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.

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

1st Kirk Gibbs (YZ450) – 280
2nd Cody Cooper – 276
3rd Hamish Harwood – 244
4th Kayne Lamont (YZ450) – 203
5th Ethan Martens – 176
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.

Kiwi freestyle motorcross legend Levi Sherwood has bagged the perfect vehicle for transporting his motorbikes to performances around the country – a 2020 Toyota Hiace.

As the new Hiace Ambassador, Levi will be showcasing his brand spanking new Hiace – wrapped in striking graphics designed by Levi himself – at freestyle motorcross (FMX) shows throughout the country following his retirement from FMX competitions last November.

Levi’s new ride

“I’m very excited to be partnering with Toyota with the release of their new Hiace van. The new Hiace is a great fit for me and my bike, so I’m looking forward to spending more time in the van as I travel around New Zealand riding,” Levi said.

Levi is no stranger to Toyota. He grew up in Palmerston North – the home of Toyota New Zealand – and already has a 2008 Toyota Hiace and Landcruiser on his rural Manawatu property. The Landcruiser is very handy when it comes to shifting Levi’s home-built steel FMX ramps from his workshop to his private training ground on the farm.

Toyota New Zealand’s General Manager of Marketing, Andrew Davis, said bringing Levi into the Toyota family as a Hiace Ambassador was a no-brainer.

“Levi is not only an amazing FMX rider but also a self-taught engineer who loves creating, customising and building motorcycle parts and ramps in his workshop.

“The versatile 2020 Hiace van is ideal for Levi. The van is easily customisable and can be purposed for a wide range of jobs and activities,” he said.

A new feature of the 2020 Hiace is the semi-bonnet design which helped improve its safety rating to ANCAP 5-star. Levi, who picked up several injuries during his career, is a fan of the Hiace’s safety system as it matches his personal interest in safety. He has a new business venture to make giant safe landing airbags for FMX shows and training.

As well as the sharp graphics adorning Levi’s new ZR van, the team at Toyota New Zealand in Palmerston North added a few features such as the blacked-out alloy wheels, black nudge bar and tinted glass that sets off the white van and cool black and orange graphics.

Over the past 10 years, Levi has become an international star on the FMX circuit. He wowed audiences in his first Red Bull X-Fighters competition and, despite a late call-up to replace another rider in the 2009 Mexico event, the then 17-year-old took out the first place against vastly more experienced riders.

He went on to build a career in X-Fighters and Nitro World Games. Over the past decade, Levi has been a regular rider in both the Crusty Demons and Nitro Circus shows. He is known for his dedication to training and continually pushing the boundaries in his performances.

Levi stepped back from competition at the end of 2019 and will be concentrating his time and attention into growing the sport in New Zealand and performing in shows throughout the country.

Words and Images from Toyota New Zealand

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.