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.

It’s game-on for Wilson Todd and his bid to become New Zealand motocross champion this season.

The 20-year-old Australian is in the middle of his first Trans-Tasman campaign and he’s starting to show that he could well grab the Kiwi MX2 (250cc) crown to match the one he picked up in Australia last season.

Supported in his Kiwi debut by New Zealand’s LMC Husqvarna Team, the Cairns rider marked his first appearance in New Zealand by finishing a close overall runner-up to defending Kiwi MX2 champion Hamish Harwood at the first of four rounds in the New Zealand Motocross Championships near New Plymouth two weeks ago, winning one of the three MX2 races that day.

He was also unfamiliar with the venue for round two of the series near Rotorua on Sunday and battled his way to fourth in the first MX2 race of the day.

But then he stepped up a gear, winning the next two races at Rotorua and clinching overall honours for the day. It also meant Todd was able to close in on Harwood at the top of the standings and he is now just three point adrift of the Kiwi hero.

Todd has won three of the six races in the class so far, but an eighth in one race in Taranaki and a fourth in the first race in Rotorua means he is still chasing the ultra-consistent Harwood, although three points is obviously not a huge deficit in the big scheme of things, with two rounds (six more races) still to come. 

“The first race was a struggle… actually I struggled all day today,” said Todd, in direct contrast to how effortless he actually made it look. “I had a mad wheelie out of the start gate in the first race and had to back it off (to avoid crashing), so I was way back in the pack. By the time I got into fourth, the leaders were long gone. I got out front in the second and third race and just stayed there, but I was still struggling. It’s good to get these results for the team but it’s not great knowing that I should be riding better than this. We mainly don’t have tracks at home like this. It was loose dirt and there were a lot of square edges. There were no real ruts to use. I’m more of a ruts or sand guy, but there was nothing like that here.”

It seems, however, that Todd is a fast learner.

“My first year of doing the Australian nationals was in 2016, when I was 17 or maybe 18, and it was a learning year for me. I did start winning races toward the end of the season. In 2017, I led the whole championship, but then I threw it all away in the last race. I came back in 2018 and led the Australian championships from about round three until the end. I want to win it again in Australia and that’s why I have come over here to New Zealand… to build up for our nationals. We Australians always seem to struggle in New Zealand, but it’s good to get some racing under my belt.”

Round three of the New Zealand Motocross Championships is this coming Sunday at Harrisville, just outside Pukekohe, with the fourth and final round set for Taupo on March 10.

Todd will race for the DPH Motorsport Husqvarna Team when he returns to Australia, his Aussie MX2 title defence there starting with round one at Appin, in New South Wales, on March 17.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Australian rider Wilson Todd (LMC Husqvarna 250F), in sparkling form at Rotorua on Sunday.

Dirt bikes, forest tracks and just enough twists, turns, bumps and logs to make it interesting …. that’s the second annual Husqvarna Hard X in just five weeks’ time.

The Husqvarna Hard X on March 30 could be New Zealand’s ultimate of extreme cross-country races, but don’t be frightened off by the event’s daunting title, because, although it could indeed push riders to their limit, it should still appeal to individuals of all skill levels.

The Husqvarna Hard X event in the Kinleith Forest, near Atiamuri, is a four-hour cross-country race that will “feature all the great trails and hard bits of a Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro, but on a compact course, with hard sections deemed suitable for the grade that the rider enters”.

Organiser Sean Clarke said the event, which will run from 11am until about 3pm, would have mass appeal.

“This is the second time we have held a Hard X event,” said Clarke, who has also previously run the difficult Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro Events in the same area of the country, about 30 kilometres south of Tokoroa. This Hard X event is to show riders what a three-day hard enduro is like but in a compact way,” he explained. “It will be a lot easier to enter and ride. Riders don’t need a GPS device on their bikes, they don’t need headlights or tail lights and they don’t need to be concerned with the thought of six hours of gruelling riding, like what they might encounter at a hard enduro.”

Riders classify themselves as either Gold, Silver or Bronze grade competitors and the course they’ll face will hopefully reflect that level of proficiency.

“Everyone is probably thinking it’s going to be a psycho-hard event, but it’s not,” said Clarke. 

Clarke said the Bronze class would be about the same level as a hard section at a trail ride, with the Silver and Gold class courses will be just a little bit harder than that.

One of the elite Gold level riders will be Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, a record eight-time national moto trials champion, and it will be his fine balance attributes and his skill with precise throttle control from that parallel motorcycling code that may give him the unbeatable edge, although he missed out on the main prize at the inaugural event last season.

The outright winner last year was Helensville’s Tom Buxton and this is one rider in particular who Whitaker will most be keeping a close eye on this time around too.

“Last year I finished second after leading half to three-quarters of the race,” recalls the 27-year-old father-of-one. “It was a technical course, but perhaps not as hard as I would have liked it. I think Tommy (Buxton) would be favoured again this year, but we’ll see what happens eh? This year I am focussing on national enduro and cross-country events and not so much riding trials bikes at all really. The fact that I have ridden a lot of moto trials events in the past gives me an edge at events like the Husky Hard X, especially when the course gets steep, with killer up-hills and down-hills and then creek crossings too. That’s where I make up ground over the other riders. Speed is involved, but it’s not so vital and I’ve been getting better with my speed anyway,” he said.

The following day, the Husqvarna Hard X Trail Ride will be held at the same venue (on March 31) and this is more of a social ride. For this follow-up event, parents are invited to ride with their children, as long as they accompany them the entire time.

The venue for these two events will be signposted on State Highway 1, 30 kilometres south of Tokoroa.

The Husqvarna Hard X Hard Enduro and Husqvarna Hard X Trail Ride events are supported by Husqvarna New Zealand, Satco NZ Ltd, Michelin Tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine and Forest Trail Events.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, sure to be a contender at this year’s Husqvarna Hard X event in the Kinleith Forest, near Atiamuri, on March 30.

West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood had to take the good with the bad at Rotorua at the weekend, but he still emerged with his title hopes intact in two categories.

The 23-year-old builder from Royal Heights took his CML Makita KTM 250F into battle in the MX2 (250cc) class at this second round of four in the Fox-sponsored 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships, determined to defend his crown and extend his championship-winning run to a fourth consecutive seasons, but he came under intense fire from Aussie invader Wilson Todd (LMC Husqvarna 250F) on Sunday.

Harwood had the measure of the 2018 Australian MX2 champion at round one of the New Zealand nationals in Taranaki two weeks earlier, but Todd fought back hard at Rotorua, winning the day with a 4-1-1 score-card over the three MX2 races.

Fortunately for Harwood, his incredible consistency, demonstrated by a 2-2-4 score-card on Sunday, has enabled him to keep hold of his series lead, although Harwood’s edge at the top of the standings has been shaved back now to just three points.

A dual-class ironman, Harwood (CML Makita KTM125) is so far unbeaten in the chase for 125cc class honours and he leads that category by 28 points from Ngatea’s former national 125cc champion Ben Broad, with Rotorua’s Josh Bourke-Palmer third overall after two rounds, 13 points further back.

“With (Tauranga’s) Brodie Connolly now (injured and) out of the 125cc class, I can tone it back a bit and just do what I need to do to get the results. The pressure is off me a bit in that class, although there are still some very fast riders there,” said Harwood. “In the MX2 class it didn’t quite go to plan for me today. I was in the lead for a lot of the first race, but then some lappers held me up and (Australian) Kyle Webster went around the outside of me. I ran out of time to pass him and was only about a second behind him at the finish. In race two I tucked the front wheel under me in the first lap and crashed. I was back in seventh or eighth and fought back to second place and wasn’t far behind Wilson Todd in the end. In race three, once again I crashed in about the third corner of the first lap and then a rider in front of me made a mistake and crashed and I went into him, hitting the dirt for a second time. I fought back to finish fourth. It wasn’t an ideal weekend for me, but I had good speed … I could have won, should have won … but things just didn’t work out for me. I’m still leading the series in the MX2 class and I have to be happy with that. It could have been worse.”

Meanwhile, another Australian, Gold Coast rider Kirk Gibbs, won the Aussie versus Kiwi battle in the MX1 class on Sunday and he is now first equal with Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper at the top of the MX1 standings.

There is no rest for the riders as round three follows this coming Sunday at Harrisville, just outside Pukekohe, with the fourth and final round set for Taupo on March 10.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood (CML Makita KTM250F), still leading in two separate championship classes after racing near Rotorua on Sunday.

Australian Kirk Gibbs is on track to defend his Kiwi MX1 title, with the Altherm JCR Yamaha rider winning the second round of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships in Rotorua yesterday.

