It was business as usual for defending champions Cody Cooper and Hamish Harwood at the opening round of the New Zealand Motocross Championships near Timaru on Sunday.
Mount Maunganui’s Cooper and Takapuna-based Takaka man Harwood began the defence of their respective crowns with classy wins on the difficult track at Pleasant Point.
Cooper (Honda) finished 1-3-1 in his three MX1 class outings and this was enough to give him a five-point gap over nearest challenger, Australian Dean Ferris (Yamaha), who managed 2-1-4 results. Third best in this premier grade was Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter, who took his Kawasaki to 3-2-3 results.
The defending champion in the MX2 (250cc) class, 21-year-old Harwood was even more convincing, dominating at Timaru with an impressive hat-trick of wins.
Runner-up to KTM rider Harwood in the MX2 class was Christchurch rider Dylan Walsh (Yamaha), who finished the day with a 3-2-2 score-card, while Reporoa’s Hadleigh Knight took his Husqvarna to lodge 2-3-5 results.
Cooper was naturally thrilled to be leading the Mazda-sponsored 2017 series after this first round of four.
“I have had only very limited time to prepare my bike, with after-market parts arriving quite late, but even when everything is not 100 percent, I know that if I can get a good start, I could get the job done,” said the 33-year-old Kiwi international.
Meanwhile, with Nagtea’s Ben Broad not defending his 125cc class title this season, it left the way clear for Taihape’s Hayden Smith and Karaka’s Kurtis Lilly to step forward and dispute honours there, with Smith getting the nod in the end, his 1-2-1 results enough to edge out Lilly’s 2-1-2 score-card.
The ride by Lilly in the day’s opening 125cc race was perhaps the performance of the weekend.
Lilly had qualified fastest, but he crashed at the start of race one and began the race in last position. His charge through the field was phenomenal and he eventually settled for runner-up spot.
That ride was an extreme case of “damage limitation” in his national title bid and sole reason why he now trails Smith by just three points.
The competition now heads to Rotorua for round two in just over two weeks’ time, on February 19.
Round three is set for Palmerston North on March 12, with the fourth and final round at Taupo on March 25.
Leading overall standings after the first round of four in this season’s New Zealand Motocross Championships at Timaru on Sunday:
MX1 class: 1. Cody Cooper (Mount Maunganui, Honda) 70 points; 2. Dean Ferris (Australia, Yamaha) 65; 3. Rhys Carter (Mount Maunganui, Kawasaki) 62; 4. Todd Waters (Australia, Honda) 55; 5= Jesse Dobson (Australia, Honda) and Luke Styke (Australia, KTM) both with 46.
MX2 class: 1. Hamish Harwood (Takapuna, KTM) 75 points (maximum); 2. Dylan Walsh (Christchurch, Yamaha) 64; 3. Hadleigh Knight (Reporoa, Husqvarna) 58; 4. Ethan Martens (Waitakere, Yamaha) 54; 5. Kaleb Barham (Australia, Husqvarna) 50.
125cc class: 1. Hayden Smith (Taihape, KTM) 72; 2. Kurtis Lilly (Karaka, Husqvarna) 69; 3. Hayden Wilkinson (Nelson, Yamaha) 55; 4. Dan Bell (Levin, KTM) 54; 5. Hamish Macdonald (Christchurch, Yamaha) 48.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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