After a buoyant period of testing, development and preparation, Yamaha Motor Europe N.V. is poised for success with two high profile MXGP teams and four exceptional riders spearheading its 2019 MXGP World Championship campaign.

Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP will lead the challenge with Romain Febvre and Jeremy Seewer at the helm of the advanced YZ450FM. Following a two month break at the end of 2018, Febvre has had an incredible off-season and is feeling fit, fast, and strong as he enters his fourth consecutive year inside the premier class with the Michele Rinaldi led team. With 12 Grand Prix wins to his credit and 32 podium finishes, the 26-year-old Frenchman looks to return to the same form that saw him win his first MXGP world title back in 2015.

Romain Febvre

Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s newest recruit, Seewer, made a successful team debut back in October last year with a silver-medal finish at the final round of the All Japan Championship in Sugo. The talented Swiss rider looks forward to entering his second season on the 450cc bike with the support of the Factory team where he hopes to achieve the same sort of success he attained on a 250cc where he stood on the podium 26 time, five of which were Grand Prix wins.

Jeremy Seewer

Strengthening Yamaha’s 2019 crusade, Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP has retained Arnaud Tonus for a third season. In addition, the team has welcomed a familiar name back to the Yamaha Family in the form of Gautier Paulin. Both Tonus and Paulin are experienced Grand Prix racers with an honorable list of achievements that includes a combined total of 63 podium finishes and 13 Grand Prix wins. Having finished inside the top-three in the MXGP Championship on three occasions, 53 of those podium achievements belong to Paulin who has topped the box 12 times.

After a solid off-season where both riders have regularly trained together on the bike and off, the dynamic duo have reaped the benefits of working together and are likely to put their YF450F motorcycles on the podium this season.

Both teams will travel to Argentina at the end of February where the first round of the nineteen round MXGP series will commence on March 2nd and 3rd.

Kiwi former motocross world champion Ben Townley has signed on to become a brand ambassador for Yamaha in New Zealand, an exciting new development inspired and enabled by long-time friend and former Grand Prix rival Josh Coppins.

Tauranga’s Townley (YZ450F), along with his son Levi (YZ65), a rising star on the junior motocross scene in New Zealand, have already collected their new Yamaha bikes and they are both thrilled to be moving into the future with Yamaha. Ben’s youngest son Jaggar will make the move across to Yamaha when he steps up to the YZ65.

“It’s very exciting and came quite out of the blue,” said the 34-year-old Townley. “This is a great opportunity for Levi, who has really started to sink his teeth into motocross racing. Yamaha has a great range of motorcycles and Josh has always been someone that I’ve looked up to and I have a lot of respect for is it will be great to work with him in his role. He’s very professional and sets a very high standard for motorcycling in New Zealand.”

Townley became MX2 (250cc) motocross world champion in 2004 and then stepped up to the MX1 class the following season, where he battled all season long with Belgian Yamaha ace Stefan Everts and fellow Kiwi Coppins. 

Everts won the MX1 world title in 2005, with Coppins runner-up and Townley finishing third overall.

Coppins said the appointment of Townley was an important part in his bid to rebuild Yamaha’s Junior Racing (YJR) programme within New Zealand.

“We already have some great representation within the Yamaha brand with Rhys Carter (Mount Maunganui’s national MX1 No.4) running coaching clinics and now with Ben Townley as brand ambassador. We are looking forward to working with someone of Ben’s calibre. To have someone with his experience fostering and mentoring our younger riders is very exciting. With Rhys looking after coaching and Ben running the junior programme, and some other exciting stuff coming up too, there’s a lot of positive things happening right now. This is the first step… we have a lot of other things happening down the track. Watch this space.”

Words by Andy McGechan

Bay of Plenty’s Ben Townley (Yamaha), with his eldest son Levi, excited about moving into the future with Yamaha.

West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood is fighting a war on two fronts again this season and, so far at least, he’s winning them both.

The former Takaka man, who now lives in Royal Heights, Auckland, dominated both the MX2 (250cc) and 125cc classes at the first of four rounds in this year’s Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taranaki just over a week ago and he’ll head to round two near Rotorua this weekend hoping to cement his position in both categories.

The 23-year-old builder had his work cut out in the MX2 class with on-form Mangakino rider Maximus Purvis and current Australian MX2 champion Wilson Todd piling on the pressure, while riders such as Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, Oamaru’s Joel Meikle and Taupo’s Wyatt Chase also challenged.

Harwood has a nine-point advantage over Todd and Purvis in the MX2 class – these two riders settling for equal second after this opening round – and Harwood was even more devastating in the 125cc class.

