Every so often in motocross racing, a rider has the kind of race that makes all the hard work worth it. For him. For his team. For the sport.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s MX1 contender Kirk Gibbs had that race yesterday at the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship’s second round – where he crashed at the start of the second moto, got back on his YZ450 and proceeded to blast his way through the premier pack from a lowly 17th to take the win.

His Team Manager Josh Coppins, who puts countless hours into progressing his four-rider squad, took a moment to savour visiting Australian Gibbs’ glory at the Phillips’ farm property, south-west of Rotorua, at Horohoro.

“That result fired Kirk up and it fired us up too. It made our Altherm JCR Yamaha team feel good about what we are doing and why we do it. Races like that. Performances like that. They are why we do this job,” he says.

Gibbs, who had been sitting 11 points adrift of leader Cody Cooper after the opening round in Balclutha three weeks ago, describes how an early tangle in race two spurred him on.

“I was frustrated with myself and just wanted to be in the fight, so I pushed really hard and caught all the way back up to Hamish [Harwood] and Coops [Cooper] and was able to pass both of them and get the win, so I was really happy with that one,” he says.

His second in the first race and a holeshot-to-victory third race gave him the overall win for the weekend. Gibbs is now well within striking distance to lift the MX1 trophy that he took back across the Tasman in 2018, sitting only six points behind defending champ Cooper.

“I’m really happy with the Altherm JCR Yamaha team and my team at home [in the Sunshine Coast], who are working hard in between rounds. I’m stoked with how today ended up,” he says, of what Coppins calls “getting his mojo back!”

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s Maximus Purvis powers his way into second overall in the MX2 championship in Rotorua

The other Altherm JCR Yamaha rider to finish on the podium was MX2 charger Maximus Purvis, of Mangakino. Coppins says the 19-year-old had a strong weekend with a results’ set of 3-3-2.

“Max rode well. He made some mistakes in his starts in his first few races and when he got that better, he was closer to the front. With two rounds to go, he’s only 8 points off Josiah Natzke’s lead, so he’s right in there for the championship. We are going to work very hard with him this week, aiming to get things a little bit better,” he says.

Purvis had a straightforward plan for the penultimate round this weekend in Hawkes Bay.

“Get some good starts and get some good points,” he says.

The Altherm JCR Yamaha team’s other two riders Kayne Lamont (MX1) and Dylan Walsh (MX2) both finished fourth overall for the round and will be working hard this week to bridge the gaps to the leaders.

Hamilton-based Lamont is still on the mend from extensive bruising to his glute muscles, which he incurred in a crash at the Woodville GP in January. He settled into the racing yesterday, with a 4-5 in the first two races, before finding the form in race 3 that has seen him win MX1 races around the country.

“It started raining a little, which made the track conditions quick slick. I got a decent start and was second behind Kirk and then Cody passed me. I managed to sit in behind him for the race, then I felt like I was actually riding better than him, so hounded him all moto and managed to pass him with two laps remaining to finish second [to teammate Gibbs],” Lamont says.

Coppins adds that it was great to see Lamont “getting back to full fitness and full speed.”

The 2019 British Motocross Championship’s MX2 winner Walsh started strongly, qualifying second on his YZ250F but “didn’t get comfortable all day which really showed in my riding,” he says.

Coppins admits “Dylan struggled a little bit.”

“He was around fourth place all day and sits fourth in the championship. He’s still adapting to the Yamaha and to us. He’s pretty disappointed but he just needs to be patient and bring it home,” he says.

It is a short, busy week between rounds for the Altherm JCR Yamaha team and they will stay in the Taupo/Rotorua region, working with the four riders on the track on Wednesday and Thursday.

“The mechanics will stay at the track preparing the bikes, then we will head over to Napier for a school visit on Friday. We set up on Saturday and race day is Sunday. Hawkes Bay is an important round for us, as at halfway through the championship, points are tight, and this third round needs to be solid. We won’t leave any stone unturned to ensure the four boys are on the front foot for the championship chase,” Coppins says.

