Defending MXGP champion Tim Gajser will once again be leading the way for Team HRC as they look to repeat their efforts and win the 2020 FIM world motocross title. This year he’ll be under the awning with a new team mate as his #243 bike will be lining up next to Mitch Evans’ #43 machine for his first season in the MXGP class, on what is a brand new Honda CRF450RW.

For Gajser, it’ll be a chance to win his fourth world title after successes in 2015, 2016 and 2019 and he’ll be hoping he can replicate the form that saw him win last year’s championship by over 200 points and included a record breaking seven wins in a row for Honda in the middle period of the season. Now though, the focus is on the first round at Matterley Basin which is a track that he enjoys in what will be the first MXGP gate drops for the newest edition of the Honda CRF450RW.

Joining him in what is once again an extremely competitive MXGP class is rookie Evans who moves up from the MX2 world championship which he rode in 2019. Despite being just 21 years old, many experts believe that Evans is much more suited to the more powerful 450cc machines, which is something he proved when he won his first outing on the larger capacity bike at Sugo for the Japanese national championship. Now though, the Australian youngster wants to show that as quickly as possible in the MXGP class as he hopes to settle into this 2020 campaign.

Their machine for the season is a completely new Honda CRF450RW, which has been developed to cope with the multitude of conditions that an MXGP rider has to negotiate during these 20 gruelling rounds of the 2020 FIM world championship. First up though, is the three rounds of the Italian series, before the MXGP opener at Matterley Basin, Great Britain on March 1st.

Tim Gajser and Mitch Evans in action

Words and Photos: Honda Racing Corporation

Two of New Zealand’s motocross superpowers have joined forces to make a 2020 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship programme happen for top Kiwi rider Dylan Walsh.

Former international star Ben Townley will run Walsh in the four-round series through his Ben Townley Tours (BTT) business, with support from his equally-successful compatriot Josh Coppins, via his Altherm JCR Yamaha team.

After his stand-out performance winning the 2019 British MX2 Championship, the collective New Zealand motocross community hoped Walsh would continue on the world stage flying the nation’s flag.

Tauranga’s Townley has been following Walsh’s international career and was “gutted for him that he didn’t get an opportunity to continue in the 2020 MX2 World Championship,” he says.

“When Josh asked if I’d help him out, I jumped at it, to be honest. I really believe that I can help Dylan tick a few boxes and get his entire package as a racer ready, so he can tackle an international racing programme again, as soon as next year. I’m really looking forward to the challenge!” Townley adds.

Dylan Walsh signs with BTT and Altherm JCR Yamaha – Photo by CD Photography

Yamaha Motor New Zealand’s Motorsport Manager Coppins says: “I rate Dylan as a top 10 rider in MXGP for 2020 but when it finally became clear that an international ride wasn’t going to eventuate for him this season, unfortunately, our Altherm JCR Yamaha team structure was complete. So, Ben and I pulled together to make this deal work.”

“Dylan is fortunate to get this help from Ben, who is a world-class coach and my Altherm JCR Yamaha team riders are also able to tap into his wealth of knowledge, so it’s a great opportunity all-round,” Coppins adds.

Walsh says: “I am super thankful that Josh and Ben put this programme together for me to race for Yamaha in New Zealand over the summer. I couldn’t have any two better people backing me and I’m just really excited to get it underway.”

“I also really appreciate Ben and his family opening the door of their home for me to come and stay with them while I’m in New Zealand,” he adds.

While this announcement is potentially no huge surprise to the general motocross public – as posts of Walsh working with Townley have been on social media recently – Coppins says there’s been a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes that he wants to acknowledge.

“I’d like to get the point across that there has been a collective of people working to make this happen. Ben and I went around our sponsors and put this deal together and we are grateful to the below backers, who jumped on board to assist,” Coppins says.

