The pendulum has swung back in favour of the New Zealanders.

The Kiwi hosts came under fire from the Australian invaders at the second round of four of the 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships in Rotorua just over a week ago, but the Kiwis hit back hard at round three near Pukekohe on Sunday.

Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper and Gold Coast rider Kirk Gibbs had been level on the premier MX1 class points table at the start of racing at the MR Motorcycles Raceway at Harrisville at the weekend, but Cooper compiled a 1-1-2 score-card on Sunday, and Gibbs responded by finishing 2-2-1 in the three MX1 races and so Cooper now enjoys a three-point advantage as the Fox apparel-sponsored competition now heads to Taupo for the final round in two weeks’ time.

It was a similar story in the MX2 (250cc) class, with West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood finishing 2-1-3 in his three outings, while his nearest challenger, Cairns rider Wilson Todd, won the day’s first MX2 race but then crashed out of race two and did not start race three.

This means Harwood, from Royal Heights, has boosted his lead at the top of the class from three points over Todd to now be 35 points ahead of the new second-ranked rider in the class, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis.

Meanwhile, dual-class ironman Harwood remains unbeaten in the 125cc class and he is now a whopping 57 points clear of his nearest threat, Ngatea’s Ben Broad, meaning (with a race win worth 25 points) Harwood now has more than two races up his sleeve with just three more to come in the class at Taupo’s final round.

“All-in-all I had a pretty good day, except that last MX2 race, when I blew the start and was back in about 15th position,” said Harwood. “It’s a really hard track to pass on and so I was pumped to be able to fight my way through and catch up to the leaders. In an ideal world, I’d like to go on now and win both titles. That’s the aim anyway. I’m looking forward to Taupo.”

Purvis continues to lead the MX2 class battle-within-a-battle for Under-19 age group honours and he is now 13 points ahead of Australian Morgan Fogarty, with Hamilton’s Reef Wheki still third.

As an exciting extra feature for the Pukekohe weekend only, the inaugural Yamaha YZ65 Cup competition was included in the senior championship programme, with an impressive line-up of 24 young riders given the thrill of sharing the spotlight with the seniors. Best of this bunch was Tauranga’s Levi Townley, followed by Hastings rider Charlie Schaw and Featherston’s Teddy Shaw.

There is just a two-week break before the fourth and final round of the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships, set for Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park on March 10. 

Harrisville’s round three of the Fox 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships was additionally supported by Ebbett Pukekohe. Yamalube is set to support round four at Taupo. 

The series is sponsored by FOX Racing NZ, Suzuki NZ, Yamaha NZ, Blue Wing Honda, Aon Insurance, ICG Print and Pirelli.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, seen here flanked by Australian riders Kyle Webster (K) and Wilson Todd (W), now with his position strengthened in both of the two separate bike categories he’s contesting.

West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood is now just a handful of races away from clinching two national motocross titles this season.

The 23-year-old builder from Royal Heights took his CML Makita KTM Racing Team bikes into battle in two separate classes at the third round of four in the Fox-sponsored 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships near Pukekohe on Sunday and further strengthened his position at the top of both categories.

Harwood (KTM 250F) had been under pressure from visiting Australian MX2 (250cc) champion Wilson Todd in the MX2 class battles at rounds one and two of the series – and Todd actually won the opening MX2 race at race at Pukekohe too – but then the 20-year-old from Cairns came unstuck in race two, crashing out while battling with Harwood for the lead, and he took no further part in the day’s action.

With Harwood continuing on to win race two and then settling for third in race three, it meant he was the best-performed MX2 rider for the day and had bolstered his championship advantage.

From leading the series by just three points from Todd at the start of the day, to now be 35 points ahead of the new second-ranked rider in the class, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, it means Harwood has more than an entire race up his sleeve as the riders now head to Taupo’s final round in two weeks’ time.

Harwood’s position in the separate 125cc championship class is even stronger.

Harwood won all three 125cc races at Pukekohe – he is actually unbeaten for the series in this class – and he is now a whopping 57 points clear of his nearest threat, Ngatea-based KTM rider Ben Broad, meaning (with a race win worth 25 points) Harwood now has more than two races up his sleeve with just three more 125cc races still to come at Taupo’s final round.

“I’m pretty happy with my 125cc class results,” said Harwood. “I only did two laps in qualifying, to save my energy, because I felt my lap times were fast enough to put me in a good position already. As it turned out, I had done enough to qualify second fastest (behind main rival Broad) and that was good enough. For the MX2 class, I qualified third fastest. I wasn’t too disappointed with that because I knew I could go faster and a top-five in qualifying is good enough really. All-in-all I had a pretty good day, except that last MX2 race, when I blew the start and was back in about 15th position. It’s a really hard track to pass on and so I was pumped to be able to fight my way through and catch up to the leaders. I was telling myself ‘don’t do anything silly’, ‘you don’t need to win this’. But at the same time I don’t want to win a championship just by getting seconds and thirds. With what happened to Wilson (Todd) today, I can even afford to let him win all the races at Taupo because winning the title is the main aim. Everyone remembers who won the championships, not who won which race or what round. I last raced the senior 125cc championships in 2011 and I finished sixth that year. But I guess I’m older, wiser and stronger now,” he laughed.

