There’s a fresh name that should probably leap off the pages when spectators peruse the programme at the New Zealand Motocross Championships this weekend.

Yamaha YZ125 rider Jack Dunlop has been making a bit of a name for himself in recent weeks and must now surely rate as a podium contender in the senior 125cc class on Sunday.

The 15-year-old from Pukekawa, near Mercer, with support from Whangarei Yamaha, finished runner-up to Kiwi international Brodie Connolly (Husqvarna), from Tauranga, in the junior 15-16 years’ 125cc class at the annual Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas and then he finished fifth overall against the seniors the following day.

Just last weekend he stepped it up another notch, this time winning the junior 15-16 years’ 125cc class at New Zealand’s largest stand-alone motocross event, the New Zealand Grand Prix at Woodville, taking the trophy ahead of another couple of rising young stars, Whanganui’s James Rountree (Yamaha YZ125) and Palmerston North’s Luka Freemantle (KTM 125).

This weekend it gets really serious as he tackles the first round of four in the senior New Zealand Motocross Championships near New Plymouth.

“That was really my first big win,” said Dunlop, a year 12 pupil at Hamilton Boys’ High School.

“I usually get on or near the podium, but I got a bit lucky today with some of the other riders having problems,” he said modestly.

Dunlop finished with a 2-1-2 score-card at Woodville on Saturday.

“I just try to stay consistent and smooth. I have been doing a lot of training lately, but mostly I just ride around at home. My dad (Craig) used to race at the top level and he’s been giving me good tips. I’m riding the senior national 125cc class this coming weekend, the first time I’ve been old enough to compete in this competition. Hopefully I can achieve a top-three result, on the podium, but I’m expecting tough competition from Brodie (Connolly) again, and James (Rountree) and Rotorua’s Josh Bourke-Palmer (Yamaha), and Wairoa’s Tommy Watts (Yamaha) too.”

It may have slipped his mind, but current national MX2 (250cc) champion Hamish Harwood, from Royal Heights, is also entered in the 125cc class this season and he’ll also be a title threat.

After this weekend, there will be just a short two-week break before round two of the nationals, set for Rotorua on February 17, followed by round three at Pukekohe on February 24 and, finally, the nationals wrap up at Taupo on March 10. 

Dunlop is supported by Whangarei Yamaha, bLUcRU, Harvey Round Motors, Izusu, Crown Kiwi, Alpinestars.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Pukekawa’s Jack Dunlop (Yamaha YZ125 No.28), seen here leading Whanganui’s fellow Yamaha star James Rountree, the pair demanding their fair share of the spotlight.

The pre-season strutting is over and now the real fight for national motocross glory is set to begin.

Warm-up events around the country have ensured that preparations are now complete for the start of the four-round Fox-sponsored New Zealand Motocross Championships, set to kick off at Taranaki’s popular Barrett Road Motorcycle Park facility, on the outskirts of New Plymouth, on Sunday, and all that has preceded this weekend is perhaps for bragging rights only.

Kirk Gibbs, from Australia, is keen to defend his New Zealand MX1 crown this season, although the 29-year-old rider from the Gold Coast knows it won’t be easy as he lines up alongside an on-form Cody Cooper.

The six-time former New Zealand MX1 champion from Mount Maunganui finished runner-up to Gibbs last season, but, after winning the MX1 class at the annual Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas and then dominating again at last weekend’s Woodville spectacular, Cooper probably feels confident he’s got the pace to snatch the title back from Gibbs.

However, everyone starts with a clean slate in Taranaki on Sunday and riders such as Taupo’s Cohen Chase, Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont and Reporoa’s Hadleigh Knight, to name a few, should not be overlooked as MX1 title contenders either.

“Cody Cooper is riding awesome at the moment, but I expected that from him,” said Gibbs this week. “I certainly don’t expect him to roll over. Before Woodville, I had not really raced since representing Australia at the Motocross of Nations event in the United States in October, so I have not had a lot of time on the bike and the conditions at Woodville meant it was really just a matter of survival and getting through that event uninjured. Hopefully I will be able to turn it on in Taranaki. I finished the day tied with Cooper at round one in Taranaki last year and I think I’ll do well there again this Sunday.”

West Aucklander Hamish Harwood will be aiming to make it a fourth consecutive MX2 (250cc) class title win this season and, always a glutton for punishment, he will also tackle the 125cc class this year.

The defending MX2 champion from Royal Heights will likely face stiff opposition in the mid-sized bike class from the likes of Taupo’s national No.2 in the class, Brad Groombridge, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, Tauranga’s Micah McGoldrick and visiting current Australian MX2 champion Wilson Todd.

Harwood could also be favoured in the 125cc class, especially after his dominant performance on the small bike at Woodville last weekend, but riders such as Ngatea’s 2016 national 125cc champion Ben Broad, Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, Wairoa’s Tommy Watts and Rotorua’s Josh Bourke-Palmer should also be well-placed.

