Though beaten to the chequered flag in the first two of three races in the premier MX1 class at the penultimate round of the 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships at Pukekohe on Sunday, Australian visitor Gibbs quickly bounced back, roaring to victory in the final MX1 outing of the day.
It was a "damage limitation" exercise of sorts for the defending national MX1 champion and his fight-back to win race three gives him an excellent chance of pushing through to retain his crown at the fourth and final round of the Fox-sponsored series at Taupo in two weeks' time (on March 10).
Gibbs and his Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team will head now to Taupo with an excellent chance of winning, the Gold Coast man just three points adrift of Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper in the MX1 title chase.
"It was a good way to finish the day. I struggled a bit in the first two races though," said the 30-year-old Gibbs afterwards.
"I felt good in the first race and took the lead from Cooper. There was a bit of cat and mouse going on between him and I and I made one or two mistakes and he got the lead back. We are going about the same pace, so it's hard to pass.
"In the last race I knew I really needed to get the win because going into Taupo, with what would have been a nine-point deficit, would make my job there really hard.
"I put absolutely everything into that last race. Mentally and physically it took everything out of me. I think it would have been the same for Cooper.
"I've given myself a chance now for Taupo. I know Cooper is so good at Taupo, but only going three points down is not so bad."
Consistently placing third overall throughout the MX1 class racing this season has been Gibbs' Altherm JCR Yamaha team-mate Kayne Lamont – the Hamilton-based rider again finishing third each time at Pukekohe – and he is now 21 points behind Gibbs.
A strong finish might be expected from Lamont at Taupo, one of his favourite tracks, and this could put the cat among the pigeons.
Meanwhile, West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood continues to lead the MX2 (250cc) class, with Altherm JCR Yamaha rider Maximus Purvis now up to second in the standings.
Consistency has elevated Purvis from third overall at the start of the day at Pukekohe and move him up to the No.2 spot, a solid effort from the 18-year-old this season making his MX2 class debut.
Purvis is also leading the extra MX2 battle-within-a-battle for under-19 age group honours.
"I think we can head to Taupo in a positive mood," said Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team manager Josh Coppins.
"I thought both Gibbs and Cooper rode amazing today. I was impressed with Gibbs coming back in that third race. He had to close that points gap. With the gap down to three points it means the championship is anyone's ... nine points would have been difficult.
“Kayne is sitting solid in third and Maximus is now second in the MX2 class and leading the under-19 championship, so it's a positive weekend. It could have been better. We want to win, of course, but overall I'm happy."
Gibbs, Lamont, Purvis and the Altherm JCR Yamaha team is supported by Altherm Window Systems, JCR, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamalube, GYTR, bLUcRU, Akrapovic, Ward Demolition, Star Moving, Holland Collision Centre, Workshop Graphics, Fox, YMI, YMF, Pirelli, Twin Air, DID, Renthal, Motomuck, Vertex, Motoseat & SKF.
Words by Andy McGechan,www.BikesportNZ.com