New Zealand’s Josh Coppins can tick the first box on his “to do” list for 2010 …. he’s survived the opening round of the motocross world championships and scored solid points at the same time.
It’s easy to understand if the man from Motueka felt a trifle nervous as the GP season kicked off in Bulgaria last weekend – he was on a new bike in a new team and, at age 32, many riders would be thinking retirement, not pushing themselves onward to accept new challenges in one of the world’s toughest of sports.
But Coppins, who has twice finished runner-up in the world championships and would most likely have been world No.1 in 2007 if it weren’t for incredible bad luck, was easily the match for the rest of the world elite, factory riders from across Europe, some of whom are nearly half his age.
Coppins took his 450cc factory Aprilia to ninth and tenth in his two outings in Bulgaria, good enough for ninth overall. German rider Max Nagl won the day, while defending world champion Antonio Cairoli, of Italy finished the day runner-up.
“I didn’t really know what to expect in Bulgaria but it was fine and Sunday we had a really nice day,” said Coppins.
“As for my results and Aprilia I was happy. My goal was top 10 – sure I want better. I’m not always going to be happy with that but we’re off to a decent start and we can build from this.
“I think I surprised a lot of people. The bike is good, we just have a few small issues that we can work on … and, trust me, we are.
“I expected KTM to be good as I raced both Max (Nagl) and Tony (Cairoli) at the last Italian round. I saw they were good there. It’s amazing how stacked with talent the MX1 class is.
“I mean to say, you have to ride good just to get points. I had mentally prepared myself not to flip out if I came around and saw 20th place on my pit board, because I was well aware of the depth in MX1 in 2010.”
With a long season ahead of him, Coppins is making no predictions, but a podium finish is a distinct possibility this year, tipped to be his last in Europe before he contemplates returning Downunder to race in Australia and New Zealand.
This weekend is round two at the Italian circuit of Mantova, a place that holds mixed feelings for the talented Kiwi.
“Mantova is a track I don’t like … well ‘don’t like’ are big words. I do like it, I just struggle to go fast there and I always have, even in ‘07 when I won both motos. That was because I was the strongest not the fastest, so this weekend will be much of the same. I will need good starts (which I seem to get on Aprilia) and fight all the way. It will be a tough race but I have no doubt we can back up GP1 with decent results.
“How about a US GP (being added to the calendar)! That’s cool huh? I am happy to be able to go and race at Glen Helen as I’ve never raced there before so I can’t wait. Hopefully some AMA riders support the race and we’ll have all the best riders at one race. Imagine how stacked MX1 will be then.
“I don’t have a lot more to report on. All I’ve been doing is racing and training and travelling! My daughter is growing up fast. She’s started talking a few words ‘mm mmm’ is motorbike and when she watches MX on TV she yells “go go go!” I’m not sure if she’s yelling at daddy or not yet??? but she loves motocross.
“Well that’s it for now. I’ll keep it short and try to check in a bit more regularly.”
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com