This year’s New Zealand Motocross of Nations squad (from left) co-manager Bevan Weal, with riders Cody Cooper, Hamish Harwood and Rhys Carter, and co-manager Shayne King.

Team New Zealand is ready to take on the rest of the world at the biggest motocross event of the year, being raced in the United States this weekend.

The big annual Motocross of Nations, widely referred to as “The Olympic Games of Motocross”, is a one-weekend affair that brings together the word’s elite for an event where the racers put aside the past season’s bitter rivalries and unite instead along different battle lines, with three-rider teams formed to fly the flags of their respective homelands.

And it will be a talented trio of riders who will represent New Zealand at this season’s 72nd annual edition of the MXoN, set for Red Bud, in Michigan, this Saturday and Sunday (Oct 6-7).

Mount Maunganui pair Cody Cooper (Honda) and Rhys Carter (Yamaha), along with Auckland-based former Takaka man Hamish Harwood (KTM), will fly the Kiwi flag on the race track in the US this weekend, while Taupo businessman Bevan Weal and New Plymouth’s former 500cc motocross world champion Shayne King will share the behind-the-scenes task of managing the Kiwi campaign.

The Kiwi riders know it won’t be easy facing the world’s elite on such a massive stage, but each of them is determined to put on another good showing.

“I think this is one of the best teams we have had in a few years now,” said King, a rider who raced numerous times in the past for New Zealand at the MXoN.

“I mean no disrespect to the teams we have had over the past couple of years, but this year we are a lot better organised and a lot more planning has been done. Bevan and I have worked together very closely on a lot of things. We have also been working to help develop this for the future too.”

Cooper is one rider in particular who should feel right at home in the US this weekend, the Honda rider having been an integral part of nine MXoN campaigns in the past, not to mention the fact that he spent much of this year racing the US nationals, with one round of that series even staged at the same Michigan track.

His wealth of experience could be the difference between the team earning a top 10 result this weekend or failing to qualify among the 20 countries that will progress to the final stages of the competition on Sunday.

With generous support for this year’s campaign coming from the sport’s governing body here, Motorcycling New Zealand, and from building company Penny Homes, along with massive fundraising undertaken by the Taupo Motorcycle Club with their Battle of the Clubs motocross event in June, the Kiwi contingent leaves this week for the US in a confident mood.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

KTM Motorsports has officially welcomed Cooper Webb to the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team for the 2019 race season. The North Carolina native will pilot the KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition alongside teammate Marvin Musquin in the AMA 450 Supercross Championship and AMA 450 Pro Motocross Championship.

Webb joins the KTM family after spending the past two years building a successful career with a long list of accomplishments since his professional debut with Yamaha in 2013. Following a decorated amateur racing career, Webb achieved great success in the 250cc division, claiming back-to-back AMA 250SX West Championships in 2015 and 2016, before putting a cap on his 250cc career in 2016 with an AMA 250MX National Championship.

Since moving into the premier 450cc division in 2017, Webb has earned two career podium finishes in AMA Supercross and multiple top-five finishes in Supercross and AMA Pro Motocross. Heading into the 2019 season, Webb is confident in his abilities and he’s READY TO RACE for top finishes with the support of Red Bull KTM.

“It was an honor when Roger and Ian reached out for me to be the next guy on the Red Bull KTM team, Webb says. It’s really encouraging to know what this team has achieved – they really have been there and done it, so I don’t see any reason why they can’t do it with me. I will be putting in the work and doing everything possible to come into the year as strong as I can be. With everything around me, I know I have put myself in the best possible position for winning on the track again. I had a very comfortable feeling with the guys from the very first moments and that just gives you confidence. Working with Aldon at the Baker’s Factory is another strong part of the whole KTM set-up. I have an opportunity that really involves the whole package, so the plan is to ‘stick to the plan’ and focus on getting ready with the bike for Anaheim I. I don’t want anything to take me away from that!” 

Team Manager, Ian Harrison expects great things from the new signing.

