It is one of the biggest motocross events of the summer and it’s just around the corner – the big annual Whakatane Summercross.
The popular Summercross event is set for just over a weeks’ time, on the long weekend of December 27-28, with juniors racing Sunday and seniors on Monday, and it will this season celebrate its 44th birthday as one of New Zealand’s premier stand-alone motocross events.
While the list of potential winners is as long as it is sparkling, most pundits will be picking Mount Maunganui’s national MX1 champion Cody Cooper, who grew up in nearby Opotiki, to again put his Honda Racing Team CRF450 on top of the senior open class podium.
Kiwi international Cooper has won the main class at Summercross in the past and, considering the Honda Racing Team star’s recent winning form at the Waikato Motocross Championships and Auckland Motocross Championships, he would have to rate as a firm favourite to win at Whakatane again this season.
As well as attracting the cream of New Zealand motocross racers to the Awakaponga circuit, near Matata, just outside Whakatane, each December, the Honda-sponsored event will again this year provide a springboard for riders heading into the busy part of the season, culminating with the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships in February and March.
Another Kiwi international, Motueka’s Josh Coppins, will be expected to keep Cooper honest, as will Auckland KTM rider Hamish Harwood, Taupo Suzuki rider Brad Groombridge, Tauranga’s Roydon White (KTM) and especially Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter (Suzuki), who surprised by winning this event last season.
Yamaha’s Coppins retired from fulltime racing in 2012, but he has been racing selected events in recent weeks and shown he still has the pace to challenge. He won the MX1 class at the big annual MX Fest event at Taupo in October.
The 32-year-old Cooper has great support from Honda to make winning possible and he’ll be joined by MX2 (250cc) class team-mates Logan Blackburn, of Te Puke, and Aaron Wiltshier, of Tauranga.
The MX2 class is bulging with hot talent. Mangakino’s former national MX2 champion Kayne Lamont (Yamaha) is on the comeback from injury but also well on the path to full recovery, having won the MX2 class at Taupo’s MX Fest event.
Hamilton’s Josiah Natzke, Elsthorpe’s Kieran Scheele, Ohaupo’s Campbell Bailey, Dunedin’s Campbell King, Atiamuri’s Hadleigh Knight, Waitakere’s Ethan Martens, Whakatane’s Mitch Rees and Taupo brothers Cohen and Wyatt Chase also add star power to the entry list, which again reads like a Who’s Who of New Zealand’s motocross elite.
Oamaru’s Joel Meikle and Nelson’s Reece Walker add great depth to the MX2 class, as does Te Puke’s Tyler Steiner and none of these riders can be counted out.
It will also be worth watching for hot local heroes such as Whakatane riders Darren Capill, Sam Corston and Sam McPherson, women’s class competitors Petri Rautenbach, Emma Marshall and Amy Corston and junior riders Sam Middleton, Isaac Olsen, Dom Beal, Wesley Milsom and Brodie Hatcher.
In the mini ranks, focus will go on local riders Aydan Hall, the national and North Island champion in the 4-7 years’ 50cc class, and Boston Scott, who was runner-up to Hall at the nationals.
“This event will be the first big hit-out of the season to feature all the major teams,” said host Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club spokesman Tony Rees.
“It is a great time of year for racing and, fingers crossed, the weather should be fine. The track has had a lot of alterations to improve it, with the crowd-favourite saw-dust section put back in. We like to offer a different track from each previous year,” said Rees.
A mini motocross section has been extended this year and has features that will really test the youngest riders, although the more advanced of the 65cc class riders are also invited to race with the juniors on the main track on Sunday.
The Honda Whakatane Summercross is a two-day affair, with minis and juniors racing on Sunday and the seniors, women and veterans racing on Monday as the Boxing Day weekend spills over into the week.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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