There will be just a short two-week break before round two of the nationals, set for Rotorua on February 17, followed by round three at Pukekohe on February 24 and, finally, the nationals wrap up at Taupo on March 10. 

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

Credit: Words by Andy McGechan



There was much more to the weekend’s 58th annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville than met the eye.

In addition to its unrivalled status as New Zealand’s largest stand-alone motocross event, the Honda-sponsored two-day event was again this year  hosting the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup competition.

The Oceania battles see-sawed over the two days, with Australia’s squad ending the junior phase of racing on Saturday with a slender 2.5-point advantage.

This was mostly thanks to Australia’s Brad West winning all three of his Junior 14-16 years’ 250cc races, while New Zealand’s FIM Oceania representative, Whanganui’s James Rountree, finished runner-up each time. 

Weather conspired against the organisers on Sunday, with rain and gale-force winds causing havoc on the track, and a decision was made to scale back the day’s programme to just two races for each class.

In the end, the event’s main winner was Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, the six-time former national MX1 champion winning both the premier MX1 races in Sunday’s abbreviated senior programme, earning him the prestigious Woodville crown, but, for the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup sub-plot, it was a slightly different story.

On both occasions the runner-up to Cooper in the MX1 class on Sunday was Gold Coast rider Kirk Gibbs, Australia’s MX1 class nominee for the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup battle-within-a-battle.

Cooper had earned 50 points from his two wins, while Gibbs – actually the current New Zealand MX1 champion – had a tally of 44 points for the weekend.

Australian Wilson Todd finished first and third in his two MX2 (senior 250cc) class races, while the Kiwi hopes for MX2 class ascendancy rested with Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, who crossed the finish line fourth and then second.

The other class results in the head-to-head FIM Oceania exchange were something of a mixed bag, but, when the final tally was done, Australia had won the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup by a solitary point.

“It was really cool to win this and our juniors really pulled their weight,” said Australian MX1 star Gibbs. “Heading into the senior day, Australia was up in the points and then Wilson (Todd) did really well and I was consistent. It was really close and good to bring it home. We really enjoyed the banter with the Kiwis too.”

FIM Oceania results:

Australia:
Kirk Gibbs (MX1) 2-2;
Wilson Todd (MX2) 1-3;
Brad West (Jnr 250) 1-1-1;
Jason West (8-11 85cc) 4-7-9;
Hayley Ball (8-11 85cc) 32-DNS-27 and (8-11 65cc) 15-20-DNS;
Brooke Ball (65cc) 19-19-20.

New Zealand: 
Cody Cooper (Mt Maunganui, MX1) 1-1;
Maximus Purvis (Mangakino, MX2) 4-2;
James Rountree (Whanganui, Jnr 250) 2-2-2;
Cole Davies (Waitoki, 8-11 85cc) 1-0-1;
Breanna Rodgers (Tokoroa, 8-11 85cc) 23-20-18;
Ruby Piraka (Rolleston, 8-11 65cc) 22-22-18;
Karaitiana Horne (Raetihi, 8-11 65cc) 18-18-19.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

There were four seasons in one weekend at the big annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville on Saturday and Sunday.

This Honda-sponsored 58th annual edition of the event, the largest on the Kiwi motocross calendar, had it all.

From burning sun and stiff breezes during junior racing on Saturday, to drizzle, interspersed with patches of sunshine, and gale force winds during senior racing the following day, riders really did have much more to contend with than just the usual ruts, jumps and bumps.

With rider safety of prime concern, the organisers pared back Sunday’s programme to feature just two races per class, instead of the planned three per class, but this was still enough for true champions to be determined in each of the separate categories and for the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup sub-plot to also be played out.

The event’s main winner was Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, the six-time former national MX1 champion winning both the premier MX1 races on Sunday, earning him his third Woodville crown. He had previously won the coveted trophy in 2007 and a second time in 2014.

Runner-up to Cooper on Sunday was visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs, with Taupo’s Cohen Chase rounding out the MX1 podium.

The New Zealand versus Australia element to the weekend, the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup, featured two squads of riders who had been nominated to represent their respective countries for the special trans-Tasman clash and the race-within-a-race battles see-sawed over the two days, with Australia’s squad eventually winning the cup by just a solitary point.

“What a day… but the patience shown by the host club in dealing with the weather paid dividends in the end,” said Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad. “We got two races completed for each class on Sunday and the spectators were happy. I think the results today were pretty fair and I think they reflect similar results to what they would have been if we’d had three races (per class). The club and the officials did a fantastic job. It was challenging for the riders and, at the end of the day, they put on a great show for the fans. As for the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup, at the start of racing on Sunday, the Australians led by just 2.5 points from the Kiwis. After race one on Sunday, Cody Cooper’s first MX1 race win cleared that deficit. But then Australian Wilson Todd won the first MX2 race and the Aussies were back in front. The Oceania clash was a great success and the Australians were naturally thrilled to be able to win it.”

