Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper followed through on all the promise he’s been showing this season, clinching the national MX1 motocross crown on Sunday.
Cooper and his Team Power Balance Suzuki RM-Z450 were unstoppable at the fourth and final round of the New Zealand Motocross Championships near New Plymouth on Sunday, the 27-year-old Bay of Plenty man scoring a hat-trick of wins on the sticky, damp Barrett Road circuit.
By winning the first MX1 race of the day, Cooper leapfrogged series leader Josh Coppins (MXDK Rockstar Yamaha YZ450F) in the standings, the Suzuki man in front for the first time this season, although it was something that he had been threatening to do throughout the campaign.
Indeed, Cooper could have been leading the championship well before the final round if a serious case of “arm pump” (crippling tension in the forearms) had not ruined his day at the opening round in Timaru in February.
Cooper recovered from that early setback to win each of the three rounds that followed, chomping into the points advantage enjoyed by former GP star Coppins, the 2010 world MX1 No.12.
Cooper had come up just two points short of winning the MX1 crown last season, but this time he was not to be denied.
In the end, an ankle injury sustained by Coppins in the day’s first MX1 race was eventually serious enough for him to opt out of racing the final MX1 race of the day, confirming Cooper as the champion.
Coppins eventually settled for runner-up, with Rotorua’s Michael Phillips (Honda Hamilton CRF450) taking third spot overall, 11 points behind Coppins. Defending champion Justin McDonald (Timaru Honda CRF450) finished the series in fourth spot, 20 points behind Phillips after he struggled throughout the series to shrug off a virus.
McDonald finished runner-up to Cooper on Sunday, but it was a case of too little, too late for the Honda man with too many points dropped at the earlier rounds.
“I have not really been able to train properly since the national supercross series (which wound up near Timaru in January),” said McDonald. “The doctor said I should not really be doing anything. I certainly lacked my usual punch this season.”
Phillips was satisfied with his efforts this season.
“I’m pretty happy with that,” said Phillips afterwards. “This was my debut season on the 450cc bike and third is pretty good, especially when you consider the international class of the men who finished ahead of me.”
But the championships belonged to Cooper.
“It was a good series for me this year,” admitted Cooper afterwards.
“After suffering from arm-pump in Timaru, we changed the fork settings and it was awesome after that. I feel confident now as I head back across the Tasman to continue my Australian championship campaign.”
Cooper is currently second in the MX1 class Australia after a muddy opening round in Victoria a fortnight ago.
“I love the Suzuki. I just think it’s a bike that suits my style. My best campaign in the United States was on a Suzuki too.”
Meanwhile, Power Balance MotoGB Suzuki team boss Andrew Hardisty had plenty of reason to smile after his other riders, Cooper’s team-mates, also shone out at the weekend.
“Yes, you could say we finished 1-2-3 this year … Cody won the MX1 title, Daniel McCoy (Australia) finished runner-up in the MX2 class and Tom Managh (Wanganui) was placed third overall in the 125cc class. It was a good, solid performance all around.
“It’s a real credit to Daniel that he came over here without knowing what to expect and was such a strong contender for the title. It was his first time racing in this country.
“It was a very encouraging performance from Tom in Taranaki at the weekend, finishing third on the day and moving up to finish the series on the podium. It’s a good platform for him to build on for the future. He showed improvement at every round this year.”
McCoy was philosophical at missing out on taking the MX2 title by just four points, with veteran Kiwi Darryll King (MXDK Rockstar Yamaha YZ250) defying the odds to take the title.
“I just couldn’t get good starts today and couldn’t really put myself in a good position to win,” said McCoy. “I didn’t come here expecting to win a championship, so to be so close to doing just that is very pleasing for me. But it is a little disappointing at the same time. Maybe I can come back next year and win it.”
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com