  • Contract Consultants: National plant and commercial vehicle lease company who have come on board in 2020 as sponsor of Altherm JCR Yamaha
  • Holland Collision Centre: Christchurch-based vehicle collision company owned by Cam Holland, long-time motorsport enthusiast and supporter of Altherm JCR Yamaha
  • Procut: Auckland-based concrete cutting company owned by long-time Yamaha supporter and motorcycle enthusiast Tony Cooksley
  • Altherm JCR Yamaha and associated partners
  • Serco Yamaha (Australia)

“It’s never easy to find sponsorship but as Dylan rode for Altherm JCR Yamaha in 2018, where he finished second in MX2, plus the fact that he’s a likeable rider, it all came together relatively easily. We are proud of how the collaboration between Altherm JCR Yamaha, Yamaha Motor NZ and Australia and BTT’s sponsors can help make things happen for Yamaha riders,” Coppins says.

Walsh will debut in his new team this weekend at the Woodville NZ GP where BTT will provide the race structure for him and he competes as a satellite rider to Altherm JCR Yamaha. He will strengthen Yamaha’s programme as he races alongside Altherm JCR Yamaha’s current MX2 rider Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis. Walsh will then contest the New Zealand Motocross Championship, which begins in Balclutha on February 1.

Having signed a deal with Serco Yamaha in Australia, Walsh will go on to race across the Tasman in both the Australian Motocross and Supercross Championships in MX2, after the New Zealand season.

“Our goal is to definitely win the NZ MX2 championship and learn as much as I can from Ben and Josh while building as a rider. Plus it’s a perfect preparation for the Australian championships,” Walsh says.

Townley and Coppins are grateful to Serco for supplying parts and accessories for Walsh’s Yamaha YZ250F for his New Zealand season.

Australian Kirk Gibbs will be returning to the Altherm JCR Yamaha team for the second consecutive year and will be looking to repeat his 2018 MX1 win in the 2020 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship. He joins the team’s Hamilton-based rider Kayne Lamont, who will also race in the top-tier motocross class.

2020 ALTHERM JCR YAMAHA RACE SCHEDULE:

Woodville NZ Grand Prix 2020 – 25th & 26th January

2020 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship

Round One – Balclutha, 1st February 2020

Round Two – Rotorua, 23rd February 2020

Round Three – Hawkes Bay, 1st March 2020

Round Four – Taupo, 15th March 2020

ALTHERM JCR YAMAHA & BEN TOWNLEY TOURS WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS: Altherm Window Systems, JCR, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamalube, GYTR, bLU cRU, YMF, YMI, Holland Collision Centre, Ward Demolition, Fox, Workshop Graphics, Ben Townley Tours, Contract Consultants, Procut & Serco Yamaha.

Dylan Walsh. Photo by CD Photography

Words Supplied by Altherm JCR Yamaha, Photos by CD Photography

The big annual Whakatane Summercross signals the start of the summer motocross season in New Zealand, an event that commands massive attention from all spheres of the sport – sponsors, spectators,  bike manufacturers and from racers of all levels.

It is certainly one event that all the major teams heavily target.

This 48th annual event on December 28-29 is again expected to attract the cream of New Zealand motocross to the loamy Awakaponga circuit, near Matata, just outside Whakatane, the Honda-sponsored spectacle again this year acting as a springboard for riders heading into the busy part of the season, one that will culminate with the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships in February and March.

It will be hard to look much further than Mount Maunganui’s multi-time former and current national MX1 champion Cody Cooper for the likely main trophy winner for this popular post-Christmas blow-out, a rider who grew up in Opotiki before going on to become an international star in the sport.

Honda’s Cooper was the main winner at Summercross last year, as well as in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. If he wins again this time around, it will be five in a row and Cooper’s sixth overall Summercross victory in total.

Cooper finished with an impressive 1-1-1-2-1 score-card over his five MX1 races at Summercross last year, while his nearest rival, fellow Mount Maunganui rider Rhys Carter, managed 2-2-2-1-2 results.

Cooper has been in top form already this year, having won the MX1 class at the big annual Honda MX Fest at Taupo in October, before backing that up with a comfortable MX1 class win at the annual Waikato Motocross Championships near Te Kuiti just two weeks ago.

