New Zealand’s elite motocross racers again flood into the town for the big annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix, with more than 700 riders, along with their crews, families and supporters, expected to arrive for the two-day event on January 27-28.
Now in its 57th year, the annual Honda-sponsored New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville is obviously a very strong magnet for the nation’s dirt biking elite and it is the biggest event on the Kiwi motocross calendar for many reasons.
In addition to offering GP titles across several different bike categories and attracting the cream of talent from New Zealand, as well as many leading riders from overseas, the stand-alone event caters for entrants from as young as four years old, to senior men and women in their 40s and 50s.
While plenty of international visitors have won the event in the past, it is worth noting that Kiwi riders are world class too and it is home-grown talent that has tended to dominate at Woodville over the years.
There have been 30 different overall winners at Woodville over the past 56 years, but only 13 riders have won there more than once since the inaugural event in 1961.
The most prolific winner has been New Plymouth’s Shayne King, with nine Woodville wins to his credit, and his last winning appearance there before retiring was at the 2006 event. King’s two young boys, Curtis and Rian, will be lining up in the junior races at this year’s Woodville event.
Current national MX1 champion Cody Cooper is a two-time former winner at Woodville – the top man there in 2007 and again in 2014 – and he’d like nothing better than to win it again and join the select group of just five riders so far who have won it three times or more.
Following his Woodville bid, the 34-year-old Cooper will be focussed on retaining his title in the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships, starting in Taranaki just one week after Woodville, on February 4, and then he heads overseas, to mount a full-season campaign in the United States.
He raced the opening two rounds on the US nationals last year, but this time he’s planning to stay on and contest the entire series.
“It’s something I really want to do and I want to do it while I still can,” he explained.
“I like racing in America a lot. They have great tracks and it’s fun travelling around. I’ll be doing it for fun, but doing it professionally as well.”
The 12-round AMA Nationals series starts at Hangtown, in Sacramento, California on May 19 and runs until August 25, with the final round set for Crawfordsville in Indiana.
Cooper first dipped his toes into the US scene in late 2007, where he managed sixth and seventh places at the final two rounds of that series.
Cooper then followed that with two complete seasons of racing in the US.
Racing as a Suzuki privateer, he twice finished runner-up (at Unadilla, near New York, and again at Southwick, Massachusetts) and he ended the 2008 season fifth overall.
Then, riding for a top Yamaha team the following season, he wound up ninth overall at the end of the year.
A predominantly young man’s sport, it’s uncertain how many more years Cooper will have at the top level and the high-risk sport can be unforgiving and brutal at times, but Cooper is not ready to hang up his helmet just yet and winning the Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville is definitely the first on his “to do” list for 2018.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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