The big annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville will again enjoy elevated status in 2019.

Already considered the biggest and most prestigious motocross event on the Kiwi race calendar, the Woodville GP was recognised as an FIM Oceania event for the first time last season, in January this year, and the success of that means it will again host the FIM Oceania Trans Tasman Challenge at next year’s 58th annual running on January 26 and 27. The spectacular two-day event at Woodville has always attracted huge interest from overseas, but the 2019 Honda-sponsored New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville, in just eight weeks’ time, is again enhanced as a true international competition.

The FIM Oceania Challenge includes competition for both junior and senior riders, with many of Australia’s finest expected to arrive and all of them determined to hammer their Kiwi counterparts. Participating riders from Australia and New Zealand have yet to be confirmed, but there is no shortage of willing candidates keen to lock horns in this inspired trans-Tasman showdown. The Australian will no doubt be seeking revenge after losing out to the New Zealand riders last season.

New Zealand’s chances of winning the FIM Oceania Challenge looked doubtful after the first day of racing at the 2018 edition of the Woodville GP, but a huge fight-back on day two turned it all around. The Australian contingent had the early advantage – leading by 410 points to 368 – after the junior phase of racing on the Saturday, but the senior Kiwis came on strong the following day and rescued the situation. New Zealand eventually won the 2018 FIM Oceania Challenge by 886 points to 829, with Auckland rider Hamish Harwood the main Kiwi aggressor.

It was certainly a talent-packed Australian contingent that arrived at Woodville in January this year – Kirk Gibbs, Jay Wilson, Cooper Pozniak, Mason Semmens, Bailey Malkiewicz, Tyler Darby, Jay Conforto and Australian national women’s champion Maddie Brown among them – and a similarly-potent Australian assault can be expected in 2019.

The Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club (MOMCC) has hosted the Woodville GP every year since its inception in 1961 and is proud to again be chosen to stage this FIM Oceania competition.

MOMCC president Brett Wistrand said he wanted to thank FIM Oceania for giving the Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club this opportunity again.

“We want to give the crowd great entertainment, something they can really get behind and there really is nothing better than the sporting rivalry that exists between Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

Racing over the two days at Woodville caters for minis, juniors, women and veteran racers, with the novelty river race on Sunday also a major crowd-pleaser.

 

Credit: Words and photos by Andy McGechan

Netherlands – For the fourth year in a row the temporary and spectacularly set motocross course laid over the stadium section of the TT Circuit provided a rough, tight and curvy test. The sand benefitted from a slightly revised layout for 2018 but made largely the same inventive use of space next to the vast grandstand that was filled with most of the 40,000 attendance.

Red Bull KTM came to the 19th round of 20 in MXGP having mathematically confirmed both MXGP and MX2 world titles and expecting to see the first of the season-long duels between Herlings and Cairoli as well as Jonass and Prado decided on the bumpy Dutch terrain.

Herlings secured his first world championship with the KTM 450 SX-F in the premier class of the FIM series – becoming the first Dutchman to do so for 30 years – and the fourth of a career that begun with his current Red Bull KTM team in 2010 at the tender age of fifteen.

Setting off from the first pick in the gate after posting his twelfth Qualification Heat victory on Saturday, Herlings passed Cairoli before the end of the first lap and was cheered all the way to the chequered flag. The 24 year old cruised to the line almost forty seconds ahead of the pack and began the celebrations. He provoked a gasp from most of the circuit in the second moto with an early race crash but then hiked the entertainment factor by cutting his way through to win once more. It was Herlings’ seventh Grand Prix triumph in a row and 14th moto success; he was last beaten in Indonesia in July.

After 19 Grands Prix (of which he contested 18) and 36 motos, Herlings has won 16 and 31 and never finished lower than third in those 36 starts. He has dropped only 17 points all season and boasts a 100% podium record in just his second season in the category.

Tony Cairoli sealed the position of number two for 2018 meaning Red Bull KTM has classified 1-2 for the second consecutive year. The Sicilian has finished on the rostrum 14 times despite dealing with small injuries to his thumb, hand and knee and raised his runner-up trophy thanks to a 2-2 at Assen; walking the rostrum for the first time since the Grand Prix of Belgium.

Coldenhoff nearly gave the team a full podium sweep. #259 was fast and competitive at the track where he marked a podium finish in 2016 and charged to a fine 3rd position for a Red Bull KTM 1-2-3 in Saturday’s Qualification Heat. He was running inside the top three in the first moto until a frightening crash that saw him topple off the track. He thankfully retrieved his racebike and rode to 5th place. In the second moto– after holeshotting and leading the opening laps – Glenn fought off the attention of Max Anstie to classify 3rd and missed his first spray of champagne this season by just two points.

Herlings“It has been an amazing day and it was a blessing to be in my shoes. Everyone had been saying ‘enjoy the day’ but it just ‘went’! To do this in front of my home crowd here at the TT Circuit #assen is amazing: a special day and it was nice to do it in style. I pretty much led the whole of the first #moto and then in between races it was hard to stay focussed because there are many friends, family, sponsors who want to congratulate you and I couldn’t really do my normal routine! I tried to pass Glenn in the second #moto but went down and had to pick up from tenth position and then work to get back to the lead. I managed to get little gap over Tony. It was a great day and it has been a special year. I have to give it up to Red Bull KTM; we’ve been together through this all the way so a big thanks to all the team and all the guys at the factory. Going 1-1, winning the championship, home crowd: enough said.”

 

In the cruellest of circumstances, Kiwi motocross phenomenon Courtney Duncan will be unable to race the final two rounds of the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship (WMX), due to the flare-up of an injury in her right foot.

The Altherm JCR Yamaha rider has a dominant 21-point advantage over her nearest rival but has been advised today by surgeons, at her Belgium base, against risking permanent damage to her foot if she rides in this weekend’s penultimate round in the Netherlands. Duncan must take a three-month break from riding, which also rules her out of contesting the final round in Italy on September 30.

“I don’t think there’s a word to describe how I’m feeling right now. It breaks my heart to know I won’t be able to line up and go for the world title. I have to think of the bigger picture. I am only young and I’ve got championships to deliver in the future. I want to thank my sponsors and supporters and those who have stuck by me for the past couple of years,” Duncan (22) says.

She sustained the injury – twisting her foot and damaging the bones and ligaments – while racing in a round of the French Motocross Championship after the fourth WMX round in June. Her coach and Altherm JCR Yamaha team manager Josh Coppins says it was a complicated injury.

“We had some mixed information about the recovery period. Initially, we thought it was shorter and with the penultimate round approaching, Courtney resumed riding after nine weeks. Unfortunately, she reinjured her foot 10 days ago. We have sought three different surgeons’ opinions and all of them concurred that under no circumstances can she ride a bike for three months. They all said there’s not even a remote chance she can ride this weekend.”

“It’s not an injury that’s just about managing the pain, as I know Courtney would just grin and bear it. It could affect her for the rest of her life if she damages her foot any further.”

“I am so disappointed for her, especially off the back of a rollercoaster three years. This year she rode so well and put herself in the best possible position to bring home a world title. The other WMX riders have been given a bit of a gift now but that’s sport – there’s soaring highs and crushing lows,” Coppins says.

Duncan has had a string of bad fortune over her three tilts at the WMX title. In 2016, while leading her debut championship – after winning three of her first four races – she crashed into an errant photographer, who was standing in the wrong place on a jump. She injured herself badly and missed out on two rounds and consequently the title.

In 2017, she was winning the second-to-last race of the season when she swerved to avoid a cluster of five fallen riders blocking the track and crashed into a fence – recovering to finish sixth. The race jury initially ruled the results would be awarded on the placings from the lap before the track was blocked, when Courtney was in front. But this decision was then changed and the results at the end of the race were reinstated, meaning Duncan did not have enough points to be able to win the championship.

She went out and won the season’s last race by 46 seconds, finishing third in the WMX – only three points away from first.

This year she won five out of the eight WMX races she contested throughout Europe.

Coppins is currently in Belgium with Duncan.

“While I would have liked to have been able to personally contact all the people around the world and particularly in New Zealand who have been involved in Courtney’s campaign, it is just not practically possible from over here. Please accept my apologies for breaking this bad news in a statement,” Coppins says.

Altherm JCR Yamaha would like to thank everyone for their support over the 2018 WMX season.

Duncan has requested that the media give her a few days privacy to process this disappointment. She is unsure when she will return to New Zealand at this stage.

 

Suzuki has released full technical details of its 2019 RM-Z250, with the MX2 machine getting a new frame, swingarm and suspension, plus a new engine that produces more power and torque than its predecessor. The new RM-Z250 also gets the latest version of Suzuki’s Holeshot Assist Control and traction management systems, further improving its performance, while more angular new styling sharpens the look.

The engineers at Suzuki have been busy and the engine has been enhanced for both power and manageability, with a plethora of upgrades.

The top-half of the engine is redesigned with a new cylinder head, intake and exhaust ports. The intake-cam profile has been changed to increase valve lift and improve throttle response across the whole rev range. They have also decreased mechanical loss by redesigning the cam-chain and tensioner.

Probably the most impressive of the engine upgrades is an added second injector nearer the air-box to increase power, higher in the rpm range. To get all this new grunt to the back wheel, Suzuki have changed the gear-ratios on the second and top gears.