Riding for the Blue Wing Honda, the 36-year-old Kiwi international will be joined in the Honda enclosure by MX2 (250cc) class specialist Wyatt Chase, from Taupo.

Meanwhile, several other former and current national motocross champions are also expected to line up to race Summercross 2019.

Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont, Oparau’s James Scott, Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly and Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis are just a few of the riders who could be expected to challenge Cooper and Chase at the front of the glamour MX1 or MX2 categories.

Equally talented riders such as Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, Taupo’s Hadleigh Knight, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, Palmerston North’s Luka Freemantle, New Plymouth’s Logan Kerrisk and Rongotea duo Seth Henson and Zac Jillings also add undeniable class to proceedings and any of them could be fancied to spring a surprise or two.

All of these riders add even more depth to the racing and perhaps make picking a winner almost impossible.

Local heroes and heroines –  from Whakatane, Ohope, Edgecumbe, Thornton and Kawerau – will, naturally, be out in force again this year, including Finn Baker, Miller Spence, Hunter Davies, Corey and Chloe Munn, Ashlee and Josh Jennings, Jack Elliott, Corban Toone, Olly McIlroy, Troy Wilson, Carter Davies, Morgan Purcell, Samuel East, Hadley Gibson, Aydan Hall, Flynn Spence, Quade Young, James Wilson, Troy Wilson, Andrew Savage, Geordie Boon, Jak Purcell, Darren Capill, Charlotte Knight, Kaylene Cornes, Sophie Tierney, Brooklyn McGovern and Aaron Colville.

“This event is always a big one,” said host Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club spokesman Tony Rees.

“The club will be working hard out to make sure that people can come along and really enjoy Summercross. It’s usually a hot one here, although we have had a few wet ones in the past.

“We have a made a few changes here and there to the track, but essentially the track always gets spruced up quite a bit for Summercross anyway, because the calibre of riders here goes up a little bit from the usual club level events.

“This is the kick-off to the main part of the season. All the top teams and riders want to be here to see how that might go at the nationals (starting in February).”

The Honda Whakatane Summercross is a two-day affair, with minis and juniors racing on Saturday and the seniors, women and veterans racing on Sunday.

If this event doesn’t shake out the cobwebs, then nothing will, and riders and fans alike will use this as a form indicator before the next big race meeting, the annual Honda New Zealand Grand Prix at Woodville on January 25-26, followed by the four-round nationals that kick off at Balclutha, at the bottom of the South Island, on February 1.

Credit: Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (Honda CRF450), again the favourite to win at Summercross this season.

The 2020 Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville

The big annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville has long enjoyed its prominent position as New Zealand’s largest stand-alone motocross event.

But, if that wasn’t already enough, the upcoming Honda-sponsored race weekend – which will celebrate its 59th birthday in late January – has again been afforded extra status as an FIM Oceania event.

The 2020 New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville will run on January 25-26, with an entry list that typically reads like a “Who’s Who” of the sport, and will feature dozens of races for all categories, from the mini riders, aged between four and 11, on bikes as small as 50cc, to juniors, women, veterans and senior men, on bikes with engine capacities anywhere between 125cc and 450cc.

The river race set for Sunday is also a massive crowd-pleaser.

But it is the New Zealand versus Australia element to the event, the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup, that sparks much added interest and elevates it to a new high level.

Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (Honda), who led the Kiwi assault in the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup competition at Woodville last season

The FIM Oceania Challenge Cup will again feature two squads of riders nominated to represent their respective countries over the two days and the race-within-a-race element should again prove popular with the always-appreciative crowd.

The FIM Oceania aspect has enjoyed runaway success over the past two season, the New Zealand contingent beat the visiting Australians in the inaugural FIM Oceania Trans Tasman Challenge in 2018, edging them out by a solid 57 points, but the Australians fought back at the 2019 edition and beat the Kiwis to the coveted trophy, albeit winning by just one solitary point.

