New Zealand has a long and proud association with what is arguably the world’s most important motocross event – the Motocross of Nations – and it started almost by accident.
In those days the event was the forerunner to what would in 1985 become the Motocross des Nations (later renamed Motocross of Nations) – but back in 1984 it was still actually three separate meetings, the Coup des Nations for 125cc bikes, the Trophee Des Nations for 250cc bikes and the Motocross Des Nations or 500cc bikes.
Aucklander Tony Cooksley was one of the Kiwi riders giving New Zealand its Motocross des Nations debut that year and he explains.
“We were all just enduro guys at the time, over there for the International Six Days Enduro in Holland but we did okay to be competitive.”
The Kiwi team at Varberg, in Sweden, was Grant Oliver, Rob Snep and Darryl August. Cooksley was injured.
The team finished a long way down the standings.
In 1987, Cooksley again represented New Zealand at the Motocross des Nations, this time staged at Unadilla in the United States. Cooksley and his team-mates, brothers Darryll and Shayne King, struggled in the sloppy mud and failed to record enough finishes to register but the international experience was building up for the Kiwis.
The following year, 1988, New Zealand (with the King brothers and Darryl Atkins) finished 17th at Villars Ecot, in France (the team is pictured above).
At last New Zealand was on the scoreboard.
The three-man Kiwi Motocross des Nations team for the Dutch track at Valkenwaard that year consisted Cooksley (500), Troy McAsey (250) and Atkins (125). They finished 20th.
The year 1992 presented the Kiwis with their best chance to shine, the event being staged that year at Manjimup, near Perth, in Western Australia. It was just a short hop across the Tasman. The King brothers again teamed with Atkins, this time finishing a creditable 10th.
In Austria in 1993, at a place called Schwanenstadt, the same Kiwi trio finished fifth.
American stars Jeremy McGrath, Mike Kiedrowski and Jeff Emig won it that year, ahead of the Belgians, Marnicq Bervoets, Stefan Everts and Werner De Wit.
New Zealand has been on the MXoN podium on three memorable occasions in recent times – at Foxhills, in England, in 1998 (Darryll King, Shayne King, Josh Coppins), at Namur, in Belgium, in 2001 (Daryl Hurley, Josh Coppins, Shayne King) and at Matterley Basin, in England, in 2006 (Josh Coppins, Cody Cooper, Ben Townley).
It didn’t quite go to plan for Team New Zealand at Lommel, in Belgium, last year, the trio of Josh Coppins, Cody Cooper and Kayne Lamont forced to fight their way out of the B qualification to make the main event and they were then virtually too exhausted to challenge in the big races that followed so soon afterwards, the team settling for 15th overall.
But, with Kiwi riders taking their careers overseas in increasing numbers, and New Zealanders lining up regularly at GP or even AMA events, the likelihood of New Zealand winning the Motocross des Nations has gone from far-fetched dream to achievable reality.
Check back with BikesportNZ.com as we keep you up-to-date from the track throughout the race weekend.
Here are New Zealand’s results since 1994:
1994 (at Roggenburg, Switzerland): New Zealand 16th (Shayne King, Cameron Negus, Darryl Atkins).
1995 (at Sverepec, Slovakia): New Zealand 7th (Darryll King, Shayne King, Josh Coppins).
1996 (at Jerez, Spain): New Zealand 6th (Shayne King, Darryll King, Josh Coppins).
1997 (at Nismes, Belgium): New Zealand 7th (Darryll King, Shayne King, Josh Coppins).
1998 (at Foxhills, Britain): New Zealand 3rd (Darryll King, Shayne King, Josh Coppins).
1999: (at Indiatuba, Brazil): New Zealand did not show.
2000: (at Saint Jean d’Angely, France): New Zealand 19th (Darryll King, Josh Coppins, Shayne King).
2001: (at Namur, Belgium): New Zealand 3rd (Daryl Hurley, Josh Coppins, Shayne King).
2003: (Zolder, Belgium): New Zealand 4th (Shayne King, Josh Coppins, Ben Townley).
2004: (Lierop, Netherlands): New Zealand 7th (Townley, Coppins and Hurley).
2005: (Ernee, France): New Zealand 4th (Josh Coppins, Ben Townley, Cody Cooper).
2006: (Matterley Basin, Winchester, England): New Zealand 3rd (Josh Coppins, Cody Cooper, Ben Townley).
2007: (Budds Creek, Maryland, USA): New Zealand failed to qualify when Townley and Hurley both crashed on day one. Third rider was Cooper.
2008: (Donington Park, UK): New Zealand 8th (Coppins, Scott Columb, Cooper).
2009: (Franciacorta, Italy): New Zealand 11th (Coppins, Columb, Michael Phillips).
2010: (Denver, Colorado): New Zealand 9th (Townley, Coppins, Brad Groombridge).
2011: (St Jean d’Angely, France): New Zealand sent a “development team”, which did not qualify for the main event. Finished 10th overall in B final (30th overall for event). (Kieran Scheele, Joel Doeksen, John Phillips).
2012: (Lommel, Belgium): New Zealand 15th (Josh Coppins, Cody Cooper, Kayne Lamont).
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com