Bay of Plenty rider Ben Townley should feel right at home when he lines up to represent New Zealand at the annual Motocross of Nations in France at the end of this month.
The 30-year-old Tauranga-based former Taupo man came out of retirement recently to become one of the three riders who will fly the silver fern flag at this “Olympic Games of motocross” at Ernee, in the north-west of France, on the weekend of September 26-27.
He has been New Zealand’s most successful individual at the Motocross of Nations (MXoN) as the only Kiwi to celebrate a race win (two of them in fact) and, perhaps significantly, it was exactly 10 years ago, in 2005, that the MXoN was last held at the undulating Ernee circuit and Townley performed there with much credit as well.
Riding a KTM in the open class, Townley won one of the three finals races at Ernee in 2005, claiming victory in the combined open class/MX2 (250cc) class race, and then backing that up by finishing runner-up, behind American legend Ricky Carmichael, in the open class/MXGP leg. Team New Zealand finished fourth overall on that occasion.
The following year, when the MXoN was staged near Winchester, in southern England, Townley was on the smaller 250cc Kawasaki and had his work cut out against the 450cc open class and MXGP bikes, but it was better overall result for the team.
The team’s MX2 (250cc) class rider in England, Townley managed 3-5 finishes in his two outings and, as a team, the Kiwi trio claimed a podium finish, third overall of the 20 qualifying nations.
Townley scored a race win again when the MXoN was staged in Denver, Colorado, in 2010, this time riding a 450cc Honda to win the open class/MX2 clash (main photo, above), finishing that race ahead of Peurto Rico’s Kyle Regal, Germany’s Ken Roczen, Belgium’s Clement Desalle and Germany’s Max Nagl.
Unfortunately, as a team, the Kiwis ended up only eighth overall that year.
But, if Townley can be even half as good this time around as he was in France in 2005 or in the United States in 2010, then New Zealand’s hopes will definitely be bright in less than two weeks’ time.
His team-mates for the 2015 campaign in France are also vastly experienced MXoN riders, Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper and Mangakino’s Kayne Lamont.
Unfortunately, neither Townley, nor Cooper or Lamont were available for the MXoN when it was staged in Latvia last year, where Team New Zealand failed to qualify among the top 20 countries and therefore slipped well down the world rankings.
But with generous support for this year’s campaign coming from Kiwi companies WIL Sport Management and Workshop Graphics, and with massive fundraising undertaken by the Taupo Motorcycle Club with their Battle of the Clubs motocross event adding to the coffers, the Kiwi contingent leaves for France in a confident mood.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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