“We are excited for Cooper to join the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team for the upcoming 2019 season, he commented. Cooper has had an exciting and successful career winning in 250cc competition and our goal is to give him the tools to continue that success on a KTM going forward. We feel the combination of both Marvin and Cooper racing the KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITION in both Supercross and Motocross is strong, and our hopes are that the pair can motivate and push each other to race to their fullest potential. The Red Bull KTM Team commits to investing a lot of time and resources long-term into our riders, providing them with access to top facilities, technology and factory-backed support in order for them to have successful careers with the team. We look forward to Cooper taking full advantage of these opportunities so we all can enjoy even more success as a team and a lasting future together.”

Webb is set to debut his ride aboard the KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITION at the upcoming Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Carterton’s Logan Mason is expected to be battling for glory in the 7-8 years’ 65cc class this weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan

Don’t let the size of these racers fool you, their hearts are huge and their desire and determination perhaps even greater than that.

Run by the Kapi-Mana Motorcycle Club and sponsored by Friday Homes and TSS Red Baron Motorcycles, the 2018 New Zealand Mini Motocross Championships will be held near the Kapiti Coast this weekend, the tricky course inland on Bulls Run Road, Moonshine Valley, about halfway between Lower Hutt and Porirua, and it is sure to test even the most talented of youngsters.

The future of the sport will be on show here with a packed programme to occupy riders throughout both Saturday and Sunday.

Riders aged between four and 11 – and riding bikes with engine capacities anywhere between 50cc and 112cc – will bash handlebars in a series of high-intensity races and there is no doubt that some of the riders who feature this weekend will go on to carve national or even international careers for themselves in the future.

Kapi Mana Motorcycle Club secretary Charles Colpman said he was impressed by the huge number of riders entered this year.

“With 165 entries, it is the largest number lining up at a mini nationals in the past five years at least, certainly within my memory. It just shows what a healthy state the sport is in at the moment and I think the large numbers are due to the fact that a championship licence is no longer required and riders can race simply with club licences.

“With 59 entries in the 9-11 years’ 65cc class, it means we will be to have qualifying sessions to whittle them down to 30 on the start gate. Riders that don’t make the cut will have their own support class races, so nobody misses out.”

The 9-11 years’ 65cc class, will possibly feature the young man who last year finished third in the 6-8 year’s 50cc class, Aucklander Jack Ellingham, and he can expect fierce challenges from riders such as Hawera’s Ajay Jordan, Levin’s Blair Diamond, Taradale’s Scott Boston, Hastings’ rider Charlie Schaw, Balclutha’s Deakan Mullin-Henry, Waimauku’s Huntah Robarts, Takapau’s Jordan Coles, Palmerston North’s Lockie Barr, Pahiatua pair Maz Parkes and Rory Angrove, Invercargill’s Ryder Sheehan, Featherston’s Teddy Shaw, New Plymouth’s Thomas Robinson, Bunnythorpe’s Wayde Robertson and Nelson’s Wills Harvey, to name a few.

In some of the other bike classes it may be worth watching out for talented riders such as Tauranga’s Arama Te Whetu, Upper Hutt’s Ezra Friday, New Plymouth’s Travis Jaxon, Carterton’s Maddox Swanson, Hamilton’s Jacob Beattie, Silverdale’s Connor Kerr and Pukekohe’s Zavier Jolly, among others, to feature near the front.

Current leading senior grade riders such as international star Josiah Natzke, from Tauranga, and Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, Ngatea’s Ben Broad, Feilding’s Tony Cvitanovich, Cambridge’s Ashton Grey, Hastings rider Jye Deacon, Cambridge’s Trent Collins and Te Puke’s Jordan Milsom, to name just a few, can all trace their beginnings to the mini motocross ranks.

International pathways can certainly begin at the mini nationals.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

In the true style and philosophy of READY TO RACE, KTM have decided to give their customers the opportunity to score themselves a mean KTM 450 Rally Replica. Almost identical to those ridden at Dakar, these machines are a must have for the Extreme Off-Road enthusiast.

The 450cc SOHC fuel-injection engine now provides increased engine power, thanks to a newly designed cylinder head, extended durability and an improved transmission that are complemented by a new engine management system, which includes a newly developed throttle body.

A new air filter box offers more room for the electrics and battery whilst also enhancing the centralisation of masses – a key point in the development of this new machine. The 2019 KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA enjoys a brand-new chassis, tested and developed with factory riders for the perils and style of Dakar we have seen in recent years, as it combines improved agility with enhanced stability for braking, whilst retaining the incredible straight-line stability that the KTM rally machines are renowned for.

