Manawatu’s Paul Whibley (Yamaha), the national cross-country champion in 2015, determined to challenge for the No.1 position again this year.

They say it’s harder to defend a title than it is to win it in the first place. And that may well be the case for Raglan’s Jason Dickey when he begins his New Zealand Cross-country Championship title defence in the Rangitikei region this weekend.

The four-round Yamaha-sponsored 2020 championships kick off on farmland near Marton on Sunday, with Dickey well aware that last season’s runner-up, Whanganui’s Seth Reardon, will be just one of at least a dozen extremely fast rivals determined to take away his No.1 ranking.

The nation’s dirt bike elite will converge on farmland at Smith’s Holly Farm, 235A Galpins Road, RD2, Marton on Sunday (February 16) with all riders knowing a good result is essential if their respective bids for glory are to bear any fruit.

Points from only the best three results from the four rounds will be counted towards the championship titles.

Dickey and Reardon will need to respect the man who was national champion in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, who is also among the favourites again this time around.

Manawatu’s former national cross-country champion Paul Whibley is another expected to challenge for the senior title this year, along with the always-fast Brandon Givens, from Raglan, Rotorua’s Ethan Harris, Hamilton’s Andrew Charleston and Hamilton’s Phillip Goodwright.

Te Kauwhata’s Jacob Brown, Pukekawa’s Jim Orton, Toko’s Karl Roberts and Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig could also be battling near the front.

“We have had two former national cross-country champions (Awakino’s Adrian Smith and Marton’s Cam Smith, no relation) marking out the track for us, so it should be an excellent course, ” said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth.

“It might be a little dry and dusty if we don’t get rain before the weekend, but it should be an excellent test for the riders. There is a wide variety of terrain they will cover … from open farmland to tight native bush sections, gorse and pine trees … a bit of everything really.

“We have a new non-championship class this year too – the Yamaha Cup class for riders aged between 15 and 19 years. This is a development class. This is where the riders of the future may come from,” he said.

The 90-minute junior race kicks off at about 9am on Sunday, with the three-hour senior race to follow at about 11.30am.

The New Zealand Cross-country Championships series is supported by Yamaha NZ, O’Neal apparel, The Dirt Guide, Oakley goggles, Bel Ray oils and Michelin tyres.

2020 NZ Cross-Country Champs
Round One – Sunday, Feb 16 – Bush Riders MCC, Marton
Round Two – Sunday, March 22 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC, Flemington
Round Three – Sunday, April 26 – Marlborough MCC, Nelson
Round Four – Saturday, May 23 – Taupo MCC, Taupo

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

You may have heard already, but it’s a sad day as we announce DRD will no longer be available in print

 

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

Tokoroa’s Breanna Rodgers (left) and Australian Hayley Ball pose for a little arm-wrestling fun ahead of their clash in the ANZAC Challenge Cup at the weekend.

The 49th annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville had extra spice this year with Trans-Tasman rivalry adding some “nice niggle”.

The Honda-sponsored Woodville event is regarded as the New Zealand’s premier two-day motocross but, while most focus may have been on the individuals who were winning in each of the various categories, there was also an undercurrent of “friendly friction” running through the event with the inaugural G&H Engineering-sponsored ANZAC Challenge Cup.

A squad of visiting Australian riders was matched up against their Kiwi counterparts, with a beautiful trophy on the line and, of course, bragging rights.

After the junior phase or racing at Woodville on Saturday, the New Zealanders led the contest-within-a-contest by 180 points to 97, although the Trans-Tasman showdown was much tighter the following day.

When the points were tallied up at the end of Sunday’s senior racing, the Kiwis had won overall by 334 points to 274.

Best-performed individual was 14-year-old Australian junior champion Charli Cannon, from Queensland, who finished eighth overall (against the boys) in the Junior 14-16 years’ 250cc class on Saturday and then showed iron-women spirit to also race in the women’s grade on Sunday, finishing the day unbeaten.

Best of the New Zealanders chosen to represent their country in the ANZAC Challenge was Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, who finished overall runner-up in the senior MX2 (250cc) class on Sunday.

The high-profile Go Girls Racing Australia (GGRA) team contributed the majority of riders to Australia’s bid for ANZAC Challenge Cup honours.

GGRA is an organisation set up to promote and develop females in motocross, explained president Nicole McIntyre.

The organisation started with 10 girls in 2004 and last year had 150 members. It is growing all the time.

“I would like to thank the committee from the Manawatu-Orion Motorcycle Club (that ran the Woodville event) for their amazing support of our GGRA team and really want everyone to know that the effort they put in to overcome some hurdles was truly appreciated,” said McIntyre.

“The weekend saw me close out 12 months of planning to take six of Australia’s top female riders and parents to New Zealand to race, a total of 14 people under the banner of Go Girl Racing Australia. The logistics and cost alone was huge, but we did it.”

The GGRA group has committed to returning to race at Woodville again next year too.

The New Zealand Grand Prix at Woodville always attracts the cream of talent from all corners of New Zealand but has also over the years enticed visitors from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, The United States, Great Britain, Sweden and other parts of Europe, a testimony to the event’s world-class status.

Thousands of hours are put in by a massive crew of club volunteers, with heavy-duty earthmoving equipment also donated by various organisations and so many sponsors all coming together to make it happen.

This year’s New Zealand Grand Prix at Woodville was supported by Blue Wing Honda, the Tararua District Council, Fly Palmy, Copthorne PN, Manawatu Toyota, Scan Power, Placemakers, G&H Engineering, McDonalds Manawatu, New Zealand Natural Clothing, Kiwi Rider magazine, BikesportNZ.com, Stringfellows, the Lion Foundation, NZCT, Profab Engineering, Roofing Industries, ACP, Judd refrigeration and Dwyertech.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan