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

It does not matter one little bit what the weather does to Taupo in two weeks’ time, the final round of the 2020 New Zealand Motocross Championships there will be a scorcher regardless.

The racers arrived in Hawke’s Bay for Sunday’s third round of four in the Fox-sponsored New Zealand Motocross Championships with national titles balancing on a knife-edge and it’s really no different now, even with another batch of races in the bag.

The MX1 podium at Fernhill on Sunday was (from left) Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (runner-up), Australian Kirk Gibbs (winner) and Auckland’s Hamish Harwood (third).

There were boil-overs and shake-ups left and right at the Ngaruroro Raceway circuit at Fernhill, on the outskirts of Hastings, on Sunday and the large crowd would have left there well satisfied with their day’s entertainment.

There was an 11-point turnaround at the top of the MX1 class at Fernhill, visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs turning a six-point deficit into 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 Taupo’s Maximus Purvis turning an eight-point deficit into a four-point advantage over Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke.

The change of fortunes, while remarkable, will give none of these riders a reason to relax and nerves will be jangling with three more races in each class still remaining to complete the championship series.

The fourth and final round of the 2020 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships is in Taupo in two weeks’ time, on Sunday, March 15, and there’s no doubt the racing will be fierce.

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

He scored another hat-trick of wins at Fernhill on Sunday and has extended his championships lead to a whopping 64 points over his nearest challenger, Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips, and this means Connolly has more than two full races up his sleeve.

There was one race for the Women’s Cup competition staged at Fernhill on Sunday and Hamilton’s Amie Roberts won that ahead of Opunake’s Taylar Rampton and Cambridge’s Zara Gray.

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 and TransDiesel Ltd.

Championship leaders after round three at Fernhill on Sunday are:
MX1 class: 1. Australia’s Kirk Gibbs, 211 points; 2. Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, 206; 3. Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, 182; 4. Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont, 149; 5. Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, 138.
MX2 class: 1. 2. Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, 183 points; Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, 179; 3. Oparau’s James Scott, 172; 4. Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh 161; 5. Australia’s Caleb Ward, 143.
Under-19 class: 1. Oparau’s James Scott, 225 points; 2. Australia’s Riley Ward, 184; 3. Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, 164.
125c class: 1. Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, 222 points; 2. Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips, 158; 3. Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, 157; 4. Auckland’s Cobie Bourke, 153; 5. Rongotea’s Zac Jillings, 132.

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.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Even an unaccustomed crash at the weekend could do little to derail Tauranga teenager Brodie Connolly in his bid to win the senior 125cc motocross championships crown.

The 16-year-old Husqvarna rider from Tauranga was unbeatable at the 59th annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville in January, untouchable in the 125cc class on both days of racing at that iconic event, and he carried on his winning ways at the first of four rounds in the 2020 New Zealand Motocross Championships in Balclutha a week later.

He showed up Rotorua on Sunday for round two of the championships, unloaded his LMC Racing Team Husqvarna TC125 and proceeded to qualify the bike 1.7 seconds a lap faster than the next quickest rider during the morning session.

Connolly therefore again looked to be comfortably heading towards a hat-trick of wins in the afternoon.

The first two 125cc races at Rotorua went according to plan, Connolly snatching the lead both times and leading every lap until the finish, Aucklander Cobie Bourke, who had been the second-fastest qualifier, finishing runner-up on both occasions.

Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly (LMC Racing Team Husqvarna TC125), with a massive lead in the 125cc class title chase

But then disaster struck for Connolly as he was caught in traffic at the start of the day’s final 125cc race and, in a bold bid to quickly re-assert himself, he collided with another rider and hit the dirt hard.

Then came a remarkable and brave ride as Connolly picked himself up in last place and set off after the leaders.

He picked off one rider after another and then, with the race drawing to an end he decided to settle for a runner-up finish, crossing the line behind Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, and satisfied that he had still be able to extend his championship points lead.

“I backed off near the end of the race because I didn’t want to risk crashing again and maybe not finishing,” said Connolly.

“I went straight to hospital after the final race because I’d hurt my finger pretty bad in the crash,” Connolly revealed. “There is a small break in the bone, but nothing major and I’ll be okay for the next round.”

Connolly had started the day in Rotorua on top of the standings, nine points clear of Dixon. He ended the day in Rotorua a whopping 37 points ahead of the new No.2 rider in the class, Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips, and Connolly remains in a confident mood as the championships now head to Fernhill, in Hawke’s Bay, for round three this coming Sunday (March 1).

“Madoc and Cobie have both had a few problems at Balclutha or Rotorua and they have both dropped points, so there’s really no pressure on me,” said Connolly.

It could be said there was never any pressure on Connolly anyway, so dominant has he been, with five wins now from six starts in the series thus far.

“I have raced before at Fernhill. I won the junior 11-12 years’ 85cc title there in 2016, so I’m looking forward to this coming weekend.”