Harwood scored a hat-trick of wins in the 125cc class in Taranaki, while Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly and Ngatea’s Ben Broad fought over the No.2 position. However, the 125cc class rankings will have a reshuffle at Rotorua on Sunday, with news that Connolly has now sidelined himself following a crash just last weekend.

Meanwhile, the racing in Taranaki was also tight in the MX1 class, with Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper eventually getting the edge over Australian Kirk Gibbs – the man from Queensland the defending New Zealand MX1 champion – and Hamilton-based former Mangakino rider Kayne Lamont.

The 35-year-old Cooper is a six-time former New Zealand MX1 champion and he is determined to win the title back this season. He seems to be on target, but he enjoys only a modest three-point lead over Gibbs at the start of this Sunday’s racing near Rotorua.

Gibbs was the overall winner on the day at the Rotorua track last season, so race fans might expect the action to be fast and furious again this Sunday.

Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad said the championships were shaping up to be a great Kiwi versus Aussie battle.

“We have Cody Cooper battling Kirk Gibbs in the MX1 class and Hamish Harwood battling Wilson Todd in the MX2 class and I think this weekend at Rotorua is going to be a pivotal event,” he said. “I hope the spectators take advantage of the great weather that’s forecast for Sunday and they turn out in numbers. The under-19 category is also included in the programme for Rotorua and this new initiative offers additional reward for the younger riders in the MX2 class.”

Round three of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships is set for Pukekohe on February 24 and, finally, the nationals wrap up at Taupo on March 10. 

Round one of the series was additionally supported by Mach 1 Yamaha, while Patterson O’Connor Motorcycles supports round two, Ebbett Pukekohe supports round three and Yamalube supports round four.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood (CML Makita KTM 250), top dog in two of the three championship classes after round one of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships.

The number 121 is emblazoned on the front and sides of Cody Cooper’s motorcycle, an unprepossessing digit that hints at nothing more than the fact that he is not the reigning New Zealand Motocross Champion.

But that could be set to change this season as the man from Mount Maunganui launched his bid for top honours in the premier MX1 class at the first of four rounds for the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taranaki on Sunday.

Coincidentally, those same digits were also the same ones that could be used to register his results at the Barrett Road Motocross Park, on the outskirts of New Plymouth, Cooper finishing the day with a 2-1-1 score-card, enough to give him a three-point edge over his nearest threat, defending champion Kirk Gibbs.

Australian visitor Gibbs finished the day 1-2-2 to settle for the runner-up position, while Mangakino’s Kayne Lamont chimed in with three third placings and he took the third step on the MX1 podium. Lamont is just nine points behind Gibbs.

Cooper is a six-time former New Zealand MX1 champion and did not take kindly to losing his crown to Gibbs last season, something he is determined to rectify this year, his performance in Taranaki on Sunday certainly setting him on the right path to achieve that.

Cooper is in hot form at the moment – he won the MX1 class at the annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville a week ago.

But what Cooper craves most is winning the national title and there is actually still a long way to go before he can relax, with another three tough events (and nine races) to survive in the coming weeks.

“I was trying to tippy-toe around the track today, to not make any mistakes,” said Cooper. “There are parts of this Taranaki track where you can be pushing and feel good and then suddenly it all lets go. As long as I was in the hunt for the title when I left here today I would be happy and I’m actually leading the way, so that’s even better.”

Meanwhile, West Aucklander Hamish Harwood is on target to make it a fourth consecutive MX2 (250cc) class title win this season after he finished 2-2-1 in the three MX2 races on Sunday.

That score-card put him nine points ahead of another visiting Australian, Wilson Todd, while Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis equalled Todd’s points tally, but settled for the third step on the MX2 podium thanks to the count-back rule.

Ironman Harwood also took charge in the 125cc class, winning all three races there on Sunday, with Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly and Ngatea’s Ben Broad completing the 125cc podium.

Harwood is nine points clear of Connolly, with Broad six points further back in third.

The MX2 class battle-within-a-battle for under-19 honours went to Purvis, with Australian Morgan Fogarty and Hamilton’s Reef Wheki rounding out that podium.

Round two of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships is set for Rotorua in just two weeks’ time (on February 17). Round three follows at Pukekohe on February 24 and, finally, the nationals wrap up at Taupo on March 10. 

Round one of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships was additionally supported by Mach 1 Yamaha, while Patterson O’Connor Motorcycles supports round two, Ebbett Pukekohe supports round three and Yamalube supports round four.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper took top honours in the premier MX1 class after round one of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships at the weekend, ahead of Kirk Gibbs and Kayne Lamont.