RESULTS:
MX1
1st Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 72
2nd Cody Cooper – 67
3rd Hamish Harwood – 58
4th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 56
5th Brad Groombridge – 49

MX2
1st Josiah Natzke – 63
2nd Maximus Purvis (YZ250F) – 62
3rd James Scott – 57
4th Dylan Walsh (YZ250F)- 52
5th Kyle Webster – 50

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 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, Star Moving, Contract Consultants, Fox, Workshop Graphics, Akrapovic,Motoseat, Motomuck, Vertex Pistons, SKF, Renthal, DID Chains & Twin Air.

Words by Altherm JCR Yamaha Media, Photos by Clmintiepix

Bay of Plenty’s Josiah Natzke is creeping relentlessly closer to claiming his first senior 250cc motocross crown.

The former New Zealand 125cc motocross champion has been racing overseas for the past few seasons and his homecoming has been glorious, the 21-year-old taking his Transdiesel Shell Advance Kawasaki KX250F to dominate at several major domestic events in recent months, his latest success coming in the early phases of the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships.

Round two of the motocross series was held on farmland at Horohoro, about 20 kilometres south-west of Rotorua on Sunday, and by late afternoon Mount Maunganui’s Natzke was able to celebrate boosting his lead in the MX2 (250cc) standings to eight points over the second-ranked rider, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, a good position to be in with the championships now at the halfway stage.

Natzke won the day in his class at the opening round of the series in Balclutha three weeks ago and, although he didn’t enjoy the same dominance at Rotorua on Sunday, he still managed to enhance his championship standings, inching two more competition points further away from the chasing bunch.

Natzke qualified fastest early on Sunday and then comfortably won the first of three MX2 races, leading the 12-lap race from start to finish and taking the chequered flag by a solid 15.5 seconds from runner-up rider James Scott, from Oparau.

He had more of a fight on his hands in race two, Natzke eventually fighting through traffic to finish second, less than four seconds behind the winner, visiting Australian Kyle Webster.

He suffered a poor start in race three and had his work cut out to power through traffic from a long way back in the field.

In the end, Natzke battled to the fifth position by race end and, although frustrated by this result, he was grateful to leave Rotorua with his points lead intact, actually boosted a fraction, and he was happy to still be in possession of the championship leader’s red number plate.

Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke (Transdiesel Shell Advance Kawasaki KX250F), now in a stronger position in the MX2 (250cc) class after round two of the nationals in Rotorua on Sunday

Holding the red plate can be a huge confidence boost for the rider who holds it, a badge of honour, and Natzke is determined to keep a firm grip on it as the competition now heads to Hawke’s Bay, at Mere Road, near Fernhill, for round three this coming Sunday, March 1.

The fourth and final round set for Taupo on March 15.

“The first two races (at Rotorua on Sunday) were really good, but the last race was a missed opportunity for me,” said Natzke afterwards.

“I had a terrible start. I’m still moving forward in the championship chase, but I’m frustrated. I wanted to do better, of course.

“I’m happy to still be leading the championship and I’m looking forward to Hawke’s Bay. I want to come away with enough points after Fernhill that I can take a good safety buffer with me, perhaps have a race under my belt, heading into the final round.”

If he does hold it all together and wrap up the MX2 motocross title at the fourth and final round at Taupo on March 15, it will be a treasured “bookend” for the New Zealand Supercross Championships title trophy that the Kawasaki ace won last November.

Natzke is supported by Kawasaki NZ, Transdiesel, Shell Advance Lubricants, Mainstream, Bridgestone, Rekluse, Alpinestars, 100%, Un4Seen Graphics, Pro Circuit, Moto HQ, Polisport, Koromiko Engineering, RK Chains, CFX Seats, Goodbuzz, Renthal Handlebars and MTX Sprockets.

