North Island’s Cody Cooper won most but South Island’s Justin McDonald won best.
That’s what it boiled down to as this year’s Demon Energy New Zealand Motocross Championships wrapped up with the fourth and final round in Taranaki on Sunday.
Mount Maunganui’s Cooper (Suzuki) easily won all three MX1 (450cc) races at New Plymouth’s Barrett Road Motorcycle Park facility on Sunday — stretching his tally to an impressive seven race wins from the series’ 12 races — but three runner-up finishes by Christchurch Honda rider McDonald were enough for him to seal his first national title.
Injuries at rounds one and two prevented Cooper from dominating the way he had at rounds three and four and, ultimately, that cost him the title, the 26-year-old from the Bay of Plenty finishing just two points shy of taking the MX1 crown.
But nobody could deny McDonald was a worthy champion. The 24-year-old builder was the classic “Mr Consistent”, finishing no worse than third all series.
“I raced my first motocross when I was aged 10, so it’s been 14 years to achieve this goal. It feels awesome now,” said McDonald.
“I know I only won one race at the nationals this year but, when people look back, it’ll be my name who is listed as the champion. It doesn’t matter how I did it.”
“I raced seven rounds of the American nationals this season and that taught me plenty.”
Cooper — who has spent the past two seasons racing in the US, finishing fifth in 2008 and ninth this season — was magnanimous in defeat.
“Yes, I had some bad luck but all credit to Justin. He rode really well all season and deserves this title.”
Meanwhile, with Mount Maunganui’s Mason Phillips (Kawasaki) crashing to the sideline on Sunday, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge (Suzuki) was able to swoop in and take the No.3 spot on the MX1 championship podium.
The MX2 (250cc) class picked up where it left off at the previous round, with Rotorua’s Michael Phillips and Queenstown’s Scott Columb (Suzuki) resuming hostilities.
These two men had each spent the past season racing in separate classes in the United Kingdom but now they were head-to-head on 250cc bikes and there was virtually nothing to separate the pair.
Phillips recovered from a first-corner crash in race one on Sunday to catch and pass Columb and eventually claim fifth spot and that stunning ride alone was probably worthy of the title.
He backed that up with a win and a second placing, taking the title by nine points from Columb, who managed 8-3-1 in his three outings.
“It was tough out there for everyone,” said Phillips. “I thought it was all over when I went down at the start of that first race. To win here, after all the grief I’ve had at this track in the past, is pretty special.”
Tauranga’s Peter Broxholme (Honda) won the day in Taranaki with 2-2-3 results and he finished third in the MX2 championships standings.
The 125cc class still belongs to Cambridge’s Damien King (Yamaha). The defending champion was again simply too powerful for his rivals this season.
The 33-year-old former Taranaki man finished 1-2-1 on Sunday, eventually putting him a solid 28 points ahead of Waitakere teenager Ethan Martens (KTM).
“Ethan is riding so well,” complimented King. “But I guess I was riding well too … I beat him and I’m twice his age.
“It was great to win this title again in front of my mum and dad here in Taranaki.
Martens won the race-within-a-race for national under-21 honours, ending the championship 62 points ahead of Wanganui’s Tom Managh (Suzuki).
Leading final standings in this year’s Demon Energy New Zealand Motocross Championships.
1. Justin McDonald (Christchurch, Honda) 265 points;
2. Cody Cooper (Mount Maunganui, Suzuki) 263;
3. Brad Groombridge (Taupo, Suzuki) 213;
4. Mason Phillips (Mount Maunganui, Kawasaki) 202;
5. Shaun Fogarty (Gisborne, KTM) 146.
1. Michael Phillips (Rotorua, Honda) 263 points;
2. Scott Columb (Queenstown, Suzuki) 254;
3. Peter Broxholme (Tauranga, Honda) 209;
4. Nick Saunders (Taupo, Kawasaki) 200;
5. Jesse Wiki (Hamilton, Honda) 189.
1. Damien King (Cambridge, Yamaha) 286 points;
2. Ethan Martens (Waitakere, KTM) 258;
3. Mike Cotter (Cambridge, Kawasaki) 227;
4. Hayden McKay (Christchurch, KTM) 195;
5. Cam Negus (Rotorua, Yamaha) 193.
1. Ethan Martens (Waitakere, KTM) 294 points;
2. Tom Managh (Wanganui, Suzuki) 232;
3. Kayne Lamont (Mangakino, Yamaha) 196;
4. Roydon White (Tauranga, KTM) 180;
5. Joel Hansen (Taumarunui, Yamaha) 137.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com