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

You may have heard already, but it’s a sad day as we announce DRD will no longer be available in print

The Sunshine Coast’s Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) scored the highest result for the Altherm JCR Yamaha team, finishing runner-up in the MX1 class

Heading home from the southernmost round of the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships, Altherm JCR Yamaha Team Manager Josh Coppins pondered what could have been at the series opener in Balclutha.

His four-rider team was very close but not quite able to produce any elusive wins in the hotly-contested MX1 and MX2 classes.

“Dylan could’ve won and should be leading. Max was pretty solid but could’ve been slightly better and Kirk could’ve been slightly better as well. Kayne did well to ride after a bad injury at Woodville but obviously his heavy bruising affected his performance on Saturday,” Coppins says.

Visiting Australian rider Kirk Gibbs has high hopes of reclaiming his 2018 New Zealand MX1 title and was determined to fight defending champion Cody Cooper hard for it on the track, at Riverside Reserve in Glasgow Street. However, the three races didn’t entirely go his way.

“Kirk went 2-2-3, with Cody Copper winning that class. Kirk is sitting second in championship 11 points behind Cody and was very fast especially in his second and third races but struggled with his starts,” Coppins says.

Sunshine Coast-based Gibbs was the first to admit that although the end result was not detrimental there are several areas he will be working on while he is back home in Australia for the three weeks between national rounds.

In the first moto, he got a bad start, which set a pattern.“I fought back – came through the pack – had good speed and got to second. That’s all I could do. My starts let me down all weekend which I’m very disappointed about. It doesn’t look that bad on paper but I’m extremely disappointed with the end result. I wanted to go in there and have a win. I’ll come out swinging in Rotorua because I don’t want to let Cody get too far ahead or it will blow out with it being such a short series,” Gibbs wraps up.

Last year’s British Motocross MX2 Championship winner Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh, who recently signed with Ben Townley Tours and is competing as a satellite rider in the Altherm JCR Yamaha team, had the toughest, hard-luck story of the four riders. After qualifying in the top position, his first race was looking promising, until a flat tyre on his Yamaha YZ250F stopped him in his tracks and resulted in a DNF.

A second in the next race restored the 22-year-old’s points tally and then repeating the same result in the third race gave him fifth overall for the day

“I salvaged as much as I could and onto the second round,” a philosophical Walsh says.

Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis was also competing in the fiercely-contested MX2 class and after victory at the New Zealand GP at Woodville last weekend, he was aiming to grab the red plate again. Although he couldn’t repeat his winning ways, Purvis’ results set of 3-5-3 saw him on the podium with third overall – well within striking distance of early leader Josiah Natzke.

“I’m one point behind second and seven points behind first, so the points are still really close,” Purvis (19) says.

Coppins described the MX2 (250cc) class as “really intense, with a lot of up and down results.”

“If Max could execute a few more things, I think he’ll be better at the next round. It was very close racing,” he says.

Lamont (26) tried his best to ride after his accident last weekend, which left him with a huge haematoma. Disregarding the obvious pain of wielding his Yamaha YZ450 around the slippery track, he managed to finish fifth and then better it with a fourth.

“Race 3, I got a good start, was in third and went back to fourth after a lap or two. I was settled and riding nice and calm and easy then had a crash and landed onto my hematoma on my bottom, which sent me through the roof! So, I was only able to rotate around slowly to finish 16th,” Hamilton-based Lamont says.

“Overall I was happy with how I was doing with my injury, as it’s probably one of the hardest days I’ve had on a motorcycle! I’m just gutted about the final race, which has put me eighth in points after round one,” he adds.

Altherm JCR Yamaha Team Manager Josh Coppins (right) talks to his MX1 rider Australian Kirk Gibbs at the Balclutha track on Saturday.

Coppins praised the South Otago Motorcycle Club and Motorcycling New Zealand for running a well-organised event – the first time the southern club has ever hosted a senior nationals motocross round.

“It was great to see Yamaha-supported rider Marshall Phillips, of Christchurch, finish in third place in the national 125cc class. We also had 16 riders competing in the first of two rounds in the Yamaha-sponsored YZ65 Cup class. This is where the future of the sport begins, so being able to compete with the highest level of New Zealand’s motocross riders was an inspiring experience for them. We look forward to seeing more of our YZ65 Cup youngsters competing at the final nationals round in Taupo in March,” Coppins says.

“Our Altherm JCR Yamaha riders scored a second in MX1 and a third in MX2, so we are in the hunt. We will go away over the next three weeks and work hard on improving and consolidating the team in a few areas. Then we will come back at the second round in Rotorua, challenging even harder for the championship wins” Coppins concludes.

Results:

MX1
1st Cody Cooper – 75
2nd Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 64
3rd Hamish Harwood – 62
4th Ethan Martens – 46
5th Brad Groombridge – 43
8th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 39 

MX2
1st Josiah Natzke – 63
2nd James Scott – 57
3rd Maximus Purvis (YZ250F) – 56
4th Morgan Fogarty – 47
5th Dylan Walsh (YZ250F) – 44.048 

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, Contract Consultants, Fox & Workshop Graphics.

Words by ALtherm JCR Yamaha, Photos by CD Photography