The motocross season ahead is going to be a long and very hot one, particularly if the 40th annual two-day Whakatane Summercross offers us any clues at all.
It will be especially heated if Atiamuri’s Dion Picard (pictured above) decides to step up and contest the under-21 class at the upcoming senior nationals.
Returning Kiwi international Ben Townley (Carlton Dry Honda), of Taupo, won the day on Tuesday in the MX1 class but he could not afford to let up with national MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Moto City Suzuki), of Mount Maunganui, and former GP star Josh Coppins (MXDK Rockstar Yamaha) hounding him all the way.
Moto City Suzuki star Cooper declared himself satisfied with his day’s work in finishing overall runner-up to Townley and warned that there was plenty more to come with his main focus being his national title defence, set to kick off in South Canterbury on February 12.
“I’m a little bit fatigued after five races today but I know what I have to work on ahead of the nationals,” said the 28-year-old Cooper.
“My speed feels good and I think the nationals are going to be close. Ben was riding well and he deserved the win today.
“We made a mistake in fitting a new tyre to the bike ahead of the last moto and, with oil in the tyre surface, it spun on the concrete start pad ad I had a terrible start,” he explained. “We usually use older tyres on the concrete. At least the nationals tracks are all dirt starts.”
Cooper’s Moto City Suzuki team-mate and Mount Maunganui house-mate Rhys Carter (Suzuki RM-Z250) also settled for runner-up spot in his MX2 (250cc) class – behind Taupo’s Cam Dillon (Huka Honda) – and he, too, was very satisfied with his day’s work.
“It got better for me as the day wore on. I prefer the tracks to be rough and technical. It was too smooth and fast at the start of the day,” said the 22-year-old.
“My fitness is very good and I can’t wait for the start of the nationals.”
Carter gave a glimpse of what his rivals can expect in the coming weeks as he charged through almost the entire field in the day’s final 250cc race, surging from dead last to secure fourth place at the end of the 15-minute gut-buster.
Also impressive in this class were Hamilton’s national MX2 champion Darryll King (MXDK Rockstar Yamaha) and Tauranga’s national No.5 Peter Broxholme (Botany Honda).
Mangakino’s Kayne Lamont (BikesportNZ.com Suzuki RM-Z250) also hinted at greatness to come. He qualified second fastest in the MX2 class and, his day highlighted by a second-placing in one race, he eventually settled for a solid fourth overall.
In the junior ranks on Wednesday there was no looking past Atiamuri’s Picard (Darryl August Motorcycles Suzuki RM-Z250 and RM125).
The 16-year-old from Atiamuri raced nine races, in three separate classes, over the two days and won all but one of them.
“It was an almost perfect weekend for me,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for much better than that.”
Picard won the Youth MX class during day one’s senior programme on Tuesday, then backed up to win both the junior 12-17 years’ 250cc class and the junior 16-17 years’ 125cc class the following day.
Also impressive during the junior racing on day two were Rangiora’s Micah McGoldrick (KTM), Matamata’s Jacob Kneebone (Yamaha), Tauranga’s Logan Blackburn (Yamaha) and Auckland’s Sean O’Connor (KTM).
Pahiatua’s Scott Sowry (Suzuki) and Taupo’s Cohen Chase (KTM) showed glimpses of brilliance but, for each of them, their day was blighted by bad luck in one of their three races.
Rotorua’s Cameron Vaughan (Yamaha) dominated the junior 12-15 years’ 125cc class, while Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh (KTM) won the 14-16 years’ 85cc class, Gisborne’s Travis Brown (Yamaha) won the 12-13 years’ 85cc class and Opotiki’s Dylan Breingan (Yamaha) topped the 8-11 years’ 85cc class.
Top performers in the women’s grade were Taupo’s Emma Davis (Honda), Tauranga’s Jesse Waterhouse (Yamaha), and Atiamuri’s Nikita Knight (KTM).
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com