Meanwhile, in the MX1 class, Bay of Plenty’s defending champion Cody Cooper continues to lead the title chase after Sunday’s racing, while Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly still rules the roost in the 125cc class.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

The famous refrain “Go Well, Go Shell” could perhaps never be more appropriate than right now, particularly for a race team that’s already rocketing along like greased lightning.

One of the most go-ahead and high-profile teams on the New Zealand motocross scene – the TransDiesel-backed Kawasaki Racing Team – is absolutely pumping this year and it has just gained a little extra lubrication in its slick bid to capture a national title this season.

This weekend in Rotorua it is the second round of four in the New Zealand Motocross Championships and the men on the distinctive green Kawasaki bikes will show up on Sunday with their bikes and rig emblazoned with the Shell Advance colours, a rapid and smooth response to main sponsor TransDiesel having taken over the distribution rights for Shell Oil in New Zealand.

The Kawasaki team is already strongly positioned, with MX2 (250cc) class rider Josiah Natzke on top of that category after the national series opener at Balclutha three weeks ago, Mount Maunganui’s Natzke following on from his New Zealand Supercross Championships title win back in November and his overall MX2 class victory at the big annual Whakatane Summercross in late December.

His re-branded Shell Advance Kawasaki Racing Team will, therefore, arrive at the race venue this Sunday – off State Highway 30 at Horohoro, just outside Rotorua – in a confident mood.

The team’s MX1 class rider, Te Puke’s Tyler Steiner, is currently positioned at seventh overall in this 450cc capacity bike class and poised to move up.

Change can happen very quickly on the motocross scene and now it’s going to be even slicker and massively exciting at the same time for the Kawasaki men.

“TransDiesel have done well to secure the distribution of Shell Oil in New Zealand. We are fortunate enough to be part of the transition to Shell Oil becoming the Major Sponsor for the Kawasaki Race Team,” said Kawasaki New Zealand Race Team manager Shane Verhoeven.

“Moving forward, I am truly excited to introduce everybody to the Shell Advance Kawasaki Race Team and it couldn’t be more fitting having Josiah Natzke taking the leader’s red number plate into the second round, six points clear of second place.”

The front number board on the Kawasaki KX250F of Bay of Plenty’s Josiah Natzke, the rider who is currently leading the MX2 class after the national series opener

TransDiesel sees this latest association as a perfect fit and an ideal alliance.

“Here at TransDiesel, we’ve got your back. Which means we’re always looking to improve the products and services we offer our clients and customers,” said TransDiesel chief operating officer Paul Harris.

“We’re constantly evaluating everything within the TransDiesel stable to make sure it is the best that it can be, which is why we decided it was time for an oil change – for us and for the Kawasaki Race Team,” he said.

TransDiesel is now the official distributor of Shell motor oils and lubricants in New Zealand. Under the partnership agreement, TransDiesel will manage the distribution of Shell’s complete range of products across the consumer, transport, industrial, agricultural and marine sectors in New Zealand.

“TransDiesel is thrilled to be the new distributor for Shell lubricants and proud to introduce and unveil the newly-rebranded Shell Advance Kawasaki Racing Team, which will be competing this weekend.

“The Shell Advance Motorcycle Oil has a long history in motorcycle racing both in New Zealand and internationally, so TransDiesel is very pleased to be able to bring the brand back to the market which we will see an increase in presence over the coming weeks and months.

“Shell has been the leading global supplier of lubricants for 13 years in a row, a testament to the quality of their products and their dedication to the pursuit of excellence. We know the team are constantly striving for excellence too, which is why we’re so excited to be continuing our sponsorship under the new brand,” Harris said.

“With the alignment of Kawasaki, Shell and TransDiesel and all three strong brands sharing the same passion for performance, the future looks bright for this partnership and we look forward to our continued support

“TransDiesel is a well-established, 100% New Zealand-owned business, with a commitment to ensuring the brands they represent are global industry leaders in their respective fields. The company has experienced a sustained period of growth and success and this latest partnership with Shell is further testament to key international brands trust in TransDiesel being the best sales and service organisation to represent them in NZ.”

