The fourth and final round of the MotoSR-sponsored New Zealand Grand National Cross-country Championship (NZ GNCC) series was held at the picturesque Maddix Park, overlooking Tauranga, at the weekend.
The mini grade riders again had their own track that weaved through some fresh single track and also included some of the motocross track this year.
Whakatane’s Quinn Hawkes (Husqvarna) led the series with a couple of wins but Taikorea’s Colton Whibley (Yamaha) had claimed a win at round two at Taikorea Motocross Park and was hungry for more.
Off the start disaster struck for Hawkes, going down on the first turn. The pack of riders got away and were well into the bush before he was able to remount and give chase.
His main rival, Whibley, took the holeshot and charged off, determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Whibley had his bike singing around the motocross section and rode smoothly and consistently through the bush tracks where some roots were catching a few out.
Never far behind was Hamilton’s Cayden Goodright (Husqvarna). He kept the pressure on and was ready to pounce should Whibley make a mistake.
But that mistake never came and, as the 90-minute race wore on, Whibley was able to ride safely to the win.
Hawkes clawed his way back up to third. For the season championship it was close, so close, but young Whibley is the mini class GNCC champion for 2022.
2022 MotoSR GNCC NZ Championship Mini Overall
1st Colton Whibley
2nd Quinn Hawkes
3rd Cayden Goodright
The junior race set off at 9.30am and headed for the hills. This year with conditions significantly drier than last, some exciting fresh trails and previously unused sections were added to test the young up and coming stars of tomorrow.
After the first lap Auckland’s Leo Copping (KTM, pictured above) checked in at scoring in the lead with Eketahuna’s Sheldon Brown (KTM) and Kawasaki rider Luke McBeth, from Havelock North, not far behind.
The motocross section around the pits would give spectators a great platform to view some racing but a lot of the real action was going on out in the tracks that weave through the bush.
The racing was close and intense, with Brown making his move on the second lap and taking the lead and extending that out over the next lap to around 30 seconds.
Copping made a push over the last lap and reduced that gap to around 19 seconds at the finish.
We’re sure he would have liked to take the win but second place on the day was enough for Copping to take the junior crown. In the Junior 85cc class, consistency paid off with Hastings rider Eli McBeth (Kawasaki) taking out the series overall.
2022 MotoSR GNCC NZ Championship Junior Overall
1st Leo Copping
2nd Sheldon Brown
3rd Luke McBeth
The senior race was in for a shake up with a couple of Kiwi riders fresh from dipping their toes into some international competition in Europe and the United States.
Wairoa’s Tommy Watts (Yamaha) hadn’t been able to defend his GNCC crown because he was away sampling the American GNCC series.
With Watts back on deck, many were picking him to pick up where he left off.
Also Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (Yamaha) was lining up again after competing in the International Six Days Enduro in France recently.
Tauranga’s Damon Nield (KTM) had a comfortable points lead in the 2022 NZ GNCC series and a cool head would allow him to take it out, unless he got caught up in the heat of the moment and went into battle, trying to win at all costs.
Watts and Yeoman got bad starts and, when the riders emerged from the bush to the motocross track, a veteran of the NZ GNCC series, held the lead.
Tauranga’s Reece Burgess (Husqvarna) led the way. Nield was a close second and Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman (KTM) held third.
Watts was pushing hard and making some passes. Over the following couple of laps, he worked his way to the front and showed his class, putting in lap times often a minute and a half faster than his rivals.
Wightman moved into second and a position he would settle in with some very consistent lap times.
Nield had one eye on the prize and rode a conservative pace to place third and land his first NZ GNCC title.
Auckland’s Charlotte Russ (Yamaha), fourth in the intermediate grade on Saturday, again dominated the women’s grade, showing us why she runs the No.1 on her bike and repeated her 2021 title win.
The XC3 class is for the top riders on small capacity two strokes and New Plymouth’s Blake Lusk put his Yamaha on the top step for the season.
The XC2 is the class that Nield slots into on his 250 and it’s no surprise he took out the class win here.
The XC1 class is for the big boys and Cody Taylor and his Kawasaki emerged as top dog in this class for 2022.
Cambridge’s Anthony Paterson proved size doesn’t matter and rode his Yamaha 250FX to win the 4-stroke class.
Thames rider Matthew Foster took his exotic TM 300 to the win in the 2-stroke class.
Matamata’s Dale Saunders (Yamaha) is a long-time supporter of the GNCC Series and claiming the veterans’ 40+ class win for the series was a great reward.
Auckland’s John Harre (Husqvarna) came on strong in the second half of the season and won the veterans’ 50+ class.
2022 MotoSR GNCC NZ Championship Senior Overall
1st Damon Nield
2nd Ryan Hayward
3rd Luke Taylor
2022 MotoSR GNCC NZ Championship Women Overall
1st Charlotte Russ
2nd Michelle Ledbury
3rd Jordyn Watt
Series organiser Paul Whibley offered a huge thanks to MotoSR for the continued support of the series and to Metzeler tyres for the giveaways.
“Also, I want to say thanks to all those that helped with the events. And a big thanks and congratulations to all the riders that lined up and took part in the series. A great mix of tracks and some awesome racing. Your smiles say it all,” said Whibley.
“We look forward to continuing to build on the series in 2023. MotoSR has already signed on to continue as the title sponsor. Over the start of 2023, we will work on setting the schedule and will post dates up as soon as we can.”
2022 NZ GNCC CALENDAR:
Rnd 1: August 27, Ohakuri, Tokoroa (in conjunction with the Forestland XC Series);
Rnd 2: September 17, Taikorea MX Park, Manawatu;
Rnd 3: October 15, Burt’s Farm Trail Park, west of Matata;
Rnd 4: November 19, Maddix Park, at Ohauiti, near Tauranga.
© Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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