What’s perhaps most surprising is that this dual-class ironman is actually not at full strength at the moment.

“I am physically not 100 percent,” he said. “I am carrying injuries in both my shoulders. I am booked in to get both shoulders operated on immediately after the Taupo weekend.”

Meanwhile, Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper leads the MX1 class by three points from visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs.

The  fourth and final round of the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships is set for Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park on March 10.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, now with his position strengthened in both of the two separate bike categories he’s contesting.

Repsol Honda Team rider Toni Bou was again victorious in the latest X-Trial in Granada as the world championship reaches its fourth round. The champion takes his tally of top flight victories to sixty in the indoor competition. This third victory of the season sees Bou distance himself further at the head of the overall championship leader board. 

It has been over ten years since that the Municipal Sports Palace of Granada hosted an FIM X-Trial World Championship event. On the previous two occasions it was also Toni Bou who took top honours in the competition. The Repsol Honda Team rider arrived in Granada as overall leader, after having retaken the overall top spot seven days ago in Bilbao.

Bou, aboard the Montesa Cota 4RT, made short work of the first phase to comfortably qualify for the second round, after taking the best score on the first run through sections, collecting just two penalty marks. The second phase turned out to be a tighter, more closely fought group as Bou faced Adam Raga and Miquel Gelabert. However, the current champ prevailed, guaranteeing a place on the podium before competing in the Super-final.

Toni Bou performed brilliantly in a thrilling Super-final, riding to a third victory of the season. The result means that the Repsol Honda Team ace retains the world championship leadership with a 13-point advantage over the nearest second place rival.

The fifth and penultimate event of the X-Trial World Championship will top-flight next Saturday, March 9th at the Palais des Sports in Marseille. Prior to this, however, Toni Bou will take part in the opening of the Spanish Trial Championship which will be held on Sunday March 3rd in the town of Arnedillo, La Rioja.

Toni Bou  1

RACE: 1ST   STANDINGS: 1ST

I’m super happy. Today was a very hard-fought victory. It was very important to go all out and finally I was able to get the victory after a very difficult semi-final where there was no margin for mistakes. Technically I was very good and I performed well in the final. I will go back home having recovered the good feelings and I want to continue fighting for this championship. We will try to give everything in the two events that we have left.

Miquel Cirera

Team Manager

Today Toni Bou was spectacular; he rode fantastically. 60 victories are a lot and therefore it is time to congratulate him, once again. Tonight, Toni made a huge difference but we have to keep fighting trial by trial as the scores of this championship are complicated. Congratulations to the whole team and again to Toni since these have been some tough days for him with the injuries, and hopefully soon he will be back at 100% physically.

Results X-Trial Granada 2019 

Pos.RiderNumNationPointsTeamConstructorTime/Gap
1BOU Toni1SPA20Repsol Honda TeamMontesa7
2BUSTO Jaime69SPA15Gas Gas Factory TeamGas Gas23
3RAGA Adam67SPA12TRRS Factory TeamTRRS2
4BINCAZ Benoit16FRA9Beta Factory RacingBeta6
5FAJARDO Jeroni4SPA6Gas Gas Factory TeamGas Gas13
6GELABERT Miquel11SPA4Sherco Factory TeamSherco19
7MARCELLI Gabriel38SPA3RG TeamMontesa14
8GELABERT Aniol18SPA2Scorpa FactoryScorpa18
9HAGA  Sondre 99NOR1TRRS Factory TeamTRRS21

Rider Standings 

Pos.RiderNumNationPointsTeamConstructor
1BOU Toni1SPA75Repsol Honda TeamMontesa
2RAGA Adam67SPA62TRRS Factory TeamTRRS
3BUSTO Jaime69SPA45Gas Gas Factory TeamGas Gas
4BINCAZ Benoit16FRA33Beta Factory RacingBeta
5FAJARDO Jeroni4SPA31Gas Gas Factory TeamGas Gas
6GELABERT Miquel11SPA14Sherco Factory TeamSherco
7CASALES Jorge33SPA6Vertigo Factory TeamVertigo
8MARCELLI Gabriel38SPA6RG TeamMontesa
9FUJINAMI Takahisa3JPN5Repsol Honda TeamMontesa
10DABILL James22GBR3Beta Factory RacingBeta
11PETRELLA Luca98ITA3Beta Factory RacingBeta
12GELABERT Aniol18SPA2Scorpa FactoryScorpa
13HAGA  Sondre 99NOR2TRRS Factory TeamTRRS
14PEACE Dan17GBR1Sherco Factory TeamSherco

Two former World MXGP rivals will now be firmly on one team, as Yamaha Motor New Zealand, in association with Josh Coppins Racing, are signing up Ben Townley (YZ450) and son Levi Townley (YZ65), who will both be joining bLUcRU effective immediately.

“Ben will be a Yamaha ambassador and we will support him across a bunch of racing activities with more to follow and Levi is about supporting the future of the sport. We have decided to re-establish the Yamaha brand in junior racing and off the back of the new YZ65, timing has never been better to look for our new champions,” Coppins says.

