NATZKE MAY BE ‘THE NEXT BIG THING’

The future could be a bright one for Waikato’s Josiah Natzke.

The Hamilton man could be touted as “the next big thing” to come out of New Zealand motocross, emerging from the shadows of fellow Kiwi internationals such as Taranaki’s Shayne King, Bay of Plenty’s Ben Townley and Motueka’s Josh Coppins.

Both King and Townley were racing KTM bikes when they won their respective world crowns – King winning the 500cc title in 1996 and Townley winning the MX2 title in 2004 – while Coppins was world championship runner-up on two occasions, in 2002 (on a Honda in the 250cc class) and 2005 (on a Yamaha in the MX1 class).

Natzke first wrote his name in the Kiwi history books in 2014 when, at the tender age of just 15 years and 81 days, he become New Zealand’s youngest ever senior motocross champion when he won the senior 125cc title for the first time.

He backed it up by successfully defending that title the following season and he then embarked on his first major overseas campaign, racing the European 125cc Motocross Championships (EMX125) for the KTM factory in 2015.

He stunned when he finished that season overall runner-up, behind his own KTM team-mate, Spain’s Jorge Prado.

However, there was also a hint of disappointment for Natzke that year.

He had won more EMX125 races in the 2015 season than any other rider, his five race wins for the series eclipsing that of eventual champion Prado, who won four times, meaning the pair of them won nine of the 16 races in the championship.

In 2016 Natzke stepped up to race the EMX250 championships and, after a mixed bag of successes and set-backs, he settled for 13th overall at season’s end.

He is starting to make good headway in the EMX250 championships, shaking off a stuttering start to his 2017 campaign to finally break through and win the latest event of the nine-round series, the Latvian Grand Prix last weekend.

Natzke finished 1-2 in his two races, topping the podium and rocketing from nowhere in the EMX250 standings to 11th overall.

With six more rounds of the 2017 series to come, it won’t be until the end of the year that he returns home.

“I’ll be back in New Zealand after the Motocross of Nations (the annual ‘Olympic Games of motocross’, in England in October),” he said.

“It just depends what I’m doing next year to see if I can race at the Whakatane Summercross (in late December) or the Woodville motocross (in January 2018).”

© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

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