New Zealand has to take the more difficult route if they are to succeed at this year’s Motocross of Nations at Matterley Basin, in south-western England.
It was a solid result from the Kiwi trio – Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, Takaka’s Hamish Harwood and Tauranga’s Josiah Natzke – but the depth of talent at this year’s event meant any slip-up was punished severely.
Racing at this 71st annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN) – often referred to as the “Olympic Games of motocross” – the Kiwi heroes must now take an extra step after they just missed out on direct qualification to the main event on Sunday with only the top 19 teams granted a starting position.
New Zealand qualified 20th of the 38 teams present this year and therefore will have to race in the Last Chance Qualifier, the “B Final” first thing Sunday morning.
They need to win that race to join the main bunch, battling for the Chamberlain Trophy in three separate races later in the day.
Cooper (Honda) finished 12th in his MXGP qualifier, the race won convincingly by Slovenian Tim Gajser.
Natzke (KTM) was next up on the programme and he battled back bravely after a crash early in his MX2 class qualifying race to finish 23rd, that race won narrowly by American rider Zach Osborne, who stole the lead from Australian Hunter Lawrence on the last lap.
Harwood (KTM) was running in 11th early in his Open Class qualifier and eventually settled for 17th place. The Open Class qualifier was dominated by flying Dutchman Jefferey Herlings.
With Natzke’s 23rd placing the result to be discarded by Team New Zealand, the Kiwis ended the qualification with 29 points, good enough to be ranked 20th overall. The team that finished 19th was Russia, just one point better than the Kiwis.
Check back tomorrow with BikesportNZ.com as we bring you news and photos from the racing.
The top 10 countries in qualification:
France 1; Netherlands 2; Australia 3; USA 4; Great Britain 5; Switzerland 6; Belgium 7; Italy 8; Denmark 9; Estonia 10.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan www.BikesportNZ.com
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