With the Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville now less than a week away, Mount Maunganui racer Cooper knows now is the time for him to bring out his A game and he surely did that for Sunday’s senior race day at the Barrett Road Motorcycle Park, on the outskirts of New Plymouth.
With heavy rain falling on the freshly-redesigned Taranaki track, racing had initially looked an extremely daunting prospect, but, after a lengthy delay, the sun arrived, the circuit had dried out and had been perfectly re-groomed by the host Taranaki Motorcycle Club crew, allowing for some of the best race action ever seen on this spectacular steep and flowing moonscape.
Cooper took his Honda CRF450 to dominate the premier MX1 class at the King of the Mountain (KOTM) on Sunday, finishing 2-1-1 in his three races, leading Hamilton’s Josiah Natzke (Kawasaki) and Te Puke’s Tyler Steiner (Honda) to the top of the podium.
Meanwhile, Steiner went on to win the stand-alone King of the Mountain race late in the day, making it double celebration time for the red bike crew.
Unfortunately only four riders chose to line up for this race, slightly devalued by the notable absence of key riders such as Cooper and Natzke, who had by then decided it was already too late in the day, with long journeys to home still ahead of them.
The KOTM event was a perfect warm-up for the championship season ahead and all the riders left Taranaki satisfied with their work-outs.
This coming weekend’s 60th annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville has double significance this season because it also represents the opening round of four in the senior New Zealand Motocross Championships.
Cooper is not only this season hunting down his fourth Woodville GP crown – he won there in 2007, 2014 and 2019 – but he is also chasing his eighth national MX1 title and so the KOTM event was the ideal time for him to finally decide on bike settings while, at the same time, it was a great occasion for him to send a stern warning to his rivals.
“I’m really feeling comfortable on this bike now,” said Cooper afterwards.
“The suspension is awesome and, with minor changes to suit me, I’m loving this Honda.
“It’s awesome to come here are ride this track was fantastic. The rain last night and this morning actually helped things. The club here has done a great job … doing just the sort of work on the track that I’ve been asking clubs to do for a long time. They were doing all the grooming here without me even having to ask for it.
“The dirt here (in Taranaki) is always slippery, but today was perfect. Maybe it’s just that the bike was so good,” he laughed.
“It all clicked into place for me in the second race today and, after that, I was totally happy with my set-up. This is only my practice bike. This bike’s done about 30 hours already. So now we’ll do the same thing with my No.1 bike and I’m ready to go.
“I’m 37 years old now too, but I feel as fast as ever.”
Otago’s two-time and current women’s motocross world champion Courtney Duncan (Kawasaki) was a definite draw-card to Sunday’s racing but, if the adage “to finish first; first you must finish” could not have been truer in her case.
She lapped the entire field when she easily won the day’s opening women’s class race and holeshot race two as well, although she was not in the lead at the end of lap one. Duncan soon made her way through (the entire field) to regain her lead and held that spot until close to the end when she had a scary crash off a large jump. She limped back to the pits in last place and took no further part in the day’s action.
It is understood that her injury is minor and should not adversely affect her continued build-up for a return to Europe in the coming weeks.
Class winners at the weekend’s KOTM event were:
Seniors (Sunday): Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (MX1); Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (MX2); Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon (MX125); Hamilton’s Amie Roberts (women); New Plymouth’s Renny Johnston (veterans’ 35-44 years); New Plymouth’s Mitch Rowe (veterans’ over-45 years); Clark’s Beach’s Angus Evans (MX3).
Juniors (Saturday): Rotorua’s Hadley Dodunski (14-16 years’, 250cc); Dixon (15-16 years’ 125cc); Leeston’s Kobe Thoms (12-14 years’ 125cc); Hamilton’s Jack Coleman (13-16 years’ 85cc); Invercargill’s Seth Morrow (11-12 years’ 85cc); New Plymouth’s Ryder Murray (8-10 years’ 85cc); Auckland’s Jack Ellingham (8-11 years’ 65cc); Haumoana’s Hale Cox (junior women).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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