The 35-year-old Honda Racing Team rider from Mount Maunganui was still feeling “under the weather”, afflicted with the same chest and throat discomfort that had forced him to withdraw from last month’s big annual Huka Honda MX Fest event in Taupo, but the man from Mount Maunganui decided to soldier on regardless at Te Kuiti on Sunday.
And, despite being well below his best, he was still significantly better that all of the riders who lined up to battle him in the glamour MX1 (450cc) class, Cooper taking his Honda CRF450 to celebrate four impressive wins from four starts and finishing the day well clear of Taupo’s Cohen Chase (ENI Kawasaki Racing Team) and Richmond’s Reece Walker (New Plymouth Motorcycles KTM).
The man who had won at Taupo last month, Hamilton-based former Mangakino rider Kayne Lamont (Altherm JCR Yamaha), had been the closest threat to Cooper early in the day, although he was never really close enough to pass the Honda star.
However, Lamont ended his day prematurely when he injured himself in race three and was taken to hospital.
“I was feeling quite tired in that last race. I was feeling a bit shaky because my body has not yet recovered from the bug I had,” said Cooper afterwards.
“I didn’t have full strength in my grip on the bike. When the track got quite rough in the last race I didn’t want to push too hard because I wasn’t feeling that great.
“The whole bike is stock at the moment. We haven’t really even started testing. The power though is unreal for a stock bike. I would have had Yoshimura mufflers on the bike but when I pulled them out of the box they were two right-handers and so wouldn’t fit on the bike anyway.
“So, with nothing having been done to the bike, I’m really pumped with how good it is. The suspension setting we used was the first setting that Mark Scobie from M-Spec has made for me and it was pretty good. We have some more tuning to do, so it should be even better.
“I’m just going out each weekend at the moment and not too worried about where I finish, just going out and riding as well as I can.”
In terms of preparation for the 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships season, Cooper has plenty of time on his side to complete his bike’s fine tuning.
He said his next big outing would be to race at the Honda Summercross, near Whakatane, on the last weekend of the year, with the big annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix to follow at the end of January and then the start of the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taranaki in February.
Meanwhile, it was double celebration for the Honda camp at Sunday’s WashRite and Pumpn-sponsored event, with Cooper’s team-mate, Taupo rider Wyatt Chase, taking his Honda Racing Team CRF250 to win the MX2 (250cc) class on Sunday.
Chase finished the day ahead of Oparau’s James Scott (KTM) and Waitakere’s Ethan Martens (Kawasaki).
The 125cc class belonged to Wairoa’s Tommy Watts (Husqvarna), with Te Awamutu’s Carlin Hedley (Yamaha) and Auckland’s Ryan Webley (KTM) completing that podium.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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