 

A new swingarm in conjunction with a reworked linkage and shock absorber, along with WP XACT PRO 48mm closed cartridge suspension with sophisticated Cone Valve technology, provides improved traction when accelerating, as well as increased bottoming reserves. New bodywork utilises sophisticated aerodynamics to increase rider comfort while improving the visibility past the innovative carbon tower, which houses the navigational elements of the bike, to the front wheel.

A new, softer seat, revised fuel tanks, and new Akrapovič exhaust, which also contribute to mass centralisation and improved weight distribution, reiterate the design goal of a lightweight, agile, comfortable and stable bike.

Stefan Huber (KTM Factory Rally Team Leader): “The all-new KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA is based on our already-successful new factory machine that we began racing at the end of last year, which was specifically developed to win the Dakar. With the latest generation, our goal and focus was to develop a bike around the style of our current factory riders, who required something with more comfort, more agility and improved stability. We looked for an improvement in handling, a lower weight, as well as a bike that also meets the demands of the conditions and intensity that we now find at Dakar. The KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA machine is almost identical to those raced by our athletes, and is available for customers to get the opportunity to own and ride a really premium, purpose-developed rally machine with high-quality components and maximum innovation. It’s been truly revised from the ground up, and we are looking forward to seeing these bikes being raced by our customers.”

 

Selling at an impressive price of EUR 26,000 (NZ$45,800) these bikes may be for those with deep pockets and lots of time to spare!

Rhys Carter is preparing for his Yamaha debut at the upcoming Motocross of Nations in the USA. Photo by Andy McGechan

Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter is counting down the days before he makes his race debut on his new Yamaha YZ450F.

The 28-year-old signed on to race for Yamaha last month, but he is yet to perform in a race proper and that will happen next month at the grandest of all dirt bike events, the annual Motocross of Nations, commonly referred to as the “Olympic Games of motocross”.

Carter, a professional motocross coach and the 2018 New Zealand MX1 No.4, will be joined by national MX1 No.2 Cody Cooper, also from Mount Maunganui, and Auckland’s two-time and current national MX2 (250cc) champion Hamish Harwood, in representing New Zealand at the MXoN at Red Bud, Michigan, in the United States on the weekend of October 6-7.

“It’s a huge thing. I believe they have already sold 100,000 tickets for this event,” said Carter.

“Every country in the world comes together with their three best riders and you just go hard at it. There are no gaps between riders … everyone is just jammed in they’re going at it.

“I believe the Americans have won the MXoN every time it’s been held in America. And the way their riders are performing at the moment, they will be a very hard team to beat.

“I think that, if we can get around a top 10 placing, that would be massive. We (NZ) are such a small part of the world and always have to travel huge distances to get to this event.

“But the team we have this year is very solid. Hamish (Harwood) has just come off a strong Australian campaign and Cody (Cooper) has been racing in America this season too, so this is one of the strongest New Zealand teams we have had in a long time,” he said.

All three riders compete in their individual classes with points earned in reverse – a rider is awarded one point for a race win, two points for second place, three for third, and so on. The lowest combined score wins and a maximum points are assigned for a non-finish, which means finishing each race is vital.

“I guess it’s a little bit more pressure because you don’t want to let your team and country down, but, in the same respect, you kind of use it as a motivation,” Carter said.

New Zealand’s MXoN team co-manager Bevan Weal, from Taupo, said it was a huge honour for a rider to be selected to race for his country.

“It’s like being chosen for the All Blacks,” he said. “The riders put their hands on their hearts and go out and give it their best shot.”

Despite being a newcomer to the Yamaha brand, Carter has been quick to adjust and he is feeling comfortable on the YZ450F, putting in impressive laps times at the weekend’s latest training session at Taupo.

When the domestic season kicks off later on October, Carter will be racing under his own Yamalube Yamaha banner, but closely associated with the Josh Coppins-managed Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team.

Carter and Yamaha Yamalube are sponsored by Yamaha-Motor New Zealand, Crown Kiwi, Alpinestars, Pirelli, 100% and CFX Seats and bLU cRU.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan