The Australians have the upper hand over the Kiwis in the first of two days of the FIM Oceania Challenge today.
This year’s 57th annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville was accorded FIM Oceania status this year, meaning that points scored by Australian competitors and their Kiwi opposite numbers were counted towards the battle-within-a-battle for FIM Oceania Challenge honours and, after the junior phase of racing today, it is the Australians who have the early advantage.
When Melbourne’s Mason Semmens won the first junior 15-16 years’ 125cc race of the day and his corresponding Kiwi, Dunedin’s Grason Veitch finished fifth, the Australian contingent already had a nine-point advantage in the FIM Oceania battle.
It only got worse for the Kiwis in the next race when, in the first of the 13-16 years’ 85cc class races, Australian Brad West won and his opposite number, Rogotea’s Seth Henson finished third – meaning the Australians’ advantage was boosted by another five points and the Kiwis were quickly 14 points in the red.
After a full day of racing in all the various classes, the Australians had boosted their advantage considerably and finished the day with 410 points, while the Kiwis trailed them with 368 points.
Best-performed of the Australian riders were Semmens (15-16 years’ 125cc class) and Melbourne’s Bailey Malkiewicz, (14-16 years’ 250cc class), both riders finishing with two wins and a runner-up finish in their respective classes.
Dual-class rider Semmens produced a 1-2-1 score-card in the 15-16 years 125cc class, with Oparau’s James Scott finishing the day runner-up, just five points behind him.
“This is my first visit to New Zealand and obviously the first time I’ve seen this track, although I did learn something two days ago when I watched a video of racing at Woodville from last year,” said the 16-year-old Malkiewicz.
“It has me feeling confident for the racing tomorrow.”
This self-assurance was echoed by fellow Australian Tyler Darby, who finished behind the 14-16 years’ junior 250cc class runner-up rider Semmens. Darby finished third in each of the 14-16 years’ junior 250cc class races.
“I’m still getting used to the new bike, so I feel I can only get faster from here,” said the 16-year-old Darby, from Sydney.
New Zealand’s FIM Oceania board member, Ngatea’s Ray Broad, warned against writing off the chances of New Zealand winning the FIM Oceania honours.
“The Australians already have one hand on the FIM Oceania trophy, but only one hand,” he said. “We have some great senior Kiwi riders in action tomorrow. It’s not over yet.”
Top New Zealand riders such as Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, Takapuna’s Hamish Harwood, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge and New Plymouth’s Mitch Rowe will seek to redress the situation during Sunday’s senior racing.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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