Fifty years can be a lifetime in the sporting world.
This is particularly so in motocross, where the average rider’s career life-span is often less than a half, or even a quarter, of that.
But this year that’s exactly what New Zealand’s greatest show on turf, the Woodville Motocross, will be celebrating when the gate drops for racing this weekend (January 29-30), the event this year sponsored by Honda, and again carrying the New Zealand motocross GP titles.
Founder of the event is Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club life member Tim Gibbes, who was a Grand Prix motocross racer in Europe in the 1960s.
Gibbes and fellow GP racing buddy Ken Cleghorn fought handlebar to handlebar at that inaugural event in December 1961, Cleghorn eventually taking away the silverware. Gibbes took his revenge to win it back the following year, actually just a month later, in January 1962.
The Woodville honour roll over the years reads like a who’s who of leading New Zealand motocross talent and also features some of the best riders of the day from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Sweden, England, Wales, Australia and the United States.
To date, only nine riders have won more than once at Woodville, Taranaki’s 1996 500cc world champion Shayne King the most successful ever, with nine wins to his credit.
The man favoured to win it this time around is another Kiwi international, Motueka’s Josh Coppins.
The two-time former world No.2, who wrapped up a 15-year Grand Prix career at the end of last season, is not yet ready for retirement and winning at Woodville is definitely one of the boxes the Yamaha ace wants to tick off his “to do” list for 2011.
Coppins is a four-time former Woodville winner, the top rider there in
1996, 1999, 2000 and 2008, during those rare spells when he was home from his European campaigns.
It’s interesting to note that the founder of the Woodville motocross, Gibbes, was racing there 16 years before the now 33-year-old Coppins was even born.
From those humble beginnings in late 1961, the Woodville motocross has developed magnificently over the years. Staged at the same grassy farmland venue every year since 1961, it now attracts more than 600 competitors and spectators number in the thousands, the programme has expanded to boast more than 70 races and it easily fills two days.
Woodville now stands alone as the biggest and best motocross in New Zealand, perhaps second in significance only to the nationals.
Meanwhile, Coppins will, of course, have to be very sharp indeed if he is to repel the expected attacks from defending Woodville champion Justin McDonald (Honda), of Christchurch, former New Zealand and Australian motocross champion Cody Cooper (Suzuki)(pictured above), of Mount Maunganui, Hamilton’s Jesse Wiki (Honda) and his own MXDK Rockstar Yamaha team-mate Hayden Clark, of Hamilton, and young rising stars such as Christchurch’s Craig Smith (Honda), Mangakino’s Kayne Lamont (Suzuki) and Waitakere’s Ethan Martens (Yamaha) just to name a few.
In the junior ranks, Kaukapakapa’s Josh Jack (Suzuki), Rangiora’s Micah McGoldrick (both KTM), Atiamuri’s Dion Picard (Suzuki) and Hamilton’s Josiah Natzke (Yamaha) will also be among those worth watching.
International stars Jake Nicholls (KTM), of England, and Jeff Cloots (Yamaha), from Belgium, will also add spice to the mix.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com