It was a cliff-hanger finale to this season’s New Zealand Motocross Championships in the Bay of Plenty on Sunday.

The racers arrived at Taupo’s popular sand and pumice Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park in Taupo for the fourth and final round of the series knowing that, for two of the three Fox-sponsored championship classes at least, it was going down to the wire.

In the premier MX1 class, visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs enjoyed a five-point buffer over Mount Maunganui’s defending national MX1 champion Cody Cooper.

It was a similar story too in the MX2 (250cc) class, with Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis happy with his four-point advantage over Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke.

The only thing that seemed certain that it would take a disaster for Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly not to win the 125cc class crown.

With eight wins from nine starts at the previous three rounds (three 125cc races at each of the events at Balclutha, Rotorua and Fernhill respectively), Connolly held a whopping 64-point lead over his nearest challenger, Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips.

Therefore, with more than two full races up his sleeve, when Connolly dominated and won the first of his three 125cc races at Taupo on Sunday, he had earned his first senior motocross crown with two races to spare.

Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon fought through and recovered from bad luck at the earlier rounds to eventually claim the runner-up spot in the 125cc class and it was a similar story for Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, who settled for third overall.

When Purvis finished runner-up in both of the day’s first two MX2 races, while nearest rival Natzke finished third in race one and then won race two, it set up an intriguing scenario – whomever won the day’s final MX2 race at Taupo would take the title for 2020.

Purvis rocketed into the lead in that final race and never looked back.

Natzke fought through traffic to eventually finish runner-up in that race and this was the final championship outcome too, Purvis taking the title ahead of Natzke, with Oparau’s James Scott claiming the third podium position for the series.

In the MX1 class, Gibbs showed strength to win the day’s first MX1 race and then settled for a runner-up finish behind Cooper in race two, giving him a solid seven-point buffer with one race remaining. This meant Gibbs could afford to finish no worse than fourth and in the final race and he would take the crown.

And that’s what happened, Cooper winning the day with his second race victory, but Gibbs crossing the line second and therefore clinching the title by four points.

Third overall for the MX1 championship was West Auckland’s, Hamish Harwood.

The MX1 prize is now designated a “Perpetual Trophy”, which means Gibbs will be the first to have his name on this trophy.

Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad said it had been a “truly great series”. “All four rounds produced a number of different winners in the various classes, which is all we can ask for,” he said.

“The series demonstrated that the model with host clubs working alongside Motorcycling New Zealand to deliver this championship was a successful model which has lifted the sport to another platform from where we were two years ago, particularly with the partnership with Sky Sport Next.

“MX2 class riders such as Maximus Purvis, Josiah Natzke, James Scott and Dylan Walsh, and MX1 rider Cody Cooper too, have shown that the experience to race overseas and honing their skills is the way forward.”

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

A huge thank you to our series sponsors 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 and Sky Sport Next.

Final leading standings in the 2020 New Zealand Motocross Championships:
MX1 class: 1. Australia’s Kirk Gibbs, 280 points; 2. Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, 276; 3. Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, 244; 4. Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont, 203; 5. Waitakere’s Ethan Martens, 176.
MX2 class: 1. Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, 252 points; Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, 246; 3. Oparau’s James Scott, 228; 4. Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh 224; 5. Australia’s Caleb Ward, 188.
Under-19 class: 1. Oparau’s James Scott, 300 points; 2. Australia’s Riley Ward, 242; 3. Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, 226.
125c class: 1. Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, 291 points; 2. Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, 229; 3. Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, 213; 4. Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips, 202; 5. Rongotea’s Zac Jillings, 167.

Words by Andy McGechan, Photo by CLMINTIEPIX

Hard work and a strong team behind the scenes has seen Altherm JCR Yamaha do the double, with Kirk Gibbs crowned the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship’s MX1 winner and Maximus Purvis taking out the MX2 title.

Well-deserved celebrations ensued after the final round of four wrapped up on Sunday, with two of the team’s riders on top of their podiums at Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motocross Park.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s Team Manager Josh Coppins is a very happy man to have his riders win both the MX1 and MX2 titles in a season.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s Maximus Purvis holds his 2020 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship’s MX2 trophy aloft.

“I’m really so happy to get these results in MX1 and MX2. It’s my first MX1 title as a team manager and I thank Kirk for his professionalism in nailing that for us. We’ve had the red plate many times and been close many times but never quite got it done. To get the double is just incredible and I’m stoked for Max that he pulled it off.”

Coppins, who has amassed multiple national and international titles himself over his long and successful racing career, knows what it takes to win – an unbeatable crew.