TransDiesel will begin product distribution in New Zealand on March 1.

After the racing at Rotorua on Sunday, the New Zealand Motocross Championships next head to Hawke’s Bay for round three on March 1, with the fourth and final round in Taupo on Sunday, March 15.

Credit: Words by Andy McGechan

 

The four-rider PWR Yamaha team came away with two wins from the four-round New Zealand Cross-Country Championship’s series opener in Marton yesterday.

Starting off their season in style was Team Manager Paul Whibley, who showed his international class by claiming a comprehensive victory in the senior category on his Yamaha YZ450FX and team youngster Wil Yeoman (14) with a dominant win in the Junior race.

The 2015 national cross-country champion, Whibley hasn’t raced in New Zealand for several seasons but the Taikorea-based legend demonstrated the speed and skill that saw him become a two-time Grand National Cross Country Championships (GNCC) winner in the United States.

“I took the holeshot and led the way around the 23km Rangitikei region’s track. I opened up an early lead thanks to kicking up some dust and I knew I had to keep a strong pace up to prevent getting caught late in the race,” Whibley says.

“The YZ450FX worked great and the MotoSR suspension soaked up everything the Marton property threw at us. I took the win with a solid lead after three hours over [three-time national champion] Brad Groombridge and Charles Alabaster,” Whibley adds.

At the end of the demanding race, his Michelin rear tyre “had worked awesome all day and was still in great shape with no knobs missing,” he notes.

The cross-country circuit certainly suited Taupo’s Yeoman, who dominated the 90-minute Junior race – leading every lap.

“The track had a great variety of terrain, with a really tight piece of bush single track which my Yamaha YZ125X handled awesomely. I was able to get the holeshot and had a few battles in the first lap before moving into first for the rest of the race,” he summarises.

The other two PWR Yamaha riders had tough days out and are thankful the series’ format allows for the points from the best three rounds of four to count towards the overall title.

Whanganui 21-year-old Seth Reardon says his race was “not what I wanted.” “I had a few issues with my start and that set me back to about 20th position. It was so hard to pass in the dusty conditions, but I made my way to 7th by the third lap. I then got a flat rear tyre halfway through that lap and had to pit to change it. I lost four placings in that process,” he says.

He was able to chargeback through the pack on his Yamaha YZ250FX to 6th overall and 1st in class 4 (0-300cc 4-stroke).

Cambridge-based 19-year-old Ashton Grey literally got bogged down, after entering a muddy hole.

“About 10 minutes into the race, I made a bad judgement and rode into a big bog hole, where I was submerged up to the seat. I had to wait for marshals to come help get my bike out and ended up 10 minutes behind any other rider,” he says.

He spent the rest of the three-hour race chasing the slower riders down and trying to make passes, to eventually finish 26th.“I’m able to learn from it. It was not what I would have liked to happen at the first round, and I’ll spend the rest of the series making that up,” a disappointed Grey says.

Team Manager Paul Whibley applauded landowner Cam Smith for doing an “amazing job with his Holly Farm track – mowing the faster grass section, and laying it out with plenty of spectator viewing as it weaved between open and steep farmland, bush-lined gorges, pine trees and native bush sections.”

With five rounds until the second round, hosted by the Central Hawkes Bay Motorcycle Club on Sunday, March 22 at Flemington, the PWR Yamaha riders will have a chance to work on their fitness and make more gains in bike speed.

Three of the four members of the PWR Yamaha team (from left to right) are Seth Reardon, Team Manager Paul Whibley and Ashton Grey. CREDIT: AROHA REARDON

Yamaha Motor New Zealand’s Motorsport Manager Josh Coppins says: “We were happy to see a lot of Yamaha representation across the various classes and great results achieved by the brand’s riders. With three rounds remaining, I look forward to seeing what our PWR Yamaha team can achieve.”

