The country’s most talented motocross racers will put aside their traditional rivalries and brand allegiances when they compete at the ninth annual Battle of the Clubs (BOTC) motocross in Taupo on Saturday, on this occasion banding together under provincial or club colours.
It’s all for a good cause, this event a fundraiser to help send a three-rider New Zealand team to contest the annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN) – the Olympic Games of motocross – this year to be held in the United States.
The format being used for racing at the BOTC in Taupo is similar to what the Team New Zealand trio can expect when they line up at the MXoN in Buchanan, Michigan, on October 6-7, where they will race against three-rider teams from all around the world.
The New Zealanders have faced exceptionally strong teams, from nearly 40 countries, every time they’ve raced at the MXoN and yet they have typically also managed to impress.
New Zealand has finished a remarkable third outright at the MXoN on three memorable occasions in the past.
New Zealand’s team stood on the podium in England in 1998 (with Darryll King, Shayne King and Josh Coppins waving the silver fern flag), in Belgium in 2001 (Daryl Hurley, Josh Coppins, Shayne King) and in England again in 2006 (Josh Coppins, Cody Cooper, Ben Townley).
These are incredible achievements for a country with such a relatively small population and for a team that typically has the furthest distance to travel.
Team New Zealand finished a respectable eighth overall when the MXoN was staged in France in 2015, Bay of Plenty riders Ben Townley, Cody Cooper and Kayne Lamont impressive at the event near Rennes.
A different trio – Cooper, Takaka’s Hamish Harwood and Tauranga’s Josiah Natzke – were chosen to go into battle when the MXoN was held in Italy the following year and again they finished among the top 20 nations, 17th overall.
Last year’s effort in England was not a great one for the Kiwi trio – and again it was Cooper (pictured above), Harwood and Natzke – the team on that occasion failing to qualify for the main races in the treacherously-muddy conditions in the UK. They were eventually credited with finishing 21st overall, a rare occasion that New Zealand has not ended up in the top half of the field.
France won the 2017 event overall, finishing ahead of The Netherlands and Great Britain, the fourth consecutive time they have won the MXoN.
These motocross “powerhouse” countries, along with Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, are favoured again this year, with the Americans also fancied to excel at home.
But New Zealand’s 2018 team, which is yet to be named, first has to get there and it can be very expensive to send a team of three riders, their bikes, mechanics and everything else they need to compete, to the other side of the world.
It was with this in mind that the Taupo Motorcycle Club first came up with the BOTC fundraiser in 2010, a domestic equivalent of the MXoN.
“We want to thank in advance the motorcycling community for their support,” said Taupo’s Bevan Weal, the man who will again manage the Kiwi team at the MXoN.
“The entry fee from each of the clubs at the BOTC, plus donations from the hundreds of spectators expected to flood the circuit, and the proceeds from raffle ticket sales, will be a welcome boost for the team heading to the US,” he said.
“The MXoN team’s naming rights sponsors, along with support sponsors, will be announced at the BOTC event this weekend. Team supporters’ apparel will also be on display and orders will be taken on Saturday for purchase by the public.
“The MXoN is the pinnacle for any rider chosen to compete. To ride for your country is a huge honour and fundraising from this weekend’s event will also help to develop our participation in the future.”
The club-based teams racing at the BOTC on Saturday each comprise six riders – three junior and three senior riders – who will compete on 85cc, 125cc, 250cc and 450cc machines. Mini riders are also catered for, with clubs nominating riders for each of four separate bike classes.
An assortment of former Team New Zealand MXoN riders are expected to line up to race for their respective clubs in Taupo on Saturday, with riders such as Rhys Carter, Kayne Lamont, Brad Groombridge, Kieran Scheele, Daryl Hurley and Darryll King likely to represent their respective clubs.
A couple of likely candidates for the 2018 MXoN team, riders such as Cooper, Harwood, Natzke and Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh, are currently racing in the United States or Europe and so are not expected at Taupo on Saturday.
The Cambridge Motorcycle Club won the BOTC event for a second consecutive time last year, one of the six different clubs to take the title since the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club won the inaugural BOTC in 2010.
The Rotorua MCC won it in 2011 and the host Taupo MCC won it back-to-back in 2012 and 2013. The South Waikato Motorcycle Club won in 2014 and the Tauranga Motorcycle Club won in 2015.
Saturday’s racing at Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motocross Park kicks off at about 10am.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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