It was a cliff-hanger finale to this season’s New Zealand Motocross Championships in the Bay of Plenty on Sunday.
The racers arrived at Taupo’s popular sand and pumice Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park in Taupo for the fourth and final round of the series knowing that, for two of the three Fox-sponsored championship classes at least, it was going down to the wire.
In the premier MX1 class, visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs enjoyed a five-point buffer over Mount Maunganui’s defending national MX1 champion Cody Cooper.
It was a similar story too in the MX2 (250cc) class, with Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis happy with his four-point advantage over Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke.
The only thing that seemed certain that it would take a disaster for Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly not to win the 125cc class crown.
With eight wins from nine starts at the previous three rounds (three 125cc races at each of the events at Balclutha, Rotorua and Fernhill respectively), Connolly held a whopping 64-point lead over his nearest challenger, Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips.
Therefore, with more than two full races up his sleeve, when Connolly dominated and won the first of his three 125cc races at Taupo on Sunday, he had earned his first senior motocross crown with two races to spare.
Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon fought through and recovered from bad luck at the earlier rounds to eventually claim the runner-up spot in the 125cc class and it was a similar story for Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, who settled for third overall.
When Purvis finished runner-up in both of the day’s first two MX2 races, while nearest rival Natzke finished third in race one and then won race two, it set up an intriguing scenario – whomever won the day’s final MX2 race at Taupo would take the title for 2020.
Purvis rocketed into the lead in that final race and never looked back.
Natzke fought through traffic to eventually finish runner-up in that race and this was the final championship outcome too, Purvis taking the title ahead of Natzke, with Oparau’s James Scott claiming the third podium position for the series.
In the MX1 class, Gibbs showed strength to win the day’s first MX1 race and then settled for a runner-up finish behind Cooper in race two, giving him a solid seven-point buffer with one race remaining. This meant Gibbs could afford to finish no worse than fourth and in the final race and he would take the crown.
And that’s what happened, Cooper winning the day with his second race victory, but Gibbs crossing the line second and therefore clinching the title by four points.
Third overall for the MX1 championship was West Auckland’s, Hamish Harwood.
The MX1 prize is now designated a “Perpetual Trophy”, which means Gibbs will be the first to have his name on this trophy.
Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad said it had been a “truly great series”. “All four rounds produced a number of different winners in the various classes, which is all we can ask for,” he said.
“The series demonstrated that the model with host clubs working alongside Motorcycling New Zealand to deliver this championship was a successful model which has lifted the sport to another platform from where we were two years ago, particularly with the partnership with Sky Sport Next.
“MX2 class riders such as Maximus Purvis, Josiah Natzke, James Scott and Dylan Walsh, and MX1 rider Cody Cooper too, have shown that the experience to race overseas and honing their skills is the way forward.”
A new YZ65 Cup support class was an extra element in the programme at Balclutha’s series opener and it was present again at the fourth and final round in Taupo, the special feature offering an opportunity for some of the nation’s youngest rising stars to show what they were made of.
A huge thank you to our series sponsors Fox Racing New Zealand, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Pirelli NZ, Ward Demolition, Aon, ICG, Kawasaki NZ, Blue Wing Honda, Raptor, Yamalube Yamaha Racing, TransDiesel Ltd and Sky Sport Next.
Final leading standings in the 2020 New Zealand Motocross Championships:
MX1 class: 1. Australia’s Kirk Gibbs, 280 points; 2. Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, 276; 3. Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, 244; 4. Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont, 203; 5. Waitakere’s Ethan Martens, 176.
MX2 class: 1. Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, 252 points; Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, 246; 3. Oparau’s James Scott, 228; 4. Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh 224; 5. Australia’s Caleb Ward, 188.
Under-19 class: 1. Oparau’s James Scott, 300 points; 2. Australia’s Riley Ward, 242; 3. Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, 226.
125c class: 1. Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, 291 points; 2. Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, 229; 3. Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, 213; 4. Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips, 202; 5. Rongotea’s Zac Jillings, 167.
Words by Andy McGechan, Photo by CLMINTIEPIX