Forty nine years can be a lifetime in the sporting world.
This is particularly so in motocross, where the average rider’s career life-span is often less than a half, or even a quarter, of that.
But this year that’s exactly what New Zealand’s greatest show on turf, the Woodville Motocross, will be celebrating when the gate drops for racing next weekend (January 30-31), the event this year sponsored by Blue Wing Honda, and again carrying the New Zealand motocross GP titles.
Founder of the event is Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club life member Tim Gibbes, who was a Grand Prix motocross racer in Europe in the 1960s.
It was from a fairy-tale beginning in the 1960s that the event has flourished and matured and, remarkably, it can list current, former and future world champions among its glittering list of alumni.
Gibbes and fellow GP racing buddy Ken Cleghorn fought handlebar to handlebar at that inaugural event in December 1961, Cleghorn eventually taking away the silverware. Gibbes took his revenge to win it back the following year, actually just a month later, in January 1962.
The Woodville honour roll over the years reads like a who’s who of leading New Zealand motocross talent and also features some of the best riders of the day from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Sweden, England, Wales, Australia and the United States.
To date, only nine riders have won more than once at Woodville, Taranaki’s 1996 500cc world champion Shayne King the most successful ever, with nine wins to his credit.
The man favoured to win it this time around is another Kiwi international, Tauranga’s Ben Townley, the former world motocross and American supercross champion on something of a win streak at home this summer.
From those humble beginnings in late 1961, the Woodville motocross has developed magnificently over the years. Staged at the same grassy farmland venue every year since 1961, it now attracts more than 600 competitors and spectators number by the thousands, the programme has expanded to boast more than 70 races and it easily fills two days.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com