Sam Blenkinsop (Gravity Group) got the better half of a near dead heat with Justin Leov (Yeti/Fox Factory) at the opening round of national downhill racing season in New Zealand.

The 2008 season is different this year with there being a North Island series known as the North Island Cup, as well as there being a South Island Cup. The idea being that this will ease the costs of traveling from island to island, as riders now have the opportunity to focus on one of the two series, or do both if they wish. A separate one-off National Championships decides the National Champion.

This past weekend saw the first round of the North Island Cup held in Napier. In the lead up to the event, there'd been a little rain on Friday night after the practice sessions, and before the Saturday finals. This meant the conditions were a little treacherous for the riders on their first race runs, and thus were quite a bit slower than the second runs.

Sam had three tenths of a second on Justin in race one, and both were clear of the rest of the field on the steep and technical track, as the sun started to dry things up for the second run. They both then stepped it up by another 4 seconds in the second race, with Justin improving just a little more, but not quite enough to catch Blinky; the final margin just 8/100ths of a second.

"The cheeky bugger just got me!! That was an awesome track to start out the season and we were both having fun out there. I'm really happy to be back from my collarbone injury from the crash at the end of last season, and it's good to know I'm keeping pace with Sam. Really motivated for the 2008 season, looking forward to more racing here in New Zealand then heading over to Sea Otter in April," said Justin Leov soon after the finish.


1 Sam Blenkinsop - 2mins 33.837secs

2 Justin Leov - 2mins 33.845secs

3 Wyn Masters - 2mins 38.38secs

4 Glenn Hayden - 2mins 38.81secs

5 Michael Davis - 2mins 39.39secs

The next round of the North Island Cup will be the first weekend in February, in Rotorua.