The opening round of the 2018 motocross nationals in Taranaki this weekend should probably come with a health warning.
So many riders are in hot form at the moment that any attempt to forecast likely champions could result in someone being burnt, attempts at predictions perhaps further frustrated by the unseasonably wet and wild weather that has been blasting the country this week.
Regardless of the weather that eventually arrives – and let’s face it, that changes by the hour these days – the racing should be close at this first of four rounds of the New Zealand Motocross Championships at New Plymouth’s Barrett Road circuit, a venue where champions have been crowned in the past, but also where dreams have been cruelly shattered.
Should the 34-year-old Cody Cooper feel confident of winning a sixth consecutive New Zealand Motocross Championships title in the premier MX1 class? Will fellow Mount Maunganui man Rhys Carter continue to impress in the way he dominated the MX1 class at the King of the Mountain motocross at the same Taranaki venue less than two weeks ago? Can Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont upset those grand plans, just as he did when winning the MX Fest last October and then the 57th annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville last Sunday?
These questions, and many more besides, will possibly have answers when the engines get shut down, late on Sunday afternoon.
Sizzling performances were seen from these key riders and also from visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs, West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, Wairoa’s Tommy Watts and Taihape’s Hayden Smith, among others, at their final warm-up event, the Woodville motocross just a few days ago.
Visiting Australian Mason Semmens could shake up the 125cc class and it would be worth watching out also for Dunedin’s Grason Veitch and Rotorua’s Joshua Bourke-Palmer to feature in this class too.
Another three Australians, Tyler Darby, Cooper Pozniak and former Grand Prix star Jay Wilson, will give the MX2 class riders something to think about, along with now Hamilton-base former South Islander Reece Walker and Tauranga’s Josh Tredinnick.
Foxton’s James Anderson is always exciting to watch and, along with Hawera’s former Kiwi international and multi-time former national champion Daryl Hurley, former national junior and senior 125cc champion Micah McGoldrick, two-time former national TT champion Mason Wilkie (Masterton) and former national 125cc championship runners-up Logan Blackburn and Kurtis Lilly (Karaka), the MX2 class is overflowing with potential.
Cross-country heroes Charlie Richardson (Eketahuna), Reece Lister (Wairoa) and Muriwai’s Luke Mobberley and enduro expert Damon Nield (Kerikeri) are certain to keep up the pace throughout the day and former Kiwi motocross international Kieran Scheele (Hakataramea), last year’s national MX1 No.8, and former national junior motocross champion Trent Collins (Ohaupo) should also be counted on to shine in the MX2 class this season.
There are a few dark horses in the MX1 class, with Nelson’s Jared Guthrie, Beachlands rider Blake Gillard and Rotorua’s John Phillips impressing lately, along with Ngatea’s former national 125cc champion Ben Broad and the multi-talented Brad Groombridge.
Taupo’s Groombridge is not only the current national cross-country champion, but he is a recent former national enduro champion as well, and was national MX1 No.7 last season, so rain or shine, long races or short, he’ll be there at the finish.
He’s riding two classes at the motocross nationals this year, both MX1 and MX2, so fans will see plenty of him.
The first two rounds of this year’s national series will also incorporate the inaugural Women’s Cup competition, a chance for the women to share some of the spotlight outside of their own two-day nationals, which were staged in Eltham in late November.
Expect to see Opunake’s 2017 senior national women’s champion Taylar Rampton take charge on her home turf, although she will face strong challenges from Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer, Rotorua’s former senior national women’s champion Letitia Alabaster, Tauranga’s 2017 national junior women’s champion Shelby Catley and Motueka’s Roma Edwards.
After Sunday’s opener, the series heads to Rotorua for round two on February 25. Round three is set for Hawke’s Bay on March 11, with the fourth and final round in Taupo on March 24.
Rounds three and four of the nationals will incorporate a Youth Cup (under-19 years) competition.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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