The year’s event, on the first day of October, will be the 71st edition of the great race.
It is set this time for the rolling grassland of Matterley Basin, near Winchester, in south-west England, and New Zealand again has a team this year that is capable of impressing – Mount Maunganui pair Cody Cooper and Rhys Carter and Hamilton’s Josiah Natzke.
They have as good a chance as anyone of ending the win streak of the team from France. The three-rider team from France won the Motocross of Nations (MXoN) in Latvia in 2014, in France in 2015 and then again in Italy last season.
“It has taken a lot of discussion and we are happy with the team that we have selected,” said Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Howard Lilly.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the team performs this year and I believe they are capable of achieving a finish among the top 10 countries,” said Lilly.
With support from the entire New Zealand motorcycling community and Motorcycling New Zealand, the squad will again be managed by Bevan Weal, the 48-year-old the owner of a Taupo sign and graphics company.
“We have had fantastic support again from all of New Zealand’s motorcycle clubs, from Greymouth to Invercargill, to Whangarei, Whakatane and New Plymouth. Right across the country the support has been enormous.
“I know these riders will do New Zealand proud. Each of them have already competed previously on the world stage, so they have the experience they need to do the job.
“The Motocross of Nations is the pinnacle event for everyone attending, including myself as team manager. This is an individual sport that is turned into a team sport and there’s nothing like it.”
There have been some great MXoN races over the years, such as in 2006 when 10-time world champion Stefan Everts and Italy’s Antonio Cairoli dominated the racing at this same Matterley Basin circuit, although Team USA did enough that day to win the main trophy anyway, finishing top of the podium with Team Belgium runners-up and the Team New Zealand squad in third.
New Zealand has been on the MXoN podium on three memorable occasions in recent times – at Foxhills, in England, in 1998 (with Darryll King, Shayne King, Josh Coppins), at Namur, in Belgium, in 2001 (Daryl Hurley, Josh Coppins, Shayne King) and at Matterley Basin, in England, in 2006 (Josh Coppins, Cody Cooper, Ben Townley).
With Kiwi riders taking their careers overseas in increasing numbers, and New Zealanders lining up regularly at Grand Prix world championship events, or even at major domestic races in countries such as Australia, England, Belgium or the United States, the likelihood of New Zealand winning the Motocross des Nations has gone from far-fetched dream to achievable reality.
Natzke will race the MX2 (250cc) class and he is a two-time former national 125cc champion who currently races in the European 250cc Motocross Championships, featuring among the top five title contenders. Natzke also finished runner-up in the European 125cc Motocross Championships in 2015.
The Kiwi trio that raced at the MXoN in Italy last year comprised Cooper, Natzke and Takaka’s Hamish Harwood and they finished 17th overall among the more than 30 countries entered.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here