2020 NEW ZEALAND CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 1 – Bushriders Motorcycle Club – Sunday 16th February – Marton
Round 2 – Central Hawkes Bay Motorcycle Club – Sunday 22nd March – Flemington
Round 3 – Marlborough Motorcycle Club – Sunday 26th April – Nelson
Round 4 – Taupo Motorcycle Club – Saturday 23rd May – Taupo

2020 NEW ZEALAND ENDURO CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 1 – 29th March 2020, Whangamata (Thames Valley MCC) – CANCELLED
Round 2 – 18th April 2020, Tokoroa (South Waikato MCC)
Round 3 – 27th April 2020, Blenheim (Kapi Mana MCC)
Round 4 – 24th May 2020, Martinborough (Kapi Mana MCC)
Round 5 – 30th or 31st May 2020, TBC (Kapi Mana MCC)

PWR YAMAHA TEAM WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS:

Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamalube, GYTR, YMF, YMI, Motomuck, Workshop Graphics, MotoSR, Oneal, Arai, Oakley, IMS, Zeta, Tire balls, TCX, Michelin, Renthal, Twin Air, USWE, EK Chain & Brownell Earthmoving.

Credit: Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Photos by Aroha Reardon and Charlotte Galpin

Manawatu’s Paul Whibley (Yamaha), the national cross-country champion in 2015, determined to challenge for the No.1 position again this year.

They say it’s harder to defend a title than it is to win it in the first place. And that may well be the case for Raglan’s Jason Dickey when he begins his New Zealand Cross-country Championship title defence in the Rangitikei region this weekend.

The four-round Yamaha-sponsored 2020 championships kick off on farmland near Marton on Sunday, with Dickey well aware that last season’s runner-up, Whanganui’s Seth Reardon, will be just one of at least a dozen extremely fast rivals determined to take away his No.1 ranking.

The nation’s dirt bike elite will converge on farmland at Smith’s Holly Farm, 235A Galpins Road, RD2, Marton on Sunday (February 16) with all riders knowing a good result is essential if their respective bids for glory are to bear any fruit.

Points from only the best three results from the four rounds will be counted towards the championship titles.

Dickey and Reardon will need to respect the man who was national champion in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, who is also among the favourites again this time around.

Manawatu’s former national cross-country champion Paul Whibley is another expected to challenge for the senior title this year, along with the always-fast Brandon Givens, from Raglan, Rotorua’s Ethan Harris, Hamilton’s Andrew Charleston and Hamilton’s Phillip Goodwright.

Te Kauwhata’s Jacob Brown, Pukekawa’s Jim Orton, Toko’s Karl Roberts and Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig could also be battling near the front.

“We have had two former national cross-country champions (Awakino’s Adrian Smith and Marton’s Cam Smith, no relation) marking out the track for us, so it should be an excellent course, ” said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth.

“It might be a little dry and dusty if we don’t get rain before the weekend, but it should be an excellent test for the riders. There is a wide variety of terrain they will cover … from open farmland to tight native bush sections, gorse and pine trees … a bit of everything really.

“We have a new non-championship class this year too – the Yamaha Cup class for riders aged between 15 and 19 years. This is a development class. This is where the riders of the future may come from,” he said.

The 90-minute junior race kicks off at about 9am on Sunday, with the three-hour senior race to follow at about 11.30am.

The New Zealand Cross-country Championships series is supported by Yamaha NZ, O’Neal apparel, The Dirt Guide, Oakley goggles, Bel Ray oils and Michelin tyres.

2020 NZ Cross-Country Champs
Round One – Sunday, Feb 16 – Bush Riders MCC, Marton
Round Two – Sunday, March 22 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC, Flemington
Round Three – Sunday, April 26 – Marlborough MCC, Nelson
Round Four – Saturday, May 23 – Taupo MCC, Taupo

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan