Features 16 Apr 2024

Fast Thoughts: Hamish Harwood

NZ champion details his second MX1 title as 2024 season concludes.

It’s safe to say that Kiwi mainstay Hamish Harwood has earned a solid reputation as one of the toughest riders in the sport during his career. Winning the 2024 New Zealand Motocross Championship with a broken hand against ProMX red plate-holder Jed Beaton has further cemented that status for the 28-year-old, and fresh from clinching the title in Taranaki on Sunday, MotoOnline caught up with the CML KTM Racing rider to get his Fast Thoughts on the season.

Image: Supplied.

Winning a second New Zealand MX1 championship…

I’ve won a total of eight national titles across the 125, 250 and 450 classes, but this year’s certainly felt a lot different from every other, as there was no formal prizegiving. The racing was initially scheduled for Saturday, but they received so much rain in the area it was postponed to Sunday instead. From a racing perspective it was the right call, but it meant that there were no celebrations – after the podium formalities we jumped in the car and missioned the six hours home to Auckland so I could get back to work on Monday! Looking back on the whole championship I feel it was a massive accomplishment, especially to beat Jed at the level he’s currently riding at and with a broken hand. I only put about six practice hours on the bike over the entire summer between races and I think, because of the injury, I didn’t have put any expectations on myself to win. I’d just go out and do the best I could, so that mindset actually helped me relax during the races. The last two rounds were a bit different though – I had the points lead and my focus was more on trying to keep it.

Racing Jed Beaton all summer…

It’s been awesome to go up against someone of his calibre all season. I certainly wasn’t winning because he crashed or did something wrong – if you include the Woodville weekend, we raced 15 motos against each other and I beat him in 10 of those, and I’m pretty proud to be able to do that, to be honest. It was always the two of us out front because the depth isn’t there in New Zealand, and I think the biggest difference was I got more good starts than he did. A lot times I got into the lead early and could manage the race from there, while he had to try and catch me, then try and get past.

Dealing with a broken hand throughout the series…

In practice at the Woodville Grand Prix, I hit a wooden peg and smashed the outside of my clutch hand into six different pieces. On top of that, I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop all day, and it was touch-and-go as to whether I could race. I thought I’d go out and do a few laps and see what I could do, but man, it’s amazing what adrenaline can do. I caught and passed Jed in the opening moto when he got arm-pump, then beat him in the two remaining motos, which was just crazy. At the opening round of the championship at Rotorua a week later, the pain was definitely the worst and I almost pulled the pin after practice. Once the gate dropped I was able to block out the pain to just race and won two of the three races. My pinky didn’t have the mobility to wrap around the handlebar, so after Rotorua I changed the grip to a mountain bike grip with a big pad on the outside that I could rest my finger on. That made a world of difference and I played around with the shape of the grip by shaving parts of it off, just to get the most comfort out of it. Right now, it looks like I’ve got a sixth knuckle and I still don’t have full functionality. There’s some concern about the tendon that goes across the top of the bone lump, so I might need to have an operation to shave it down.

Image: Supplied.

Plans for the rest of the year…

I don’t have any real plans outside of the Motocross of Nations (MXoN). I might do some international racing if the opportunity arises, but nothing has come up and I haven’t received any interest to race in Australia. Last year I made an 11th-hour plan to race the Two-Stroke Challenge at Washougal’s Pro Motocross round and finished just outside the points, so that’s something I could potentially look at again. I’m not saying I will or won’t, but will see how it all pans out.

Balancing work, racing, training and family commitments…

I’ve just started a massive new job as the site manager of a big church build that will take about a year to complete, and I’ve got a two-year-old and a four-month-old at home. I seem to have found a good balance with it all, though. I come back from work and spend time with the family, then train late at night with a bike and gym set-up at home. Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays are usually my riding days, and I try to have at least one family day every weekend as well. There are a lot of balls to juggle, but I’ve found a good mix that seems to work.