The first test has been passed as New Zealand puts plans in place to once again stand on the podium at the Motocross of Nations – widely regarded as the “Olympic Games of motocross”.
A three-rider Kiwi team will again be sent to compete at the annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN), this year set for north-western France on the weekend of September 26-27, and an initial shortlist of half a dozen leading candidates to form that team has just been revealed.
Motorcycling New Zealand has whittled down the flood of applicants to a short-list of six riders and they are (in no particular order) national MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Mount Maunganui), former national MX2 champion Kayne Lamont (Mangakino), national 125cc champion Josiah Natzke (Hamilton), former world and national champion Ben Townley (Tauranga) and talented Rotorua brothers Michael and John Phillips.
The final selection of the three riders who will eventually make the trip will be announced in the coming weeks and MNZ motocross commissioner Howard Lilly, of Auckland, commented that “while three of these six men won’t make the final cut, they remain just an injury away from being drafted in”.
Lilly, motorcycle sports commentator Neil Ritchie, of Palmerston North, and Wellington motorcycle businessman Mike ‘Big Mac’ McLeod were the selection panel. McLeod will also be manager for New Zealand’s team in France.
Cooper, Lamont, Townley and both the Phillips brothers have previously raced for New Zealand at the MXoN. Natzke has yet to represent his country at the event but he is currently in Europe and racing with great success in the European 125 Motocross Championships.
“We are only three months away from the event now and we still have to hone and sharpen a few things,” said Lilly.
New Zealand has a proud tradition of featuring prominently at the MXoN.
New Zealand’s team stood on the podium in England in 1998, in Belgium in 2001 and in England again in 2006 and, while these were incredible achievements for such a small nation, it has almost become mission impossible for Team New Zealand in recent times.
Team New Zealand failed to qualify among the top 20 countries at the MXoN when it was staged in Latvia last September and that means no travel assistance funds are being offered by the world’s governing body for the Kiwis to attend this year’s event in France.
The Taupo Motorcycle Club’s will again stage its popular Battle of the Clubs motocross event in just over two week’s time (on June 27) and this annual fundraiser initiative will therefore take on added significance.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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