The New Zealand Supercross Championships wrapped up in the deep south on Saturday with new champions crowned in every class.

Taupo’s Cohen Chase showed that consistency counted most when he wrapped up the premier senior SX1 title, his 2-3-2 score-line at the series opener in Tokoroa a fortnight ago backed up by 3-2-2 results at Saturday evening’s final round at Winton, just outside Invercargill. He finished the series 13 points ahead of Nelson’s Reece Walker, with Dunedin’s Campbell King claiming third overall for the championship. Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke was again in scintillating form at Winton, scoring another hat-trick of wins in the senior SX2 (250cc) class, giving him a clean sweep for the series and he took the title by a massive 34 points from Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, with Waitakere’s Ethan Martens claiming the third podium spot for the championship.

In the senior SX Lites (125cc) class, the result was declared after the Tokoroa opener, with insufficient numbers entered for this class at Winton. Ohaupo’s Carlin Hedley, therefore, had done enough at Tokoroa to take the title for 2018, ending the championship ahead of Waiuku’s Nate Adams and Upper Hutt’s Brock Sullivan.

In the junior 250 class, Rangiora’s Korban Paget kept up the high work-rate to ease his way to the title. He had a solid lead after Tokoroa and won both of the early races at Winton. Even an out-of-character fifth placing after crashing in the last race of the series could not undo all the good work and he took the title by 13 points from Winton’s Connor Newell, while New Plymouth’s Curtis King completing the junior 250 podium.

In the Junior Lites (85cc) class, the two brothers who had been leading the series after Tokoroa, Hamilton pair Nicholas and Dylan Westgate, were no-shows at Winton, opening it up for Rongotea’s Rhys Jillings to dive right in and take the title. Invercargill’s Jack Symon actually won this class at Winton, his 1-2-1 score-card giving him the edge over Jillings’ 2-1-2 results, but he had to settle for overall runner-up, finishing just four points behind Jillings. Winton’s Jordan Newell claimed the third podium spot for this class.

This South Island round – billed as the “world’s southern-most supercross” – again attracted an impressive crowd of onlookers and the riders didn’t disappoint.

Motueka’s former Kiwi international Josh Coppins actually won all three SX1 class races at Winton but, as was the case with Oropi’s Ben Townley when he won all three SX1 races at Tokoroa, it was the sole supercross outing of the season for these two men and, with incomplete campaigns, they really had no chance of winning the title. In the end, Townley had still done enough to finish sixth overall, the Bay of Plenty rider on identical points to Coppins, although Coppins was awarded fifth overall on the count-back rule.

Motorcycling New Zealand supercross co-ordinator Noel May said he was feeling positive about the sport after this year’s series.

“We had been struggling a bit to get the entries up in supercross over the years, but we are now starting to see good growth,” he said. “We have a strategic plan that, over the next five years, we will be able to rebuild the junior segment to flow through and full the senior ranks. We had 85cc and 65cc support classes and 50cc demo races in the supercross this year, to introduce the sport to the young ones in the early part of their racing careers. Tokoroa has said they would keep their supercross track intact and we plan to have supercross events there during the summer. The same down south in Winton and Timaru, where the tracks there will be used regularly to help to keep the momentum going.”

The Tokoroa event this year, hosted by the South Waikato Motorcycle Club, was supported by Craig Stevens Yamaha and the Winton event, hosted by the Southland Motorcycle Club, was supported by Brent Scammell Honda.

 

Leading final standings in 2018 New Zealand Supercross Championships:

SX1 class: 1. Cohen Chase (Taupo) 98 points; 2. Reece Walker (Nelson) 85; 3. Campbell King (Dunedin) 76.
SX2 class: 1. Josiah Natzke (Mount Maunganui) 137 points; 2. Maximus Purvis (Mangakino) 103; 3. Ethan Martens (Waitakere) 102.
SX Lites: 1. Carlin Hedley (Ohaupo) 60 points; 2. Nate Adams (Waiuku) 47; 3. Brock Sullivan (Upper Hutt) 45.
Junior 250: 1. Korban Paget (Rangiora) 111 points; 2. Connor Newell (Winton) 98; 3. Curtis King (New Plymouth) 84.
Junior Lites: 1. Rhys Jillings (Rongotea) 99 points; 2. Jack Symon (Invercargill) 95; 3. Jordan Newell (Winton) 69.

 

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

There’s no denying the supercross talent of riders such as Ben Townley, Josiah Natzke, Carlin Hedley and Korban Paget. These were the riders who produced unbeaten performances at a damp round one of the New Zealand Supercross Championships at Tokoroa a fortnight ago and the question now is can they repeat those performances at the second and final round near Invercargill this Saturday (December 15)?

 

Four of the five championship classes were dominated by just one rider at the Tokoroa circuit, although there is plenty that might still happen during the final races at Winton this Saturday. Oropi’s Townley (SX1, open class), Mount Maunganui’s Natzke (SX2, 250cc), Ohaupo’s Hedley (SX Lites, 125cc) and Rangiora’s Paget (Junior 250) each recorded a hat-trick of wins in their respective classes at Tokoroa, while, in the remaining championship class, the Junior Lites, Hamilton bothers Nicholas and Dylan Westgate ended up sharing the top spot. Nicholas Westgate finished with a 1-1-7 score-card at Tokoroa, while his sibling rival Dylan Westgate scored 2-3-2 results, Nicholas eventually getting the nod as overall winner thanks to the count-back rule. Each of these riders know there’s plenty still to be done before the championships wrap up at Winton on Saturday, except for Hedley, who learned this week that he has already been crowned champion of the SX Lites class. With insufficient entries for this class at Winton, the class has been dropped from the programme for this weekend and the result has been declared.

 

Meanwhile, Townley has indicated that he may not be racing at Winton this weekend, perhaps leaving the way clear for the runner-up rider in the SX1 class, Taupo’s Cohen Chase, to take advantage. However, Nelson’s Reece Walker is also well-positioned, just two points behind Chase. Motueka’s Josh Coppins is tipped to make his first appearance in the series on Saturday and that may upset a few points calculations too. Former factory Grand Prix motocross star Coppins won the SX2 class in the supercross nationals last season, jumping in at the last minute to replace an injured Maximus Purvis, but this year Coppins will be racing in the SX1 class.

 

Saturday’s event at Winton at the VetSouth Super-X Track in Ryan Road, is billed as “the world’s southern-most supercross”. It is always an extremely popular venue and sure to draw a large crowd. The Tokoroa event was supported by Craig Stevens Yamaha and the Winton event, hosted by the Southland Motorcycle Club, will be supported by Brent Scammell Honda.

 

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

A handful of unbeaten performances lit up the night sky at a damp round one of the New Zealand Supercross Championships at Tokoroa on Saturday. Four of the five championship classes were dominated by just one rider at the South Waikato Motorcycle Club’s circuit at Amisfield on Saturday night, although, in each case, results were never really certain until the final laps, with thrilling cut-and-thrust racing a feature of the night.

Oropi’s Ben Townley (SX1, open class), Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke (SX2, 250cc), Ohaupo’s Carlin Hedley (SX Lites, 125cc) and Rangiora’s Korban Paget (Junior 250) each recorded a hat-trick of wins in their respective classes, perhaps setting the tone for how the championships might wrap up at the second and final round at Winton, near Invercargill, in two weeks’ time.

In the remaining championship class, the Junior Lites, it had looked like Hamilton’s Nicholas Westgate would take charge after he won the first two of three races on the night, but then visiting Czech Republic rider Julius Mikula won the final race, while Westgate managed only seventh, causing something of a boil-over.

Westgate’s brother, Dylan Westgate, finished with a 2-3-2 score-card on the night and this was enough for him to end up level on points at the top, only losing out to his sibling rival on a count-back, while a 3-2-4 score-card from Rongotea’s Rhys Jillings earned him the third podium spot, just ahead of Mikula.

Townley, who was National SX1 champion in 2016 but a non-starter last season, battled early on with fast-starting Taupo rider Cohen Chase, but once in front, Townley was never threatened. Nelson’s Reece Walker earned the third spot on the night’s SX1 podium with a solid 3-2-3 score-card.

For the senior SX2 class riders, the Tokoroa event was actually round two of the Nationals after the inaugural S-X Open Auckland, the international event that was held at Mt Smart Stadium the previous weekend, registering as round one for them. Natzke’s three wins from three starts at Tokoroa then pushed his advantage out from three points to 15 over Martens, who managed 3-3-2 at Tokoroa, while Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis captured the third podium position with a 4-2-3 score-card on Saturday night.

Motorcycling New Zealand supercross co-ordinator Noel May was thrilled with the rider turn-out at Tokoroa.

“It was pretty awesome,” he said. “About 18 months ago we had a meeting in Taupo and came up with a strategic plan to build a pathway for the riders, rebuilding the juniors, so that they feed into the seniors in the future and what we saw here at Tokoroa absolutely kick-started that. Entry numbers were up 40 percent on last year and we had more support classes here too. I want to tip my hat to the Junior Lites and Junior 250s too for turning out in force, and then having a dozen riders entered in SX2 and 10 in SX1 was great too. The junior 250s will kick on up into the SX2 class really soon, so that’s positive news going forward.”

The riders now head to the South Island for the final round of the series, to be hosted by the Southland Motorcycle Club at its Winton facility on December 15.

The Tokoroa event was supported by Craig Stevens Yamaha and the Winton event will be supported by Brent Scammell Honda.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

It was an opportunity too good to miss and 10 young Kiwi riders accepted the challenge on Saturday night. Mt Smart Stadium in Penrose was packed almost to capacity for the inaugural S-X Open Auckland supercross on Saturday and while the more than 21,000 noisy race fans in attendance were thrilled to be there to witness the inimitable spectacle of international supercross action, it was perhaps the 10 young Kiwis who had signed up to accept the 2018 KTM Junior Supercross Challenge who expressed the most joy.

For the first time in New Zealand, KTM was able to offer the KTM Junior Supercross Challenge (KJSC), a unique opportunity for aspiring young riders to experience the life of a professional supercross rider for a day. They were each provided with a factory-prepared KTM 50SX bike for the day, equipped with KTM PowerParts. The riders were given a KTM PowerWear Pack to keep, which included riding jersey, pants, gloves and goggles. They had two practice sessions on the supercross track and one exhibition race, each outing cheered on by the appreciative crowd.

Each of the riders who applied for this experience had to meet strict criteria: They had to have at least 12 months’ racing experience; they had to be between the ages of seven and eight; they had to meet certain weight and height requirements, for safety reasons, and also had to provide a school report card that showed they were good students.

“Having a good school report was a very important factor,” said KTM events co-ordinator Kyle Blunden, “We have a social conscience and, while these young riders may have ambitions to one day become professional racers, we want to emphasise to them that getting good grades at school is vital in life.”

Although, it’s probably fair to say, school work was probably the last thing on the minds of these young riders on Saturday.

“Looking through images from the night, we can see everyone was really caught up in the experience and they loved every minute,” said Blunden, “For these young riders to go out and ride on this track in front of such a large crowd is something they will no doubt remember forever. This KTM Junior Supercross Challenge is something that was started in the United States many years ago and even men who became senior champions, riders such as multi-time American supercross champion Ryan Dungey, have expressed just how much it meant to them when they were this age.”

Dungey is one of the many who credit KJSC for his introduction to top level supercross racing and he went on to win the US Supercross Championships as a 250cc rider in 2009, before winning the 450cc title four times for KTM, in 2010, 2015, 2016 and 2017. He retired at the top, hanging up his helmet at the end of the 2017 season.

American KTM rider Dakota Alix won the senior SX2 (250cc) class on Saturday night, finishing ahead of fellow KTM rider Ryan Marmont, from Australia, with Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke completing the SX2 podium. Australian Chad Reed won the SX1 class at Mt Smart Stadium, ahead of Australia’s Hayden Mellross and Scotland’s Dean Wilson.

 

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Bay of Plenty’s Josiah Natzke is back home now after a long season of motocross racing in Europe, the Honda rider keen to take a break before he heads back to Germany in the New Year. 

However, all those best intentions of enjoying some rest and relaxation before rejoining his team in Europe went out the window and just the slightest of arm-twisting was needed to get the 19-year-old Honda star back on a bike while he’s home in New Zealand. With backing from Auckland company Cannon Signage Concepts and Blue Wing Honda, Mount Maunganui’s Natzke lined up in the SX2 (250cc) class at the inaugural S-X Open Auckland supercross on Saturday evening, the extreme moonscape circuit laid out inside Mt Smart Stadium.

This massive event – which attracted a crowd in excess of 21,000 – also registered as the first of three rounds of the New Zealand Supercross Championships, for this SX2 class only, as so that become even more motivation for Natzke and his sponsors to enter.

Natzke ended up third overall in the SX2 class on Saturday night, the best-performed of the Kiwis and he will now take that points advantage with him to round two of the New Zealand Supercross Championships at the Lucas Oil Motocross Park at Amisfield, in Tokoroa, this coming Saturday.

Natzke finished behind American rider Dakota Alix and Australian Ryan Marmont in the SX2 class at Mt Smart Stadium, but neither of these two men will be racing at Tokoroa.

“It’s a great way to kick-start my New Zealand Supercross title bid,” said Natzke. “I have not raced since arriving home from Europe in September, so I knew Saturday night was going to be tough. But I enjoyed it immensely. The track was brutal and riding in front of so many people made me a little nervous, but I was happy with how I performed. I’m going back to Germany at the end of January, so the New Zealand Supercross Champs will be the only racing I’m now doing at home. It’s been a while since I’ve won anything in New Zealand, so it would be nice if I can take a Kiwi title away this season.”

There was a huge Honda presence at Mt Smart on Saturday night with just-crowned Australian SX1 champion Justin Brayton, from the United States, leading the charge. He was joined on the track by fellow Honda stars Brett Metcalfe, from Australia, and American riders Josh Hansen and Christian Craig.

“I wrapped up my third Australian Supercross title in a row in Sydney (two weeks ago), but it was a little frustrating for me in Auckland,” Brayton admitted, “I had a little mechanical problem in my first heat race (a sticky throttle) and that meant I had last gate pick the whole night, which put me at a huge disadvantage, otherwise I felt like I could have done better. I just love racing and the support I have had from Honda here, in Australia and New Zealand, has been amazing. I head now to Switzerland on Wednesday to do a race over there. I had my best season ever in the United States (winning round 10 of the 2018 AMA Supercross Nationals in Daytona and finishing the series fifth overall) and now I will continue building for round one of the 2019 AMA Supercross series at Anaheim (in California, on January 5).” 

 

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan