The Bridgestone Kawasaki Racing Team rider from Papamoa won the premier MX1 class at the season-opening MX Fest extravaganza in Taupo two weeks ago, a feat that belies his “senior citizen” status in the sport as he beat all the rising young stars half his age.
The 39-year-old Cooper then went on to race at the New Zealand Veterans’ and Women’s Motocross Championships near Cambridge a week later. It was no surprise that he comfortably won the veteran men’s 35-39 years’ class.
With barely time to wash and refuel his distinctive green Kawasaki KX450F – and now with a 250cc version of the bike also locked in the back of his trailer – Cooper showed up at the first of two rounds for this year’s Waikato Motocross Championships near Huntly on Saturday, this time prepared and willing to race in two separate bike categories.
Cooper so dominated all three MX1 (450cc) class races at Huntly on Saturday that it seemed he was already back in the pits and taking a drink while the other riders were still finishing.
Te Puke’s Tyler Steiner (Honda) ended the day runner-up in the MX1 class, coming out ahead of Cooper’s Kawasaki team-mate Micah McGoldrick in the battle for the remaining podium positions at the Kawasaki New Zealand-sponsored event.
Cooper then took his stock standard, straight-out-of-the-crate Kawasaki KX250F to win the day’s first of three MX2 (250cc) class races, catching and passing fast-starting 18-year-old Kiwi international Brodie Connolly and then pulling away to take a commanding victory.
Things turned a little sour for Cooper after that when he became caught in traffic at the start on the second MX2 race. By the time he’d clawed his way up from seventh position and into second, Yamaha rider Connolly had opened up a seven-second lead and was fast disappearing over the horizon.
Cooper knuckled down to his work and started to reel in Connolly, but, when the chequered flag came out, Cooper was still five seconds adrift and forced to accept a rare defeat.
Connolly also won the day’s third and final MX2 race and claimed the class honours, with “old man” Cooper forced to settle for overall runner-up, with fellow Bridgestone Kawasaki Racing Team rider Jared Hannon, from Cambridge, completing the MX2 podium.
So, you could say it has been a busy three weeks for Cooper, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down, with a large number of major events still to come on his calendar.
“I feel pretty good actually,” he said, also not ruling out the possibility of also racing both the MX1 and MX2 classes at the 2023 nationals in February and March.
“I haven’t been getting the starts with the 250 and I’m still trying to work out a few things. I wanted to do two classes here (at Huntly) just as a test for my fitness.
“The 250 was pretty good for standard suspension and engine, etc. I’m loving these bikes.
“Coming up I’ve got the Auckland Motocross Championships (on November 19-20), then the second round of the Waikato Champs (on December 3-4), then the Whakatane Summercross (in late December), followed by the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville (in late January) and then the four-round nationals after that.”
Other class winners on Saturday were New Plymouth’s Rian King (KTM, MX125); Otorohanga’s Zara Gray (Kawasaki, senior women); Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne (GasGas, junior women); Levin’s Phoenix Van Dusschoten (Honda, junior 14-16 years’ 250cc); New Plymouth’s Rian King (KTM, junior 15-16 years’ 125); Karaka’s Hayden Draper (Husqvarna, junior 12-14 years 125); Draper (Husqvarna, junior 13-16 years’ 85cc); New Plymouth’s Travis Taylor (Husqvarna, junior 11-12 years’ 85cc); Taupo’s Connor Feather (KTM, junior 8-10 years’ 85cc); Feather (Pro 65cc); Titirangi’s Ryan Buxeda (KTM, veterans’ 35-44 years); Waiuku’s Wayne Cheetham (KTM, veterans’ over-45 years); Waitara’s Kurtis Gooch (Yamaha, MX3).
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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