A homecoming of sorts may be just the psychological edge that Darryll King needs to race his way to yet another national motocross crown on Sunday.
The fourth and final round of the Demon Energy New Zealand Motocross Championships is set for New Plymouth’s Barrett Road Motorcycle Park on Sunday and that suits former Taranaki man King right down to the ground.
Now living in Hamilton, many-time New Zealand champion King grew up and honed his incredible skills on the Taranaki turf before branching out to take on the motocross world in the 1990s.
He twice finished runner-up in the 500cc motocross world championships and won three national open class motocross titles in Australia before retiring from top-level competition a couple of years ago.
So, semi-retired from all racing, as he devoted his time to family and running the factory Yamaha team in New Zealand, it came as something of a shock when King entered this year’s nationals.
After the first two rounds of this year’s championships, Yamaha’s King was leading the MX2 (250cc) class and, following round three near Rotorua last weekend, he is still in contention. Although he’s now slipped to second spot, he is only two points behind Australian visitor Daniel McCoy (Suzuki). The title will be decided on Sunday afternoon.
Regardless of what happens on Sunday, King’s campaign already reads like a fairytale.
At age 42 and semi-retired, he’s not meant to even challenge, let alone humble, the sport’s rising young superstars. But that’s just what King has been doing.
On an “old technology” 250cc two-stroke bike, King is not meant to be racing away from the young men on modern 250cc four-stroke-powered machines. But he’s been doing that too.
“It’s going to be a battle like nothing else this weekend,” said the father-of-two.
“It’s my home track and I know how it needs to be ridden to win there. It was a surprise to be leading the championship after round two and, although I’m second now, I know I can win it on Sunday.”
Also of interest to Taranaki race fans, Hawera’s Brad Groombridge (Suzuki) is also in the mix for MX2 class honours and he will be looking to move up from his current spot at 11th overall.
Meanwhile, in the MX1 (open) class, Motueka’s Josh Coppins (Yamaha) had his championship lead shaved to just one point by an on-form Cody Cooper (Suzuki) last weekend and it will be a tooth-and-nail battle between these two Kiwi internationals on Sunday to see who takes the title.
Rotorua’s Michael Phillips (Honda) is very close behind Coppins and Cooper and will pounce on any mistakes made by his rivals on Sunday.
This is something that Phillips knows much about, having won the national 250cc title at the Barrett Road track in 2007, when his nearest rival stumbled that day, and then he tragically lost his grip on the 250cc title at the final round at the same circuit in similar circumstances in 2008 when he slipped up while leading the championship.
In the 125cc and under-21 years’ classes, raced concurrently but scored separately, it has almost been a one-horse race with Waitakere youngster Ethan Martens (Yamaha) winning seven of the nine 125cc races thus far.
Although it’s highly unlikely, Tauranga’s Scott Barr-Smith (KTM), Rotorua’s Cam Negus (Yamaha) and Wanganui’s Tom Managh, (Suzuki) are all mathematically close enough to snatch one or both of those titles for themselves.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com