He and arch rival Cody Cooper battled it out again over three motos at the Rotorua Motocross Track, with Gold Coast-based Gibbs coming out on top this time around. He qualified in P1 and that set the tone for the first race.

“The day was really good. I got a good start in the first moto then had a good gap and rode to the win, so I was really happy,” Gibbs (29) says of his first race.

In the second outing he got a decent start but got pushed wide.

“I made it really tough for myself. I was probably back in about 10th or so, then had to make my way back. I got into second but just couldn’t bridge the gap to Coops [Cody Cooper] and finished there.”

The third race went the same way as the first and Gibbs pulled away, maintaining the gap to win the race and take the overall round win.

“I put a little peg back in for the championship. Coops beat me by three points at the first round and then I beat him by three points yesterday,” Gibbs says.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s Team Manager Josh Coppins was happy with how Gibbs responded to finishing the first round in second place.

“He’s definitely finding his straps and riding fast and really well. It was cool to see him win and get the results he deserves. He’s really upped the ante and is in a good position looking forward to the third round this coming weekend,” Coppins says.

Altherm JCR Yamaha MX1 rider Kayne Lamont was super-consistent finishing third in all three races at the second round of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships in Rotorua yesterday.

Gibb’s fellow Altherm JCR Yamaha MX1 rider Kayne Lamont was once again consistent, with three becoming his lucky number throughout the day. Qualifying third, Hamilton’s Lamont (25) finished in that same position in all three races and was third for the round.

“I had two out of the three holeshots, so my starts were there. I managed to run with the boys for a little bit at the start but kind of ran out of puff and managed to circulate to get third. I had enough pace to hang with them but just not through the whole duration of the race. It was just the lack of pre-training and quality bike time. I will catch up with Josh and test some suspension to see if we can improve a little bit for the last two rounds,” Lamont says, referencing the pre-season knee injury that kept him off the bike during the key preparation months.

Coppins says that “Kayne is consistently there. He doesn’t quite have the bike fitness yet.”

Altherm JCR Yamaha rider Maximus Purvis scored a 3-7-2 set of race results to place him fourth overall for the second round of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships in Rotorua yesterday. He is also leading the Under-19 class.

Altherm JCR Yamaha MX2 contender Maximus Purvis had a set of races similar to the previous round.

“He had two good motos and one bad moto, where he didn’t quite execute things right. He hasn’t had the same level of competition before and in his first year in MX2, he’s now up against a lot of international riders.”

Purvis (18), of Mangakino, says his third race was the best of the three.

“I holeshot Wilson [Todd] then he passed me, and I just chased him around to finish second.”

A third in the first outing and seventh in the second race gave him fourth overall for the weekend.

“That second moto really hurt him. He’s got good speed but he’s just struggling to adapt to the intensity of so many good riders and the fact that you get punished when you don’t get everything right. He has to fight for every inch. Max is leading the Under-19 class, scoring the round win in this category yesterday and if he wants to win that MX2 title, he’s got to turn things around in his consistency,” Coppins says.

The overcast conditions made for favourable racing, with the Rotorua Motocross Club doing a great job of keeping the dust down.

The team truck headed back to Yamaha in Auckland last night, where the two YZ450s and one YZ250 will be prepared for the third round at the clay-based Pukekohe track this weekend. The Altherm JCR Yamaha riders will also have a test day in Taupo before they return to competition on Sunday.

“We’ll put a good effort in this week and do the best we can to have everyone ready to fight for the championship in both classes,” Coppins concludes.

Altherm JCR Yamaha would like to thank their sponsors: Altherm Window Systems, JCR, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamalube, GYTR, bLUcRU, Akrapovic, Ward Demolition, Star Moving, Holland Collision Centre, Workshop Graphics, Fox, YMI, YMF, Pirelli, Twin Air, DID, Renthal, Motomuck, Vertex, Motoseat & SKF. 

Altherm JCR Yamaha 2019 Fox MNZ MX National Championship 

Round 1 – Sunday 3rd February – Taranaki
Round 2 – Sunday 17th February – Rotorua
Round 3 – Sunday 24th February – Pukekohe
Round 4 – Sunday 10th March – Taupo

Altherm JCR Yamaha rider Kirk Gibbs won the MX1 class at the second round of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships in Rotorua yesterday.