He and MX2 World Champion Townley are two of New Zealand’s most successful motocross riders and used to live together for three years in Belgium racing in the World MXGP Championships. In 2005 they finished second and third respectively in the MX1 class to ten-time world champ legend Stefan Everts. At one point Ben and Josh won five GPs in a row between them over Everts – not bad for a couple of Kiwis!

Despite being fiercely competitive on track, off it they were good mates. So, when it came time for Coppins to move away from investing in international racing, he decided to refocus on a junior programme.

“I wanted to look for and develop the next future champions. We needed somebody to help mentor and be a real ambassador and a leader for the Yamaha brand. Ben was the ultimate person for this role with all his international racing experience,” Coppins says.

Tauranga-based Townley, who retired professionally in 2016, will not only be coaching young riders he will also be riding in select races around New Zealand, including some enduro events.

Being able to share the workload is vital for Coppins, as he is busy running his own Altherm JCR Yamaha motocross race team – made up of senior riders Kirk Gibbs, Kayne Lamont (both MX1) and Maximus Purvis (MX2) at all the major national events. Coppins will continue with the team and also take on a more managerial position within Yamaha New Zealand, which allows him to be more involved in fostering the country’s young riders.

Eight-year-old Levi’s first race will be the 2019 Ebbett Pukekohe Auckland Motocross Champs in Tuakau on Saturday 23rd February 2019. The following day he will race in the Yamaha Motor New Zealand YZ65 Cup at Harrisville, Pukekohe, which is part of the third round of the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships.

Levi’s first foray into international racing was a success as he finished second in the invite-only KTM Junior Supercross Challenge in Los Angeles, United States on January 15.

Ben says Levi is enjoying his riding and looking forward to riding his new YZ65 in national and club events but there is no pressure for his son to follow in his footsteps.

“He’s really starting to stretch his legs now, but he needs to race for himself. Just because I was a professional rider, it doesn’t mean he needs to be too. We will see what happens.”

Levi’s younger brother Jagger will follow him into the bLUcRU as soon as he’s ready to jump on the YZ65.

“Following on from this statement we will announce further partnerships with Ben and we’re excited about the future and to be working with someone of Ben’s calibre,” Coppins concludes.

Ben Townley (YZ450) and his eight-year-old son Levi (YZ65) have been signed by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, in association with Josh Coppins Racing.

The 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships are charging along at frightening speed and the penultimate third round near Pukekohe this weekend could be pivotal in the final analysis.

The Australia versus Kiwi element of this year’s Fox-sponsored national series gives the competition extra zest and, for the time being at least, the Kiwis are holding their own against the determined invaders from across the Tasman Sea.

The Australians went on the attack at the second round of four near Rotorua last weekend, with Gold Coast rider Kirk Gibbs levelling the score-sheet in the premier MX1 class, defending champion Gibbs now equal top of the standings with Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, while Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont remains solid in the third spot overall.

It was a similar story in the MX2 (250cc) class, where defending champion Hamish Harwood, from West Auckland, came under intense pressure from visiting Australians Wilson Todd and Kyle Webster at Rotorua, with another Australian, Morgan Fogarty, among the top five also, just behind Kiwi teenager Maximus Purvis, from Mangakino. 

The MX2 class battle-within-a-battle for under-19 age group honours is led by Purvis and he is now eight points ahead of Fogarty, with Hamilton’s Reef Wheki in third position overall.

If this frenetic fighting keeps up – and it’s expected to at MR Motorcycles Raceway, on Geraghty Maber Road at Harrisville, on Sunday – then anything is possible and the title chase in both categories will likely go right down to the wire at the final round at Taupo on March 10.

In the 125cc class battles, dual-class ironman Harwood has been dominant, winning every race in the series thus far. Battling over the runner-up spot are former national 125cc champion Ben Broad, from Ngatea, and Rotorua’s Josh Bourke-Palmer.

As an exciting extra feature for this weekend only, the inaugural YZ65 Cup is included in Sunday’s senior championship programme.

The YZ65 Cup will provide a money-can’t-buy racing experience in front of  what is expected to be another large national championship crowd. All riders must be aged between 7 and 11 years and ride a Yamaha YZ65 bike and there will be at least 26 riders on the start line for this at Harrisville.

The YZ65 Cup riders will be offered a full bLU cRU race experience. Riders will be able to pit under the bLU cRU race tent and will be given assistance by Yamaha factory technicians.

Harrisville’s round three of the Fox 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships is additionally supported by Ebbett Pukekohe. 

Yamalube is set to support round four at Taupo. 

The series is sponsored by FOX Racing NZ, Suzuki NZ, Yamaha NZ, Blue Wing Honda, Aon Insurance, ICG Print and Pirelli.

Words by Andy McGechan

The MX2 (250cc) class charges out of turn one at Rotorua on Sunday, with Australian riders Wilson Todd (W) and Kyle Webster (K) seen here battling for space with the Kiwi contenders. Photo by Colin Smith.