It’s official, the Bay of Plenty is home to the No.1 motocross riders in New Zealand.
Four of the top five motorcycle clubs at this year’s “Battle of the Clubs” motocross held in Taupo on Saturday were from the Bay of Plenty region, with the Rotorua Motorcycle Club taking the No.1 spot, closely followed by the Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club and the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club, with two separate Taupo Motorcycle Club teams filling out the top five.
It was a talented squad of six Rotorua riders who combined to bring home the coveted “Battle of the Clubs” trophy on Saturday, the event at Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park a novel fundraiser to help send the three-rider New Zealand team to the annual Motocross of Nations teams championship in France this September.
Using a similar format to that employed at the international Motocross of Nations – considered the “Olympic Games of Motocross” – Saturday’s Battle of the Clubs featured six-rider teams from more than 20 New Zealand motorcycle clubs, each team comprising three junior riders and three senior riders and on bikes ranging in size from 85cc two-strokes up to the hefty 450cc four-stroke open class machines.
Managed by club stalwart Todd Mountfort and sponsored by Rotorua bike shop owner and former national motocross champion Bryan Patterson, Rotorua’s winning riders were Michael Phillips (MX1), Scott Canham (MX2), Mark Patterson (Veteran), Haki Waller (junior 250cc four-stroke)(pictured above), Cameron Vaughan (junior 125cc two-stroke) and Nathan Sharland (junior 85cc).
Riders scored one point for a win, two points for second, and so forth, with the lowest overall score taking the victory.
When the combined scores from the day’s six mixed capacity races were added up – teams discarding their one worst senior result and their one worst junior result – the points came out with Rotorua on top with 99 points, followed by the Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club (103 points), the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club (104 points), and then the two separate Taupo Motorcycle Club teams, Taupo Team A on 106 points and Taupo Team B on 136 points.
Phillips finished 1-6 in his two races, Canham finished 14-10, Patterson finished 32-32, Waller finished 1-11, Vaughan finished 1-3 and Sharland placed 24-20.
Vaughan was Rotorua’s surprise package, showing even more pace than he’d exhibited just a month earlier when he’d raced his way to the No.3 spot at the junior motocross nationals in Tokoroa.
“I got the holeshot in my first race and just checked out,” said the 15-year-old year 10 pupil from John Paul College.
“I knew I had a chance to win today and it was just a matter of getting a good start. I was surprised at how far everyone was behind me at the finish. In the next race I had another good start but was only in about fifth spot and then I got passed by a group of 250cc riders.
“I just put my head down, settled in and went for it. I passed national junior champion Hamish Harwood (Nelson Motorcycle Club, junior 250cc four-stroke) about three laps from the finish and that felt pretty good.”
Mountfort was thrilled with his team’s result.
“This is simply huge for us,” he said. “All of our riders are domiciled in Rotorua. We didn’t throw a chequebook at it to draft in other riders. We finished seventh at this event last year but now we’re No.1,” he beamed.
The Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club had been among the favourites, particularly after the last-minute call-up to the team of Kiwi international Cody Cooper.
MX1 rider Cooper won his first race but then the Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club saw their chances for the win disappear when the Mount Maunganui man was unable to start his second race because of a mechanical issue.
Last year’s inaugural Battle of the Clubs champion team, the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club, suffered similar misfortune when their MX1 rider, Blake Gillard, failed to finish his final race. He’d finished a respectable eighth in his first outing.
Host Taupo Motorcycle Club president Geoff Hall said the event was a huge success.
“We have now raised about $10,000 towards getting the New Zealand Motocross of Nations team to France. Rider entries, plus the proceeds of a raffle and gate takings on the day all added up.”
In a breakdown of the grades, the Taupo Motorcycle Club won the senior competition and Pukekohe won the juniors, but, Rotorua took the main honours for 2011.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Full story and more photos in your next issue of KIWI RIDER magazine.
LEADING OVERALL STANDINGS:
Rotorua 99 points;
Bay of Plenty 103;
Pukekohe Gold 104;
Taupo A 106;
Taupo B 136;
Kapi Mana 175;
Hawke’s Bay 186;
Pukekohe Green 190;
FMX Hawke’s Bay 207;