“The biggest thing I’m happy about is the team. We had a really good crew this year and I feel like we worked super hard. I know everyone says that, but I think we went to the next level. These two wins are a great reward for our Altherm JCR Yamaha team – they deserved it!”

“Just because you work hard doesn’t always mean you get the rewards in motorsport. It can go either way. I’ve been on the other side plenty of times, so I’m pleased to get the final result and I’m going to enjoy it with my riders and my team. I couldn’t be prouder of them all,” he adds.

Sunshine Coast-based Gibbs knows how the rollercoaster of motocross racing goes. He won the New Zealand MX1 championship in 2018 with another brand, then just missed the title last year by a meager 5 points. This year, he bested defending champion Cody Copper by 4 points.

“It’s so awesome to win the championship again. To come so close last year and just miss out was disappointing. Everything just went really well for me this season and things started clicking for me. I was riding well and the Yamaha YZ450 was great,” Gibbs says of his successful 2020 championship where he won 6 out of 12 motos.

“Working hard with Josh during the weeks between the four rounds and with my Australian team helped me to feel really comfortable and strong, which was what I believe led to the championship win,” he adds.

Thirty-one-year-old Gibbs used his experience to manage the final round well. He won the first race and from there had a 10-point lead.

“Kirk was able to manage it and bring it home. He’s an older rider with a lot of experience. He’s won this New Zealand championship before and the Australian championship in 2015, so he knows what it takes to seal the deal,” Coppins explains.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s Kirk Gibbs wins the 2020 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship’s MX1 title.

Gibbs settled for second in the final two motos, knowing that he’d have the points on board to take the MX1 trophy back across The Ditch with him.

“I’m stoked to get another championship over here and I’m really stoked for Josh and Amy [Coppins] and the team. I know how much hard work that everyone that’s involved puts in. I couldn’t be any more thankful for them and my team back home for being part of it,” Gibbs says.

Mangakino’s Purvis (19) had a slightly more nail-biting road to victory on-board his Yamaha YZ250F. Coming into the final round he had a narrow 4-point lead over main rival Josiah Natzke. A second in the opening moto meant he was on track for the title but a wrong tyre choice for the second race dropped him back down the pack and piled on the pressure for the final moto. Coppins used his wealth of knowledge to help Purvis out.

“I convinced him to go back to the previous tyre from race 1 and he was a different kid in race 3. He led from pretty much start to finish,” he says.

Purvis (19) described the championship-winning feeling as “unreal” as he snatched the title by 6 points over Natzke.

“I’ve been working so hard and fighting all season and it feels so good to take the win. It definitely came down to the wire in the last race, but I wanted that win badly. I fought through a couple riders then just put my foot down, went for it, and pulled the win off,” he says.

The Altherm JCR Yamaha team’s other two riders Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont (MX1) and Christchurch-based Dylan Walsh (MX2) both finished fourth overall in their championships.

Lamont has had a rough season after sustaining heavy bruising at January’s Woodville GP, which hampered his riding for the first two national rounds. At the penultimate race meeting, he injured his thumb and had to make the best of riding through the pain there in Hawke’s Bay and again yesterday.

“The day was a struggle, but I managed to get third in qualifying. In the races I had good starts and was in the top three and went on to finish fourth in every race. Overall I ended up fourth for the championship, which is decent for what I was dealing with, I think,” Lamont says.

For 2019 British MX2 Championship winner Walsh, the high of a win in the first race on Sunday was swiftly followed by the low of a crash in the second moto.

“Then I didn’t really ride like myself after that. It’s been an awesome time racing in NZ with Josh and Ben [Townley]. I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity,” Walsh says.

His plans for the rest of 2020 are on hold now with the Coronavirus Disease affecting race calendars worldwide.

Coppins and his wife Amy would like to thank all the riders, mechanics, sponsors, supporters, fans and followers who have helped make this double championship victory possible. They are very grateful for everything and are so thrilled to walk away from the 2020 motocross season with two title-winning riders.

RESULTS:
MX1
1st Cody Cooper – 70
2nd Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 69
3rd Hamish Harwood – 62
4th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 54
5th Ethan Martens – 46
MX2
1st Maximus Purvis (YZ250F) – 69
2nd Josiah Natzke – 67
3rd Dylan Walsh (YZ250F) – 63
4th James Scott – 56
5th Morgan Fogarty – 47

OVERALL CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS:
MX1
1st Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 280
2nd Cody Cooper – 276
3rd Hamish Harwood – 244
4th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 203
5th Ethan Martens – 176
MX2
1st Maximus Purvis (YZ250F) – 252
2nd Josiah Natzke – 246
3rd James Scott – 228
4th Dylan Walsh (YZ250F) – 224
5th Caleb Ward – 188

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.