Connolly is supported by LMC Husqvarna, Elevate Roofing, un4seen Decals, CFX, Pirelli, Shift MX, Motorex, FMF, Scott, Pro Taper, WP Suspension, Acerbis, EBC, DID Chains, UNI, Motomuck, Flight Path, SIDI, G2 Throttles, Tamer Hole Shot Device, EZE Race Products, Vortex Ignitions and Serval Machinery Repairs.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Every so often in motocross racing, a rider has the kind of race that makes all the hard work worth it. For him. For his team. For the sport.

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s MX1 contender Kirk Gibbs had that race yesterday at the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championship’s second round – where he crashed at the start of the second moto, got back on his YZ450 and proceeded to blast his way through the premier pack from a lowly 17th to take the win.

His Team Manager Josh Coppins, who puts countless hours into progressing his four-rider squad, took a moment to savour visiting Australian Gibbs’ glory at the Phillips’ farm property, south-west of Rotorua, at Horohoro.

“That result fired Kirk up and it fired us up too. It made our Altherm JCR Yamaha team feel good about what we are doing and why we do it. Races like that. Performances like that. They are why we do this job,” he says.

Gibbs, who had been sitting 11 points adrift of leader Cody Cooper after the opening round in Balclutha three weeks ago, describes how an early tangle in race two spurred him on.

“I was frustrated with myself and just wanted to be in the fight, so I pushed really hard and caught all the way back up to Hamish [Harwood] and Coops [Cooper] and was able to pass both of them and get the win, so I was really happy with that one,” he says.

His second in the first race and a holeshot-to-victory third race gave him the overall win for the weekend. Gibbs is now well within striking distance to lift the MX1 trophy that he took back across the Tasman in 2018, sitting only six points behind defending champ Cooper.

“I’m really happy with the Altherm JCR Yamaha team and my team at home [in the Sunshine Coast], who are working hard in between rounds. I’m stoked with how today ended up,” he says, of what Coppins calls “getting his mojo back!”

Altherm JCR Yamaha’s Maximus Purvis powers his way into second overall in the MX2 championship in Rotorua

The other Altherm JCR Yamaha rider to finish on the podium was MX2 charger Maximus Purvis, of Mangakino. Coppins says the 19-year-old had a strong weekend with a results’ set of 3-3-2.

“Max rode well. He made some mistakes in his starts in his first few races and when he got that better, he was closer to the front. With two rounds to go, he’s only 8 points off Josiah Natzke’s lead, so he’s right in there for the championship. We are going to work very hard with him this week, aiming to get things a little bit better,” he says.

Purvis had a straightforward plan for the penultimate round this weekend in Hawkes Bay.

“Get some good starts and get some good points,” he says.

The Altherm JCR Yamaha team’s other two riders Kayne Lamont (MX1) and Dylan Walsh (MX2) both finished fourth overall for the round and will be working hard this week to bridge the gaps to the leaders.

Hamilton-based Lamont is still on the mend from extensive bruising to his glute muscles, which he incurred in a crash at the Woodville GP in January. He settled into the racing yesterday, with a 4-5 in the first two races, before finding the form in race 3 that has seen him win MX1 races around the country.

“It started raining a little, which made the track conditions quick slick. I got a decent start and was second behind Kirk and then Cody passed me. I managed to sit in behind him for the race, then I felt like I was actually riding better than him, so hounded him all moto and managed to pass him with two laps remaining to finish second [to teammate Gibbs],” Lamont says.

Coppins adds that it was great to see Lamont “getting back to full fitness and full speed.”

The 2019 British Motocross Championship’s MX2 winner Walsh started strongly, qualifying second on his YZ250F but “didn’t get comfortable all day which really showed in my riding,” he says.

Coppins admits “Dylan struggled a little bit.”

“He was around fourth place all day and sits fourth in the championship. He’s still adapting to the Yamaha and to us. He’s pretty disappointed but he just needs to be patient and bring it home,” he says.

It is a short, busy week between rounds for the Altherm JCR Yamaha team and they will stay in the Taupo/Rotorua region, working with the four riders on the track on Wednesday and Thursday.

“The mechanics will stay at the track preparing the bikes, then we will head over to Napier for a school visit on Friday. We set up on Saturday and race day is Sunday. Hawkes Bay is an important round for us, as at halfway through the championship, points are tight, and this third round needs to be solid. We won’t leave any stone unturned to ensure the four boys are on the front foot for the championship chase,” Coppins says.

RESULTS:
MX1
1st Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 72
2nd Cody Cooper – 67
3rd Hamish Harwood – 58
4th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 56
5th Brad Groombridge – 49

MX2
1st Josiah Natzke – 63
2nd Maximus Purvis (YZ250F) – 62
3rd James Scott – 57
4th Dylan Walsh (YZ250F)- 52
5th Kyle Webster – 50

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 Yamaha Media, Photos by Clmintiepix