He may be a former winner at the big annual Woodville Motocross Grand Prix, but Christchurch’s Justin McDonald knows it will be tougher than ever this year to win back the crown he first claimed in 2010.
The 26-year-old McDonald (Bel Ray Honda) was also national MX1 champion in 2009, so he knows what it takes to win the high-pressure races, but this year he’ll face added stresses and strains, and most of it will be coming from within his own Honda team.
Kiwi international Ben Townley, now back home after several seasons racing in Europe and the United States, looms as favourite to win this year’s 51st annual Woodville Motocross Grand Prix in just over a week’s time (on the weekend of January 27-29).
The fact that the iconic Woodville event is also sponsored again this year by Honda means it’s probably not a bad thing that the two Honda men are among the favourites to win, although both McDonald and Townley will also have to respect the threats posed by other Kiwi internationals such as defending Woodville winner Josh Coppins (MXDK Rockstar Yamaha), of Motueka, and current national MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Moto City Suzuki), of Mount Maunganui.
Bay of Plenty rider Townley (Carlton Dry Honda CR450F) arrives at Woodville with a major domestic win under his belt already, having dominated at the annual Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas, his first big event in New Zealand this summer.
But while Townley won five races from five starts at Whakatane, he didn’t have to deal with McDonald that day, the Canterbury rider temporarily sidelined with injury. Now back to full fitness, McDonald is determined to challenge for the Woodville win.
“It’s going to be tough to beat Ben (Townley). He’s definitely the favourite to win at Woodville. He’s one of the best riders in the world … but anything can happen on the day,” said McDonald.
“As for me, I’m feeling fresh and ready to go hard. I’ve always enjoyed racing at Woodville. It’s good grass-roots motocross, a track that’s only used once a year and nobody gets an extra practice on it. This track suits me and I have a good feeling about it.”
The senior MX2 (250cc) class will be extremely hot too, with likes of Tauranga’s Peter Broxholme (Bel Ray Honda) battling Queenstown’s Scotty Columb (Murray Thorn Suzuki) and Kiwi former GP rider and current national MX2 champion Darryll King (MXDK Rockstar Yamaha).
Since the stand-alone event was first staged half a century ago, in 1961, the Woodville Motocross has grown to become the jewel in New Zealand’s motocross crown.
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 possibly future world champions among its glittering list of alumni.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com