The waiting is over and the fight for national motocross glory starts now.
It has been two years since Taranaki last hosted a round of the New Zealand Motocross Championships, but this Sunday the popular Barrett Road Motorcycle Park facility, on the outskirts of New Plymouth, will again echo with the sound of top-level dirt bike racing.
All the events perhaps considered preliminary or build-up competitions have now been consigned to the record books, although results from those events offer only a few clues as to which riders might feature at the Dirt Rider Downunder magazine-sponsored event this weekend.
Five-time consecutive and defending national MX1 champion Cody Cooper was impressive in winning the MX1 class at both the Waikato Motocross Championships, the Auckland Motocross Championships in November and then the Honda Summercross at Whakatane just after Christmas; fellow Mount Maunganui man Rhys Carter made winning look effortless when he conquered the MX1 class at Taranaki’s King of the Mountain motocross, at the same Barrett Road venue, less than two weeks ago, and Hamilton MX1 contender Kayne Lamont won the MX Fest at Taupo last October and then clinched the NZGP title at Woodville just last weekend.
Any of these three men, and many others besides, could find themselves top of the MX1 class podium by late Sunday afternoon.
Dual-class riders such as West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood and Taupo’s Brad Groombridge have the potential to light up either or both of the MX1 and MX2 classes, while the smart money for MX2 glory may go on Taupo’s Wyatt Chase or visiting Australian rider Jay Wilson.
Wilson was New Zealand MX2 champion the last time he raced here in 2015, while Harwood was MX2 No.1 in 2016 and again last year.
Hawera’s Daryl Hurley, a multi-time former national motocross champion, knows his way around the Taranaki track better than most and, although an infrequent racer these days, he is entered for Sunday’s event and should never be written off.
Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis is favourite to win the National 125cc class, although it would be foolish to write off the chances of other riders such as visiting Australian Mason Semmens, Wairoa’s Tommy Watts or Dunedin’s Grason Veitch, for example.
The first two rounds of this year’s national series will also incorporate the inaugural Women’s Cup competition, a chance for the women to share some of the spotlight outside of their own two-day nationals, which were staged in Eltham in late November.
Expect to see Opunake’s 2017 national women’s champion Taylar Rampton take charge on her home turf, although she will face strong challenges from Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer, Rotorua’s Mel Patterson and Motueka’s Roma Edwards.
After Sunday’s opener, the series heads to Rotorua for round two on February 25. Round three is set for Hawke’s Bay on March 11, with the fourth and final round in Taupo on March 24.
Rounds three and four of the nationals will incorporate a Youth Cup (under-19 years) competition.
All for rounds of the 2018 New Zealand Motocross Championship will be live streamed on www.mnz.co.nz and the Motorcycling New Zealand Facebook page, thanks to the generosity of sponsors Workshop Graphics, Pirelli, Eni, Image Centre Group, KTM, Husqvarna, Fox Racing, Kawasaki New Zealand, Yamaha New Zealand, Honda New Zealand and Crombie Lockwood.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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