekend and he eventually clinched the trophy by just one point from Andrell. Though not successful in winning the title on this occasion, Andrell's performance was remarkable nonetheless and, as he was quick to comment "finishing second to someone like Townley is as good as winning anyway". To further emphasise how great was Andrell's achievement at the weekend was the fact that he has been plagued by injuries over recent years and was still not 100 percent fit. "I'm still struggling with my injuries," he explained. "I still can't lift my right arm above the shoulder, but at least I could reach straight out and hold the handlebars," he laughed. "I grew up riding on farms, so this TT (flat, grass-track) racing was perfect for me. "When Townley dropped down to seventh in race three it gave me a bit of a sniff of winning the title. But I had worked out the points and, as we lined up for the final race of the weekend, I knew I simply had to finish ahead of him to win the title. "But I had a terrible start ... my reaction time was a bit off. I came through the pack and managed to pick off (Taupiri rider) Zak Fuller on the last lap to grab second place, but it wasn't enough. "It was a pleasure to race against a Kiwi legend like Townley and a bonus to get such a good result. This is the first time I've been on the podium as a senior (over-16 years old) rider and I didn't get back into racing until I was 22 or 23 anyway, so this is pretty special. "This is just the beginning. You'll be seeing more of me now." Andrell was supported by Kaiwaka Yamaha, Crown Kiwi Enterprises, JTR Suspension, Blue Lotus Tattoo and DB Graphics.

Other class winners at the weekend were Taupo's Cohen Chase (MX1 class); Massey's Hayden Smith (MX2 class); Te Awamutu's Rachael Archer (Women's class); Hamilton's Reef Wheki (Junior 12-16 years 125cc and 14-16 years 250cc class); Oparau's Hunter Scott (Junior 13-16 years 85cc class); Cambridge's Jared Hannon (Junior 8-12 years 85cc class); New Plymouth's David Furze (Enduro class); Taupo's Jake Tomblin (Classic bikes class); Cambridge's Damien King (Veterans 35-44 years class); New Plymouth's Mitch Rowe (Veterans over-45 years class); Stratford's Scott Keegan (ATV premier grade); Patea's Tyler Campbell (ATV 450cc production grade); Stratford's Nicola Reid (ATV Veterans, over-40 years, grade).

Words and photo by Andy McGechan