Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter is counting down the days before he makes his race debut on his new Yamaha YZ450F.
The 28-year-old signed on to race for Yamaha last month, but he is yet to perform in a race proper and that will happen next month at the grandest of all dirt bike events, the annual Motocross of Nations, commonly referred to as the “Olympic Games of motocross”.
Carter, a professional motocross coach and the 2018 New Zealand MX1 No.4, will be joined by national MX1 No.2 Cody Cooper, also from Mount Maunganui, and Auckland’s two-time and current national MX2 (250cc) champion Hamish Harwood, in representing New Zealand at the MXoN at Red Bud, Michigan, in the United States on the weekend of October 6-7.
“It’s a huge thing. I believe they have already sold 100,000 tickets for this event,” said Carter.
“Every country in the world comes together with their three best riders and you just go hard at it. There are no gaps between riders … everyone is just jammed in they’re going at it.
“I believe the Americans have won the MXoN every time it’s been held in America. And the way their riders are performing at the moment, they will be a very hard team to beat.
“I think that, if we can get around a top 10 placing, that would be massive. We (NZ) are such a small part of the world and always have to travel huge distances to get to this event.
“But the team we have this year is very solid. Hamish (Harwood) has just come off a strong Australian campaign and Cody (Cooper) has been racing in America this season too, so this is one of the strongest New Zealand teams we have had in a long time,” he said.
All three riders compete in their individual classes with points earned in reverse – a rider is awarded one point for a race win, two points for second place, three for third, and so on. The lowest combined score wins and a maximum points are assigned for a non-finish, which means finishing each race is vital.
“I guess it’s a little bit more pressure because you don’t want to let your team and country down, but, in the same respect, you kind of use it as a motivation,” Carter said.
New Zealand’s MXoN team co-manager Bevan Weal, from Taupo, said it was a huge honour for a rider to be selected to race for his country.
“It’s like being chosen for the All Blacks,” he said. “The riders put their hands on their hearts and go out and give it their best shot.”
Despite being a newcomer to the Yamaha brand, Carter has been quick to adjust and he is feeling comfortable on the YZ450F, putting in impressive laps times at the weekend’s latest training session at Taupo.
When the domestic season kicks off later on October, Carter will be racing under his own Yamalube Yamaha banner, but closely associated with the Josh Coppins-managed Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team.
Carter and Yamaha Yamalube are sponsored by Yamaha-Motor New Zealand, Crown Kiwi, Alpinestars, Pirelli, 100% and CFX Seats and bLU cRU.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan