The hunt for national dirt biking glory will go down to the wire in at least two of the four bike categories after a hot afternoon’s racing just outside Rotorua at the weekend.
The Bay of Plenty region hosted the third round of four in this season’s Demon Energy New Zealand Motocross Championships on steep farmland near Rotorua on Sunday and spectators left at the end of the day knowing only one thing for certain, that no one rider is totally dominant and all the titles will have to be decided at the fourth and final round near New Plymouth next weekend.
Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (Suzuki) won the MX1 (open class) on Sunday and with that crept to within one point of overtaking series leader Josh Coppins (Yamaha), of Motueka.
Copper finished 1-2-1 in his three MX1 outings to again win the day, just as he had at the previous round near Morrinsville last month.
“It was an excellent day for me, although I would have liked to win all three of course,” said Cooper afterwards.
Coppins finished 2-1 in the first two races, to be level-pegging with Cooper, but the third race was crucial to split the duo and, after a first-lap clash with another rider, Coppins was left on the ground, at the back of the field and with a huge task ahead of him.
He eventually carved his way back to finish third in that fateful final race, but it cost him valuable points and his grip on the championship lead is now very shaky indeed.
“My knee is sore and my elbow is sore, so I’m feeling a little beaten up,” said Coppins. I’m a bit disappointed with my day today but it could be Cooper’s turn for a bad day next weekend … you never know.”
Rotorua’s Michael Phillips (Honda) dispelled the myth that racing at home is any advantage as he twice crashed, forced to start last in the day’s first two MX1 races.
But it was indeed an impressive sight to see Phillips (pictured above) power his way back to finish fourth both times. He then crossed the line runner-up to Cooper in the last race, good enough to see him take the day’s third spot on the podium. He remains third in the series standings, but an almost impossible-to-overcome 22 points behind the on-form Cooper.
It was also a tough day for Coppins’ Yamaha team boss, Hamilton’s Darryll King, who lost his lead in the MX2 (250cc class) as Australian visitor Daniel McCoy (Suzuki) came on strong to win the day.
McCoy finished 2-5-1 to win the day by seven points from a resurgent Cameron Dillon (Honda), of Taupo, while King finished 5-3-3 to take the third spot on the podium.
That was enough to see him slip back to second spot in the championship chase, now two points behind new leader McCoy.
For Dillon it was a remarkable day, the bad luck episodes from rounds one and two forgotten, as he finished 1-6-5 at Rotorua and moved up from 14th to eighth in the championship rankings.
Meanwhile, in the 125cc and under-21 years’ classes, raced concurrently but scored separately, Tauranga’s Scott Barr-Smith (KTM) ruled the day, finishing 1-2-2, but it may be too little and too late with championship leader Ethan Martens (Yamaha), of Waitakere, having another solid day.
Martens came home 5-1-1 at Rotorua and ensured he heads to the final round in New Plymouth next weekend with a comfortable 20-point advantage over Barr-Smith.
Third best in this class on Sunday was Rotorua’s Cam Negus (Yamaha), who finished 2-3-3 on the day and surged from fourth to third in the series standings.
Leading standings after round three of the Demon Energy New Zealand Motocross Championships on Sunday:
MX1 class: 1. Coppins (Motueka) 203 points; 2. Cooper (Mount Maunganui) 202; 3. Phillips (Rotorua) 180.
MX2 class: 1. Daniel McCoy (Australia) 183 points; 2. Darryll King (Hamilton) 181; 3. Cody Mackie (Australia) 158.
125cc class: 1. Ethan Martens (Waitakere) 211 points; 2. Scott Barr-Smith (Tauranga) 189; 3. Cameron Negus (Rotorua) 157.
Under-21 class: 1. Martens 215 points; 2. Barr-Smith 195; 3. Tom Managh (Wanganui) 157.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Full story and more photos in your next issue of KIWI RIDER magazine.