The Manawatu-Orion Motorcycle Club is throwing a party and it’s one that’s expected to be a hot and dirty affair, and perhaps just a little bit noisy too.
The club celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and will kick off 12 months of celebration by again staging New Zealand’s largest stand-alone motocross event, the iconic Woodville Motocross Grand Prix, this weekend (January 28-30).
It’s a party-within-a-party too because the Honda-sponsored Woodville event this year marks it 50th running, using exactly the same piece of turf at the eastern end of the Manawatu Gorge that first hosted the event in 1961.
It’s a festival affair this year with three days of activities, the racing itself again offering championship titles in many classes, including mini, junior, senior, women, vintage and veterans’ categories.
The 50th celebrations for the weekend begin for guests on Friday (Jan 28) with a short local bus tour, including a visit to the Thomson Motorcycle Museum at Kairanga.
On the Saturday, the guests, including riders who were competitors at Woodville in the 1960s and 70s, will go on an “old battlefields” bus tour of many old “scrambles” tracks around the Manawatu region, eventually arriving at the Woodville circuit where racing at the 2011 edition of the event will already be underway for the mini, junior and vintage bike riders.
The entire weekend will be a two-wheeled festival for the Manawatu region with a freestyle motocross display planned for The Square, Palmerston North, on Saturday evening, featuring Manawatu’s world-renowned Levi Sherwood.
Sunday is the main race day at Woodville and a record turnout of riders is expected, including current, former and perhaps future New Zealand, Australasian and even world champions.
Track action on the Sunday includes races for seniors and veterans, as well as the fabled river race for the die-hard enduro exponents, likely to feature former world MX1 No.2 Josh Coppins, of Motueka, national MX1 champion and defending Woodville champion Justin McDonald, of Christchurch, former New Zealand and Australian motocross champion Cody Cooper, of Mount Maunganui, current MX2 champion Michael Phillips, of Rotorua, and 2009 United States cross-country champion Paul Whibley, of Pahiatua, to name just a few among the 700-plus entries.
“It’s great to be able to race at Woodville again. It’s one of the events that got me to where I’m at now,” said Coppins. “It’s also the event where I first turned senior all those years ago.”
Overseas interest is again high for the event with leading riders from Australia, the United Kingdom and Belgium also entered.
The MX2 class battle between the leading Kiwis such as Peter Broxholme, Kayne Lamont, Cameron Dillon, Josh Jack, Luke Burkhart, Broc Martens, John Phillips and Daryl Hurley and England GP star Jake Nicholls and Belgian rising star Jeff Cloots should be particularly interesting.
This year the Woodville motocross has, not unexpectedly, also attracted a bumper crop of talented “old timers”, riders who raced there in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and their “parade of former stars” episode should cap off a memorable weekend for motocross enthusiasts.
Sponsored again by Blue Wing Honda, the 50th annual Woodville motocross also has support from Kiwi Rider magazine, Castrol and from the Tararua District Council (“Explore the Elements”).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com