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

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 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