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.

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