Meanwhile, other individual class winners on Sunday were:
Takapuna’s Hamish Harwood (MX2 class and senior 125cc class);
Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly (Roddy Shirriffs Memorial trophy, top rider aged under 21);
Hamilton’s Amie Roberts (women’s class);
Whakatane’s Darren Capill (veterans’ class);
Waipukurau’s Steve Sergeant (river race class);
Taupo’s Jake Tomblin (vintage motocross).

Individual class winners on Saturday were:
Australia’s Brad West (14-16 years’ 250cc class);
Pukekawa’s Jack Dunlop (15-16 years’ 125cc class);
Rangiora’s Cobie Bourke (12-14 years’ 125cc class);
Hamilton’s Dylan Westgate (14-16 years’ 85cc class);
Invercargill’s Jack Symon (12-13 years’ 85cc class);
Leeston’s Kobe Thoms (8-11 years’ 85cc class);
Leeston’s Kase Thoms (8-11 years’ pro 65cc class).

Credit: Words by Andy McGechan

Two of the senior Australian squad riders for the FIM Oceania Challenge Cup competition, Wilson Todd (left) and Kirk Gibbs, proudly hold the trophy at the end of racing at Woodville yesterday. Photo by Celeste Broad.

The World X-Trials Championship has gotten underway for 2019 already, and yes, you guessed it, Toni Bou has already notched up his first win of the season. The 2018 Champion showed his abilities in a triumphant return to Laszlo Papp Arena in Budapest.

Despite not being fully recovered from his rib injury, Bou managed to hold off the competition through the first round, collecting only a single penalty mark for his efforts, with second place netting six penalty marks. He then sailed through the semi-final round with only two marks, again beating out his rivals strongly. However, in the final showdown, Bou faced up against arch-rival Adam Raga, and the course pitted the two against each other on the same sections of track, but in reverse direction. Toni Bou lost a little ground to Raga initially, but the Spaniard was able to reassert his top position with some deft handling, reclaiming first place. Despite picking up an uncharacteristic five penalty marks in the penultimate hazard, Bou held on to the lead, taking the season opener win.

Repsol Honda Team teammate Takahisa Fujinami was, unfortunately, unable to produce similar results, struggling to make it past the second phase of competition.

The Repsol Honda Team will next compete at the second championship date at Palau Sant Jordi de Barcelona on February 3rd.

 

Toni Bou  1

RACE: 1ST   STANDINGS: 1ST

I’m super happy to start off winning. It was amazing to get this victory after the rib injury, which I’m still not recovered from totally. We must continue working to improve because I believe that I am not yet where I could be. I trained a little this year and I think I’m not at my usual level. There is still quite a way to go and I want to get there as soon as possible. Yes, in 2018 we won, but I suffered a lot because of the injuries. That is why I want to thank Joaquim Terricabras and all his medical team for the help they have given me, especially for the recent treatment for the rib injury.

 

Takahisa Fujinami  3

RACE: 8TH  STANDINGS: 8TH

I think that, honestly, today I had the chance to go through to the next round, but I made two serious mistakes and I didn’t achieve my goal. I think there are several riders all at the same level, and now that I have seen how this race went, I think that if I train a little more these two weeks I could get a better result in Barcelona.

 

Miquel Cirera

Team Manager

We have started the year well. But as always, you have to be cautious because with so many trials it will not be easy and there is always the odd day where you make mistakes. Toni is in pretty good shape, not yet at full fitness, but he always gives it his all. Takahisa has struggled a bit in this first event, with some faults, but we will work to improve on it in the forthcoming trials. I wish to thank the people who have worked so hard to be here, and especially the medical team who we have given a lot of work in 2018!

 

 

Results X-Trial Budapest 2019

Pos. Rider Num Nation L1 L2 L3 T3 Points Team Time/Gap
1 BOU Toni 1 SPA 1 2 10 20 Repsol Honda Team 10
2 RAGA Adam 67 SPA 6 7 14 15 TRRS Factory Team 14
3 FAJARDO Jeroni 4 SPA 11 8 2 12 Gas Gas Factory Team 2
4 BUSTO Jaime 69 SPA 13 6 12 9 Gas Gas Factory Team 12
5 BINCAZ Benoit 16 FRA 13 8 6 Beta Factory Racing 8
6 CASALES Jorge 33 SPA 15 4 Vertigo Factory Team 15
7 DABILL James 22 GBR 16 3 Beta Factory Racing 16
8 FUJINAMI Takahisa 3 JPN 19 2 Repsol Honda Team 19
9 PEACE Dan 17 GBR 25 1 Sherco Factory Team 25