It’s all going to plan for Australian Honda ace Todd Waters.
His build-up work in preparation for his national motocross championship series at home began with him winning the day at New Zealand’s biggest stand-alone motocross event, the 56th annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville on Sunday.
The 26-year-old visitor from the Gold Coast took his Berry Sweet Honda CRF450 to clinch the MX1 class crown at Woodville on Sunday, the trophy-clinching result coming in the last MX1 race of the day, following a thrilling handlebar-to-handlebar battle with the reigning Australian motocross champion, fellow Australian visitor Dean Ferris.
Ferris had been leading that deciding final race at Woodville, but, when the two frontrunners closed in on a group of lappers, Ferris baulked and Waters pounced, Waters snatching away the lead which he held until the end.
“I came to New Zealand really just to conduct bike testing before our nationals, although my aim is always to win races,” said Waters afterwards.
Waters finished with a 3-2-1 score-card in the MX1 class on Sunday, edging out Ferris (who scored 4-1-2 results) by two points, with New Zealand MX1 champion Cody Cooper, from Mount Maunganui, taking the third podium spot.
Now just a part-time racer, Tauranga’s Ben Townley shocked everyone, probably himself included, by winning the first MX1 race at Woodville. He placed fourth in race two and he pulled out of race three and that DNF dropped him down to seventh overall for the day.
Working as brand ambassador for Suzuki New Zealand, former world MX2 champion Townley does not race as frequently as he once did and so his fitness was lacking, but he certainly showed he still has the skills and speed to win.
Waters was naturally thrilled with his MX1 class overall win.
“Everything is fresh and new with the bike at the moment and I am perhaps a little bit rusty, but I guess I showed some good speed here today,” said Waters.
“I’ll be doing some riding with Cody Cooper this week as we get ready for round one of the New Zealand Motocross Championships in Timaru (on Sunday).
“My main focus is on winning the Australian Motocross Championships and so anything I can do in the Kiwi nationals will be a bonus for me.”
Cooper (Honda Racing Team CRF450) knows he will again have a difficult job to defend his national MX1 title this season, especially against riders such as Waters and Ferris, and other visiting Australians such as fellow Honda rider Jed Beaton, but he is no stranger to facing such challenges.
The 33-year-old Cooper has four consecutive New Zealand MX1 titles to his credit and each of those title wins – in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 – were all achieved against tough international-calibre opposition.
Meanwhile, in the junior racing at Woodville on Saturday, Cambridge teenager Trent Collins (Honda Racing Team CRF250) added another trophy to his bulging cabinet when he won the Junior 125/250 Champion of Champions feature race that signed off the day’s junior action.
The New Zealand junior motocross champion had earlier finished runner-up to Australian visitor Cody Dyce in the junior 14-16 years’ 250cc class racing.
Collins then lined up again in the senior MX2 (250cc) ranks on Sunday, finishing the day a respectable eighth overall in the 40-rider field.
It was a similar story with Serco Yamaha’s Dyce, who also raced again on Sunday, also in the MX2 class, and he managed to finish an outstanding fifth overall.
© Words and photos by Andy & Bridget McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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