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

 

The MX1 class podium after the opening round of the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships in Balclutha – Auckland’s Hamish Harwood (left, third), Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (centre, first) and Australian Kirk Gibbs (right, second). Photo by Mark Bailey

The small South Island town of Balclutha hosted the first of four rounds in this season’s FOX-sponsored series and what a display it was, with close and exciting racing throughout the various bike categories.

The venue, at Riverside Reserve in Glasgow Street, Balclutha, was a previously untried circuit, but the host South Otago Motorcycle Club worked tirelessly to make it a perfect racing environment and the rider responded with some scintillating race action.

It was a contest that had it all … upsets galore, with dozens of riders threatening for race wins at various stages during the day, risk-taking often rewarded but the smallest of mistakes punished, with mechanical or tyre failures also playing a part in some of the outcomes.

This opening round of the championships was edge of the seat stuff for racers and fans alike as nine championship races – three in each o

f the championship classes – saw 13 different individuals step onto the various podiums throughout the afternoon in Balclutha.

Bay of Plenty riders led the way, with Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper unbeaten in the premier MX1 class, while Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly also scored a hat-trick of wins as he dominated the 125cc class. Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke survived a set of furious battles to narrowly claim top spot in the MX2 (250cc) class.

“It was great racing again in the South Island, with the South Otago Motorcycle Club hosting. The club did a fantastic job preparing the track and venue,” said Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) motocross commissioner Ray Broad.

“The racing didn’t disappoint, with three riders leading the charge in MX1 and an intense battle brewing in MX2, there is definitely going to be great action at round two in Rotorua. Again thank you to the riders that competed at round one, and to the club,” he said.

A new YZ65 Cup support class was an extra element in the programme at Balclutha and it will be present again at the fourth and final round in Taupo in mid-March, the special feature offering an opportunity for the nation’s youngest rising stars to show what they’re made of.

After Saturday’s series opener, the competition now heads to Rotorua for round two in just two weeks’ time, on February 23. Round three is set for Hawke’s Bay on March 1, with the fourth and final round in Taupo on March 15.

Points leaders after Saturday’s racing are:

MX1 class: 1. Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, 75 points (maximum); 2. Australia’s Kirk Gibbs, 64; 3. Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, 62; 4. Auckland’s Ethan Martens, 46; 5. Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, 43.

MX2 class: 1. Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, 63 points; 2. Oparau’s James Scott, 57; 3. Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, 56; 4. Australia’s Morgan Fogarty, 47; 5. Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh, 44.

Under-16 class: 1. Oparau’s James Scott, 75 (maximum); 2. Australia’s Riley Ward, 66; 3. Palmerston North’s Luka Freemantle, 53.

125c class: 1. Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, 75 points (maximum); 2. Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, 66; 3. Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips, 54; 4. Rongotea’s Zac Jillings, 48; 5. Ashburton’s Ben Wall, 42.

The series sponsors are Fox Racing New Zealand, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Pirelli NZ, Ward Demolition, Aon, ICG, Kawasaki NZ, Blue Wing Honda, Raptor, Yamalube Yamaha Racing, TransDiesel Ltd, with the Otago Community Trust and The Trusts Community Foundation specifically supporting the Balclutha event.

2020 FOX New Zealand Motocross Championships calendar:

Round 1 – Balclutha, Saturday, February 1;

Round 2 – Rotorua, Sunday, February 23;

Round 3 – Hawke’s Bay, Sunday, March 1;

Round 4 – Taupo, Sunday, March 15.

Words by Andy McGechan, Photo by Mark Bailey.

The preliminary battles have been fought and now the real fight for national motocross glory is set to begin.

Several major motocross events have been run over the past couple of months, each of them offering up broad hints as to who may be the most likely title contenders for 2020, but none of those results really matter because it’s what happens in the Otago region this weekend that counts above all.

The South Island town of Balclutha will this Saturday host the first of four rounds in this season’s FOX New Zealand Motocross Championships, making this perhaps the world’s southern-most motocross championships, and excitement levels are at an all-time high.

The venue, at Riverside Reserve in Glasgow Street, Balclutha, has never before hosted a motocross event of this magnitude, and the rider line-up is second-to-none, making it a must-see event.

Auckland’s Hamish Harwood won the coveted New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix title at Woodville on Sunday and so will obviously be among those favoured to lead the way in the premier MX1 class this coming Saturday too, although Mount Maunganui’s defending national champion Cody Cooper and other top riders such as visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs, Waitakere’s Ethan Martens and Taupo’s Hadleigh Knight may have something to say about that.

The amount of talent on show in the MX2 (250cc) class at Woodville also hints that fireworks may be about to erupt in this category too, with individuals such as Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh and Oparau’s James Scott among the favourites.

“We are really looking forward to the start of the 2020 New Zealand Motocross Championships. In the MX1 class, it is former South Island rider Hamish Harwood (originally from Takaka) who is one of the favourites, but the real action will be in the MX2 class where the real fireworks go off. Any number of riders could win in MX2,” said Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) motocross commissioner Ray Broad.

“It is great to be back in the South Island and we are looking forward to some great support from the locals.”

The Otago Community Trust and The Trusts Community Foundation have come on board as additional supporters of Saturday’s event and the many hours of work put in by the host club are appreciated by MNZ.

As well as the MX1 and MX2 classes, the 125cc class is sure to provide edge-of-the-seat entertainment on Saturday.

The 125cc class, as always, represents the breeding ground for stars of the future, these young riders also no doubt particularly keen to perform on the previously-untried Balclutha stage.

A new YZ65 Cup support class will be an added feature of this weekend’s series opener and will feature again at the fourth and final round in Taupo in mid-March, offering a great opportunity for the nation’s youngest rising stars to show what they’re made of.

After Saturday’s series opener, the competition heads to Rotorua for round two on February 23. Round three is set for Hawke’s Bay on March 1, with the fourth and final round in Taupo on March 15.

Australian Kirk Gibbs (left) and Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, the two Fox-outfitted riders likely to be out front and battling at Balclutha this Saturday

The senior New Zealand Motocross Championships are sponsored by Fox Racing New Zealand, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Pirelli Motorsport, Ward Demolition, Aon, ICG, Kawasaki NZ, Blue Wing Honda, Ford Ranger Raptor NZ, Yamalube Yamaha Racing, Eni TransDiesel Ltd, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine, with the Otago Community Trust and The Trusts Community Foundation specifically supporting the Balclutha event.

2020 FOX New Zealand Motocross Championships calendar:

Round 1 – Balclutha, Saturday, February 1;

Round 2 – Rotorua, Sunday, February 23;

Round 3 – Hawke’s Bay, Sunday, March 1;

Round 4 – Taupo, Sunday, March 15.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan