Weakened by illness and stuck in heavy traffic at the start of the series’ deciding final race, there was probably no way any sensible person would figure Honda’s Cody Cooper could burst through and win the national motocross crown.
But that’s exactly what the Bay of Plenty man did at the fourth and final round of the New Zealand Motocross Championships at Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motocross Park on Sunday.
Mount Maunganui’s Cooper had arrived at Taupo with a narrow three-point lead in the chase for premier MX1 class honours, but Australian rider Kirk Gibbs (Altherm JCR Yamaha), the defending MX1 champion and Cooper’s nearest challenger, and Gibbs’ Yamaha team-mate from Hamilton, Kayne Lamont, were determined to make life difficult for the Alpinestars Motul Honda Racing Team rider.
Both Gibbs and Lamont were ahead of Cooper as the MX1 class field exited turn one at the start of the championship-deciding final 20-minute race, but their advantage didn’t last long as Cooper mounted an inspiring charge through the pack and hit the front on the third lap of 11.
Cooper extended his lead and eventually won the race by an impressive 10 seconds over Gibbs, with Lamont crossing the line in third.
This gave Cooper his seventh New Zealand MX1 motocross title, adding to the two 125cc class motocross titles he’d won for Honda, in 2003 and 2005.
“It was hard, one of the hardest races I’ve ever done I think,” said the 35-year-old Cooper afterwards.
“It was kind of good that I got a bad start because I managed to find some good lines that I would not have seen. It was a blessing in disguise really.
“I wasn’t feeling well actually at the start of the day. I woke up last night feeling cold and hot and I had diarrhoea this morning. I felt like I wanted to be sick. I drank some sugary drinks and that seemed to help.”
Also, as was probably expected, West Auckland-based former Takaka man Hamish Harwood (CML Makita KTM) wrapped up both the MX2 (250cc) and MX125 titles at Taupo on Sunday, his points advantage at the start of the day vast in both categories.
Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (Altherm JCR Yamaha) had held the second position in the MX2 standings at the start of the day at Taupo, but mechanical failure in the day’s second MX2 race cost Purvis and a red-hot assault by Cooper’s Alpinestars Motul Honda team-mate Wyatt Chase added salt to Purvis’ wounds.
Chase won the day at Taupo, his 1-1-2 score-card for the afternoon boosting him up the championship rankings from fourth to second overall, giving the Honda crew extra reason to celebrate at Taupo.
Cooper now prepares to head to the United States again this season, but just to contest three rounds of their national series, not a full campaign like the one he mounted last season.
“I have other obligations for Honda at home this season, so it will only be three events for me in the US this time,” said Cooper. “I spent a lot of time over there last year and can’t be expecting to go and do that all again.”
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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NZ Motocross Champs leading final standings:
MX1 class: 1. Cody Cooper (Mt Maunganui) 285 points; 2, Kirk Gibbs (Australia) 279; 3. Kayne Lamont (Hamilton) 233; 4. Cohen Chase (Taupo) 186; 5. Blake Gillard (Beachlands) 166; 6. Brad Groombridge (Taupo) 151; 7. Hadleigh Knight (Reporoa) 141; 8. Roydon White (Tauranga) 139; 9. Sam Guise (Taupo) 130; 10. Jacob Steel (Te Awamutu) 129.
MX2 class: 1. Hamish Harwood (Royal Heights) 265 points; 2. Wyatt Chase (Taupo) 214; 3. Maximus Purvis (Mangakino) 203; 4. Morgan Fogarty (Australia) 177; 5. Brad Groombridge (Taupo) 157; 6. Wilson Todd (Australia) 153; 7. Ethan Martens (Auckland) 150; 8. Kyle Webster (Australia) 132; 9. Kyle Hartley (Winton) 127; 10. Sam Cuthbertson (Dunedin) 122.
125cc class: 1. Hamish Harwood (Royal Heights) 300 points (maximum); 2. Ben Broad (Ngatea) 234; 3. Joshua Bourke Palmer (Rotorua) 221; 4. Tommy Watts (Wairoa) 215; 5. Jack Dunlop (Pukekawa) 172; 6. Scott Barr-Smith (Tauranga) 143; 7. Charlie Richardson (Eketahuna) 116; 8. Ethan Waters (Nelson) 113; 9. Cam Dillon (Kinloch) 111; 10. Joseph Andrell (Auckland) 103.
Under-19: 1. Morgan Fogarty (Australia) 260 points; 2. Maximus Purvis (Mangakino) 258; 3. Reef Wheki (Hamilton) 222.