The annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville is regarded by the Kiwi motorbike community as the “greatest show on turf” and Bay of Plenty’s Cody Cooper wants to reclaim it for himself. The past few years have been classic Aussie versus Kiwi battles, but Mount Maunganui’s Cooper is determined to reclaim the top spot and win his third New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix title at Woodville on the weekend of January 26-27.
The 35-year-old Cooper has won the main Woodville trophy twice before – the first time in 2007 and then seven years later in 2014 – and he would like nothing better than to win once more and become a rare three-time winner of the iconic event. Cooper is a six-time former national MX1 champion and is the current national MX1 No.2, but the Woodville GP title has eluded him over the past four years, the Kiwi hero frustrated by a couple of Australian invaders, Kirk Gibbs in 2015 and then Dean Ferris in both 2016 and 2017, and then last season it was fellow New Zealand rider Kayne Lamont who raced off with the GP win. But Cooper will arrive in the Manawatu as one of the favourites to win this year’s 58th annual Honda-sponsored Woodville event. He impressively won the annual Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas, that similar stand-alone event an ideal form guide. Cooper has been a frustrated soul at Woodville over the past few years, the Honda star typically winning the 450cc battles but losing the war. He dominated the MX1 class races last season – finishing with a 1-1-2 score-card over the weekend – but then the event’s namesake feature race was won instead by Hamilton rider Lamont.
In clinching the Invitation Feature Race, Lamont became the 29th different main event winner at Woodville since the inaugural running in 1961. Lamont will be back to torment Cooper at Woodville this time around too, as will Gibbs, winner of the New Zealand MX1 crown at the nationals last season.
Taupo’s Wyatt Chase won the MX2 (250cc) class at Woodville last year, while Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis was crowned the crowned 125cc class champion at Woodville in 2018 and these two will this year go head-to-head in the MX2 class. In addition, the Woodville GP will once again this year also be recognised as an FIM Oceania event.
The spectacular two-day meeting welcomes the enhancement as a true international competition, with the FIM Oceania status attracting huge interest from overseas. Kiwi internationals such as Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter, Waitakere’s Hamish Harwood, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, Rangiora’s Micah McGoldrick, Waitakere’s Ethan Martens, Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly and Wairoa’s Tommy Watts, to name just a few, also have good reason to fancy their chances.
Racing over the two days at Woodville caters for minis, juniors, women, veterans and seniors, with the novelty river race on Sunday always a crowd-pleaser.
Words and Photo by Andy McGechan