New Zealand Honda star Cody Cooper is going from strength to strength in the United States and he’ll be hoping he can find some more strength at the third round of competition in Colorado this weekend.
Fresh from his Kiwi nationals campaign, which wrapped up at Taupo in March, the man from Mount Maunganui headed straight to California to prepare for a full-season assault on the US nationals – the 12-round AMA Pro Nationals series – and now, two rounds into this motocross maelstrom, he is sitting comfortably at 12th overall.
Although he was disappointed not to be able to make it six consecutive national MX1 title wins at home this season, settling instead for overall runner-up position in the 2018 New Zealand Motocross Championships series, the 34-year-old Cooper wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of again facing some of the world’s leading motocross stars in the US, the racing there regarded as the hottest domestic championship in the world.
Cooper is no stranger to racing against the world’s elite, having represented New Zealand many times at the annual Motocross of Nationals and also having previously raced with success in the US nationals.
He kicked off his 2018 US adventure by finishing 12th and 15th in his two 450cc races at the opening round at Hangtown, in Sacramento, Northern California, just over a week ago.
This was good enough for him to settle into the rankings at 13th overall.
Then, at round two of the series at the steep Glen Helen circuit, on the outskirts of San Bernadino, at the weekend just gone, he qualified his Honda CRF450 15th fastest and then also posted two solid results in the races proper, ending his day a sensational 10th overall.
On both weekends, the premier 450ss class featured an international field of more than 50 riders attempting to qualify for a place on the 40-rider starting gate.
Cooper, a multi-time national MX1 champion and a former MX2 (250cc) class champion in his native New Zealand, had started the first 450cc race at Glen Helen down in 21st position, but he steadily advanced his cause, moving up five positions over the following laps to eventually claim 16th spot at the chequered flag.
In race two, Cooper found himself in 15th position soon after the start and moved up to eighth through the middle part of the race before slipping back to settle for 10th at the finish.
Coupled with his Hangtown results, Cooper is now 12th in the championship standings after two rounds.
“I had a bad start in both races (at Glen Helen) and that cost me a little,” said Cooper.
“Today started off average, with a 16th place finish. We are learning the suspension each race and finding some good things (settings).
“In the first moto, the rear end of the bike was too soft. It was much better in second race and I could flow well on the track.
“My bike fitness is a little off at the moment but it’s all about the journey.
“I like racing in America a lot. They have great tracks and it’s fun travelling around. I’m doing it for fun this year, but doing it professionally as well.”
The next round of the series is set for Thunder Valley Motocross Park, on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado, this coming weekend.
Both the day’s 450cc races at Hangtown and again at Glen Helen were won by defending champion Eli Tomac (Kawasaki), the Colorado native now comfortably 14 points ahead of his nearest challenger for the title, Frenchman Marvin Musquin (KTM).
Cooper finished fifth overall in the US in 2008 and ninth overall the following season and he believes, if everything clicks, he can possibly achieve similar results again this year.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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450MX results from round two at Glen Helen:
- Eli Tomac (Kawasaki) 1-1, 50 points
- Marvin Musquin (KTM) 2-3, 42
- Jason Anderson (Husqvarna) 4-2, 40
- Justin Barcia (Yamaha) 6-4, 33
- Ken Roczen (Honda) 3-8, 33
- Weston Peick (Suzuki) 7-5, 30
- Blake Baggett (KTM) 5-9, 28
- Phillip Nicoletti (Suzuki) 10-7, 25
- Kyle Chisholm (Yamaha) 11-11, 20
- Cody Cooper (NZ, Honda) 16-10, 16
450MX standings after two rounds:
- Eli Tomac (Kawasaki) 100
- Marvin Musquin (KTM) 86
- Jason Anderson (Husqvarna) 73
- Justin Barcia (Yamaha) 73
- Blake Baggett (KTM) 60
- Weston Peick (Suzuki) 60
- Ken Roczen (Honda) 53
- Phillip Nicoletti (Suzuki) 49
- Benny Bloss (KTM) 42
- Kyle Chisholm (Yamaha) 39
- Bradley Taft (Husqvarna) 33
- Cody Cooper (NZ, Honda) 31