The talent runs extremely deep for this season’s New Zealand Motocross Championships, due to kick off near Timaru on Sunday.
The four-round series, sponsored by the Backflips Clothing company, runs through until March and picking likely winners has perhaps never been tougher.
Bay of Plenty international Ben Townley (Honda) is the defending champion in the MX1 class and he has dominated key events in New Zealand in recent months, so he remains the clear favourite to win the main prize, although he has a stack of exciting talent lining up against him.
Scottish former GP rider Billy Mackenzie (Yamaha) has arrived in the country to make his New Zealand Motocross Championships debut and he’ll line up alongside Australian high-fliers Todd Waters and Kirk Gibbs, both riding for KTM.
For Mackenzie, Waters and Gibbs, the Kiwi nationals represent a valuable build-up for their respective Australian Motocross Championships campaigns, due to kick off in New South Wales in April.
Of the Kiwi hopefuls, Mount Maunganui hero Cody Cooper (Suzuki) is rated the most likely to threaten Townley and the invading overseas contingent.
The 2009 national MX1 champion, Christchurch’s Justin McDonald (Honda), Rotorua’s Michael Phillips (Honda), multi-time former national champion Daryl Hurley (Suzuki), of Hawera, Kawasaki rider Nick Saunders, of Taupo, and Wairarapa’s Mason Wilkie (Yamaha) also stand a good chance of scoring wins.
Young Australian Jesse Dobson (Kawasaki) is another rider here to make his first-time appearance in the New Zealand nationals and he’ll tackle the MX2 class.
Dobson will possibly be expected to challenge defending national MX2 champion Darryll King (Yamaha), of Hamilton, but the talent here runs very deep indeed and both Dobson and King face a bevy of extremely fast 250cc bike riders, in particular Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter (Suzuki), Queenstown’s Scotty Columb (Yamaha), Amberley’s Micah McGoldrick (Honda), Taupo’s Cam Dillon (Honda), Tauranga’s Peter Broxholme (Honda), Waitakere’s Ethan Martens (Yamaha), Timaru’s Josh May (Honda), Nelson’s Nathan Clare (KTM) and Levin’s James Anderson (KTM), to name just a few.
Top riders likely to feature in the parallel 125cc and under-21 divisions – raced together but scored separately – include Te Puke’s Logan Blackburn (Yamaha), Atiamuri’s Hadleigh Knight (KTM), Otago’s Courtney Duncan (Yamaha), Taupo’s Cohen Chase (KTM) and Rotorua’s Cameron Vaughan (Yamaha).
After Timaru on Sunday, the national series continues at Patetonga (on February 24), Pukekohe (March 10) and it finally wraps up at Taupo on March 31.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com