Photos CLMINTIEPIX, Words Altherm JCR Yamaha

It took a fulltime professional from another country to finally bring down Kiwi hero Cody Cooper.

Round 2 of the 2020 MXGP calendar supplied plenty of action at a rain-soaked Valkenswaard, with the deep wet sand making it a challenging weekend for many.

Altherm JCR Yamaha riders Kirk Gibbs (MX1) and Maximus Purvis (MX2) are two men on a mission, both storming into the lead of their Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship classes yesterday in Hawke’s Bay.

Riding their respective Yamahas in the series’ penultimate round at Ngaruroro Raceway, near Fernhill, they are the men with the upper hand in their title hunts, when the championship wraps up in Taupo, in a fortnight.

Sunshine Coast-based Gibbs was untouchable in the premier class on his YZ450 – qualifying first and winning three from three races. The top-notch results give him a 5-point lead over defending champion Cody Copper and 29-point buffer over Hamish Harwood in third.

Altherm JCR Yamaha rider Kirk Gibbs (#G) leads the MX1 field and championship standings. Photo CLIMINTIEPIX

“It was a really good day for me. I’ll go home and work on some more things that Josh [Coppins – Team Manager] and BT [Ben Townley] gave me to work on. It’s so helpful to have such good people to get information from,” Gibbs says.

He was stoked to have the points lead and had a clear plan for the final set of three races on March 15.

“I’ll go there with a good mindset and put a couple of good races in and try to bring it home,” he says of the MX1 silverware that belonged to him in 2018.

Altherm JCR Yamaha Team Manager Josh Coppins says Gibbs has all the hallmarks of a “true professional.”

“We work hard for him and he works hard for us. We’re very happy with his performance. Good starts, good riding and three from three. He came in from 6 points down and goes away 5 points up, so he achieved an 11-point swing.”

Purvis went 2-1-4, with the final race result slightly lower after the 19-year-old Mangakino flyer crashed on the last lap, while in second.

“He was trying to pass for the lead, and it cost him 4 points, which was a shame. He’s just a young fella and maybe should’ve settled for second and come out with an 8-point lead rather than 4 points but you’ve also got to admire him trying to make the pass. He finished second for the day, went from 8 points behind to 4 points ahead [of Josiah Natzke] in the championship and took the red plate, which is exciting,” Coppins says.

Purvis adds: “It definitely feels good to be leading the points going into the last round. I’ve been trying to chip away at it and now I just have to finish it off with some good results at Taupo.”

Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh displayed some of the form that saw the 22-year-old crowned the British Motocross Championship’s MX2 winner last year, with a 4-2-1 results’ set on his Yamaha YZ250F.

“Round three was a big improvement for me. We made huge changes during the week on the suspension and it paid off. I was able to get the round win and show what I was capable of,” Walsh says.

Coppins says the changes to Walsh’s Yamaha helped make him “much more comfortable and straight away achieve a better result.”

“We have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks. Together with Ben [Townley] and Dylan, we will have some meetings to work out a clear plan moving forward. Dylan is sitting fourth in the championship but what’s most important for us and for him, is that he is starting to find his groove with Yamaha, and he got an overall win. It was harder and took longer than we expected but I’m happy for him to get there,” he adds.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s second MX1 rider Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont suffered another niggling injury, which hampered his performance. He hurt his thumb in practice and alternated between trying to strap it and leaving it unsupported, as he struggled through a painful three races, finishing fourth each time.

“Overall my day was another survival day. My glute injury [incurred at the Woodville GP] is pretty decent now and I’m not having too many problems with it. I’m just fighting small injuries most rounds, which is quite frustrating,” Lamont says.

Coppins describes the Fernhill track as “really challenging.”

“It got very rough and technical with deep ruts, but it really suited our riders, with a lot of lines available. I expected a good result at this track and was happy we were able to execute one.”

“The final race was red-flagged, and the results were taken as they stood due to an accident. Our Altherm JCR Yamaha team wishes the injured rider a speedy recovery,” Coppins concludes.

RESULTS:
MX1
1st Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 75
2nd Cody Cooper – 64
3rd Hamish Harwood – 62
4th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 54
5th Brad Groombridge – 46

MX2
1st Dylan Walsh (YZ250F) – 65
2nd Maximus Purvis (YZ250F) – 65
3rd James Scott – 58
4th Josiah Natzke- 53
5th Caleb Ward – 53

2020 ALTHERM JCR YAMAHA RACE SCHEDULE:

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 Yahama, Photos CLMINTIEPIX