With entries in excess of 550 riders, the obvious popularity and continued growth of the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville should ensure another bumper weekend of race action on show this coming Saturday and Sunday (January 25-26).
Racing over the two days will attract thousands of spectators to the Tararua region, filling motel rooms and camping grounds to the point of overflowing, the Honda-sponsored event at Woodville proving to be a must-see spectacle for many motorsports enthusiasts.
Mount Maunganui man Cooper (pictured above) is the current national MX1 motocross champion and the defending Woodville champion as well, and he arrives in the Manawatu this weekend as the firm favourite to win what is regarded as the biggest stand-alone event on the Kiwi racing calendar.
The national MX1 No.1 won the main Woodville trophy last year and would like nothing better than to repeat the feat on Sunday.
But, even with his pedigree, the 36-year-old Kiwi international knows it won’t be easy and the pressure will be on him to perform at the highest level once again.
Former Woodville GP winner Kirk Gibbs, from Queensland, will likely be Cooper’s main challenger in the battle for MX1 class dominance and for the main Woodville GP title as well.
Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) motocross commissioner Ray Broad said he was delighted to see the level of support for the event.
“Entry numbers are up on previous years and I believe that MNZ’s changes to the licensing has contributed to this boost in entries.
“The host Manawatu-Orion Motorcycle Club has put in a lot of work to make this another well-supported event and it will be another extremely successful New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix.”
Cooper has won the premier trophy at Woodville on two other previous occasions, in 2007 and 2014, but past glories will count for little when the start gate drops for the premier MX1 class on Sunday.
Leading Kiwi riders such as Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont – the man who won the coveted Woodville trophy in 2018 – Auckland’s reigning MX2 champion Hamish Harwood, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, Taupo’s Hadleigh Knight, Te Puke’s Tyler Steiner, Tauranga’s Roydon White and Waitakere’s Ethan Martens, to name just a few, also have good reason to fancy their chances of upsetting Cooper in the MX1 class.
Top Kiwis expected to feature in the 250cc MX2 class include riders such as Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh, Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, Oparau’s James Scott, Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, Palmerston North’s Luka Freemantle and Hawera’s Daryl Hurley.
Although now considered a veteran of the sport, Hurley was outright Woodville champion in 2005 and again in 2009 and he seems to have lost none of his speed, particularly with his winning of the MX2 class at the popular King of the Mountain motocross in Taranaki at the weekend.
In the senior 125cc class, it is likely that Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, Otautau’s Jack Treloar, Wairoa’s Tommy Watts, Nelson’s Ethan Waters and Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon will be among the favourites to win at Woodville.
As well as Gibbs’ entry, Australian strength will also be seen in the smaller bike classes, with Caleb and Riley Ward, Chandler Burns, Morgan Fogarty, Aimee Butler, Charli Cannon, Hayley and Brooke Ball, Max Devery and Taylor Thompson each bringing their considerable skills to New Zealand’s No.1 motocross battleground.
Racing over the two days at Woodville caters for minis and juniors on Saturday, while the seniors, veterans and women will race on Sunday.
Vintage motocross bike races will be an additional feature of Sunday’s programme, while the novelty river race on Sunday is also sure to be a major crowd-pleaser.
There will be little rest for many of the riders after the Woodville GP wraps up on Sunday afternoon, with the first of four rounds in this year’s FOX-sponsored senior New Zealand Motocross Championships kicking off in Balclutha, near Invercargill, just one week later.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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