No let-up in the friendly rivalry is expected this time around either.

Participating riders from Australia and New Zealand have yet to be confirmed, but there is no shortage of willing candidates keen to lock horns in this inspired trans-Tasman showdown.

The Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club (MOMCC) has hosted the Woodville GP every year since its inception in 1961 and is proud to again be chosen to stage this FIM Oceania Challenge competition.

MOMCC president Fraser Miller said he wanted to thank FIM Oceania for giving the Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club this opportunity again.

“It is a real privilege to have this status,” he said. “We want to give the crowd great entertainment, something they can really get behind and there really is nothing better than the sporting rivalry that exists between Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

Racing over the two days attracts thousands of spectators to the Tararua region, filling motel rooms and camping grounds to the point of overflowing, the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville a must-see spectacle for any motorsports enthusiast.

Credit: Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Husqvarna rider Dylan Yearbury proved unstoppable at the marathon dirt bike race near Atiamuri on December 14.

It was the first time that the 25-year-old Cambridge diesel mechanic had attempted to race the annual Husqvarna Hard X cross-country race, but it didn’t take him long to settle into a groove and he eventually went on to comfortably win the gruelling battle.

It was meant to be a four-hour race, but with Yearbury (Husqvarna FC250) taking on average only 53 minutes to complete each lap, it meant he entered the timing zone at the end of his fourth lap with time still time left on the clock and so he was sent out to complete a fifth energy-sapping lap.

In the end, he was one of four riders to complete five laps in the allotted time and remarkably he crossed the finish line more than nine minutes ahead of runner-up rider Tom Buxton (KTM), of Helensville, with another Husqvarna rider, Napier’s Mackenzie Wigg, finishing 13 minutes later, to claim third overall.

“The race was not as tough as some I’ve done,” said Yearbury, “but it was very tiring. Riders never really got a break and I’m feeling pretty tired now (even two days later).

“I loved the bike. It’s actually a motocross bike and so I’m thinking about racing it at the Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas.”

The Husqvarna Hard X event had originally been scheduled to run in March, but the fire risk art that time was too great and so it was postponed until the weekend and perfect weather conditions greeted the more than 150 riders entered.

Event organiser Sean Clarke said the course featured “mostly Bronze level trails, but with a few Gold and Silver deviations”, which meant there was something to challenge all levels of rider ability.

Riders registered themselves as either gold, silver or bronze grade competitors, facing terrain and obstacles to match their skill levels.

Otaki’s Matt Lauder, Aucklanders Ben Hastie and James Kerr and Pio Pio riders Danny Blakeman and Shane Singleton were the stand-outs in the Silver Grade, with Taupo’s Wil Yeoman, Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer and Thames rider Natasha Cairns the leading riders in the Bronze Grade.

Gold Grade winner Yearbury has impeccable credentials for this kind of competition.

He was exceptional at the Nut Buster Hard Enduro, part of the two-day final round of the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series, near Christchurch last month, and he also won the three-day Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro near Tokoroa last year, so his debut in the Husqvarna Hard X cross-country race at the weekend was never going to trouble him unduly.

Yearbury was using this event as part of his build-up towards returning to race major cross-country events in the United States next year.

“I had my first taste of racing the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the US this year and my best result was finishing fifth in a GNCC race in the XC2 (250cc) class. I also finished second at a national enduro event there.”

If Yearbury can hammer some of New Zealand’s best extreme enduro and cross-country racers the way he did at the weekend, there is perhaps no doubting that he’ll be a contender in the US near year.

Yearbury is supported by Husqvarna NZ, Fox NZ, Mitas tyres, NV Motorcycles in Morrinsville, Northern Accessories and XRC (Xtreme Race Components).

The Husqvarna Hard X race was sponsored by Husqvarna New Zealand, Forest and Trail Events, Michelin Tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine and Satco NZ Ltd.

Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna FC250), runaway winner of the weekend’s annual Husqvarna Hard X cross-country race near Atiamuri

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan