The Farmer Autovillage and Yamaha-sponsored New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships at Tect Park, about halfway between Tauranga and Rotorua, hosted the event over three days of the long Waitangi weekend, turning on an incredible spectacle, the undulating course providing an exciting challenge for all concerned.
But it was the riders – all aged between eight and 16 years – who really turned it on.
Two former world champions, New Plymouth’s Shayne King and Tauranga’s Ben Townley, passed on the baton to their sons, these young men showing they too could one day be world calibre riders.
With several other senior stars of the recent past – men such as Craig Brown, Damien King, Duncan Hart, John Penny, Rhys Carter and Nigel Smith, to name a few – also on hand to mentor some of the competitors, this year’s junior championships surely worked well as a nursery ground for New Zealand’s future sporting heroes.
Best-performed rider in the premier 14-16 years’ 250cc category at the weekend was Pukekawa’s Tyler Brown.
The 15-year-old won three of his five races over the three days, but still it came down to the final race of the weekend before he could eventually clinch it.
Brown crashed soon after the start of Sunday’s final 250cc race and was passed by one of his main title rivals, Invercargill’s Jack Symon, the South Islander moving up from sixth at the start to claim third spot and Brown therefore had to dig deep just to hold on to his fourth position in that decisive race.
Ahead of them, Oparau’s Hunter Scott was in front, holding off a stern challenge from Hamilton’s Nick Westgate. So tight was the points situation that, if Westgate could have managed to pass Scott, it would have been Westgate accepting the 250cc crown instead of Brown, and if Brown had slipped any further than fourth, that also would have handed the title to Westgate.
But Scott had taken the lead and he wasn’t going to give it back.
It was a nail-biter, but Westgate eventually settled for second, Symon was third and Brown finished fourth in that finale, rubber stamping Brown as the class champion for 2021, the year 11 student at Onewhero Area School winning the title by a scant three points from Westgate.
There were similarly tight battles throughout the top five positions in all the other classes too, although Tauranga’s Aidan Roberts seemed well in control in winning the 12-14 years’ 125cc class title, Waitoki’s Cole Davies seemed untroubled in winning the 12-13 years’ 85cc/150cc class, Tauranga’s Levi Townley ruled the 8-11 years’ Pro 65cc class and Taupo’s Mikayla Griffiths was dominant in the 8-11 years’ 85cc/150cc women’s class.
Other class winners were Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon (15-16 years’ 125cc class); Whanganui’s Troy Bullock (14-16 years’ 85cc/150cc class); Taupo’s Declan Connors (8-11 years’ 85cc/150cc class); Palmerston North’s Hannah Powell (12-16 years’ 125cc/250cc women’s class) and Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne (12-16 years’ 85cc/125cc women’s class).
“It was a fantastic weekend. The host club here couldn’t have hoped for better weather or better crowd numbers,” said Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us to postpone the championships for a year, it was great to see the support that the club got from the riders this year.
“The Tauranga Motorcycle Club really stepped this up to another level. There will be some work required by other clubs to match this new benchmark.
“It has been a typical junior champs, which has thrown up riders that were perhaps not previously been in the mix for consideration.
“These riders have really shone through,” said Broad.
The Tauranga Motorcycle Club was also honoured with the Bryan Davidson Memorial trophy as the highest points-scoring club represented at the event and the commissioner’s award for sportsmanship was presented to Te Puke’s Flynn Watts.
The New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships were supported by Farmer Autovillage, Yamaha-Motor NZ, Sky Sport Next, Supermac Group, Seger, Pollock Cranes, Mimico, The Lion Foundation, Hewletts Road Machinery Ltd, Farmlands Co-operative, Tectpark, First Sovereign, NZCT and Alpinestars.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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