To complete the engine side of things, the 2019 RM-Z250 receives an extension to the exhaust by 99mm, improving power at lower engine speeds.

The frame has been put on a diet and has lost 370g whilst being stiffened up 10%.

The ergonomics have also been changed to improve the bike’s handling performance and agility. The Suzuki receives new Renthal handlebars which are straighter, lower and further forward from previous models. The footpegs have been moved forward and higher whilst the fuel tank has also been on a diet, which saves 312g, while a slimmer seat loses another 274g and makes it easier for the rider to move around.

The KYB Spring-fork suspension, bigger brakes and lighter wheels have also helped to improve handling performance.

As with most new machines, the electronics package is a focal point and the RM-Z250 is no exception.

Suzuki’s advanced Holeshot Assist Control and traction management systems are further improved for 2019, giving riders a better chance to get out of the gate ahead of the competition and stay ahead in the race. Suzuki Holeshot Assist Control (S-HAC) was developed to give riders an advantage out of the gate, optimising ignition timing to help the launch be as efficient as possible. Two modes either advance or retard ignition timing, with riders able to select either depending on the surface.

 

For full details check out the next issue of Dirtrider Downunder!

 

 

 

 

It was champions galore at the 2018 edition of the annual New Zealand Veterans’ and Women’s Motocross Championships near Timaru at the weekend.
Former national motocross champions, a former rugby champion and a visiting international FMX star all locked handlebars at the two-day event at Southburn, near Timaru, on Saturday and Sunday and put on a stunning show for the large crowd in attendance.
Sponsored by Timaru Yamaha, the popular annual event featured many riders who, despite their veteran status, still rate among the sport’s elite, while the female side of the sport that shared the race programme was just as intense.
Christchurch’s 2009 national MX1 champion Justin McDonald was the stand-out individual of the weekend, unbeaten in six race starts.
The 33-year-old builder won all five race in his veterans’ 30-34 years’ class and then also won the Champion of Champions feature race that wound up the weekend, his win in that feature race despite his handicapping himself by facing backwards on the start gate.
“I’m semi-retired now, wrapped up with building my family home. My wife (Nikki) and I have two children, three-year-old Skye and 13-week-old Blue, so I’ve been too busy to race much,” said McDonald.
“It was great to be out on the track again though, racing against some of the guys I used to battle with back in the day.
“I faced myself backwards on the start gate for the feature race, but I still got there in the end,” he laughed.
Former Otago rugby captain David Latta from Balclutha, was another former national sporting hero in action at the weekend, albeit from a very different code, and he won the veterans’ 55-59 years’ class title.
An added attraction at the weekend was the surprise, last-minute appearance of international Freestyle Motocross groundbreaker Carey Hart, husband of rock star Pink, who was on a concert tour of the country.
With a little help from Motorcycling New Zealand, the 43-year-old Hart was able to indulge in “a little bit of a skid” at day one of the veterans’ nationals.
“Wow, I had so much fun racing today,” he said afterwards “Can’t believe how good the track was.”
For the record, the American rider managed two fifth-place results and a 10th in the veterans’ 40-44 years’ class on Saturday and was unavailable to race on Sunday.
Hart’s celebrity status resulted for the organisers in the kind of publicity money could not buy.
Media attention spiked and as many as 1000 extra fans came through the gates to the race at the Southburn farm, a event that organisers had only been expecting a “couple of hundred” to attend.
The event organiser, MNZ board member Noel May, said the weekend was “perfect in so many ways”.
“We were a wee bit worried about the weather, because rain had been forecast, but nothing came until after all the racing was completed on Sunday afternoon. We were a bit lucky,” he said.
“I was really proud of the track we were able to provide  and the racing was exceptional. The riders all loved it … it was natural, old-school style.
“It was great to have Carey Hart show up. He was a really chilled-out guy and signed heaps of autographs. It was great for the sport to have him come here and he remarked that the track was ‘just heaven’ and better than anything he rides on back home.”
Meanwhile, other class winners from the weekend were: Timaru’s Michael Dunn (Vets 35-39 years class); Tai Patu’s Brendan Wilson (Vets 40-44 years); Christchurch’s Brad Norton (Vets 45-49 years); New Plymouth’s Mitch Rowe (Vets 50-54 years); Balclutha’s Brian Jacobs (Vets 60-69 years); Ongarue’s Reg Davey (Vets over-70 years); Australian Jessica Moore (Senior women); Motueka’s Roma Edwards (Junior women, 12-16 years, 125cc/250cc); Invercargill’s Charlotte Clark (Junior women, 13-16 years, 85cc); Ngatea’s Brooke Dalley (Junior women, 8-12 years, 85cc).
          Credit: Words by Andy McGechan
 
          Photo by Eric Soir