Two former World MXGP rivals will now be firmly on one team, as Yamaha Motor New Zealand, in association with Josh Coppins Racing, are signing up Ben Townley (YZ450) and son Levi Townley (YZ65), who will both be joining bLUcRU effective immediately.
“Ben will be a Yamaha ambassador and we will support him across a bunch of racing activities with more to follow and Levi is about supporting the future of the sport. We have decided to re-establish the Yamaha brand in junior racing and off the back of the new YZ65, timing has never been better to look for our new champions,” Coppins says.
He and MX2 World Champion Townley are two of New Zealand’s most successful motocross riders and used to live together for three years in Belgium racing in the World MXGP Championships. In 2005 they finished second and third respectively in the MX1 class to ten-time world champ legend Stefan Everts. At one point Ben and Josh won five GPs in a row between them over Everts – not bad for a couple of Kiwis!
Despite being fiercely competitive on track, off it they were good mates. So, when it came time for Coppins to move away from investing in international racing, he decided to refocus on a junior programme.
“I wanted to look for and develop the next future champions. We needed somebody to help mentor and be a real ambassador and a leader for the Yamaha brand. Ben was the ultimate person for this role with all his international racing experience,” Coppins says.
Tauranga-based Townley, who retired professionally in 2016, will not only be coaching young riders he will also be riding in select races around New Zealand, including some enduro events.
Being able to share the workload is vital for Coppins, as he is busy running his own Altherm JCR Yamaha motocross race team – made up of senior riders Kirk Gibbs, Kayne Lamont (both MX1) and Maximus Purvis (MX2) at all the major national events. Coppins will continue with the team and also take on a more managerial position within Yamaha New Zealand, which allows him to be more involved in fostering the country’s young riders.
Eight-year-old Levi’s first race will be the 2019 Ebbett Pukekohe Auckland Motocross Champs in Tuakau on Saturday 23rd February 2019. The following day he will race in the Yamaha Motor New Zealand YZ65 Cup at Harrisville, Pukekohe, which is part of the third round of the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships.
Levi’s first foray into international racing was a success as he finished second in the invite-only KTM Junior Supercross Challenge in Los Angeles, United States on January 15.
Ben says Levi is enjoying his riding and looking forward to riding his new YZ65 in national and club events but there is no pressure for his son to follow in his footsteps.
“He’s really starting to stretch his legs now, but he needs to race for himself. Just because I was a professional rider, it doesn’t mean he needs to be too. We will see what happens.”
Levi’s younger brother Jagger will follow him into the bLUcRU as soon as he’s ready to jump on the YZ65.
“Following on from this statement we will announce further partnerships with Ben and we’re excited about the future and to be working with someone of Ben’s calibre,” Coppins concludes.