All roads again lead to Taupo this weekend, surely making this popular tourist town the Kiwi Mecca for top-level motorcycle racing in this country.
Just two weeks after the holiday hotspot hosted the sixth and final round of the 2022-23 New Zealand Superbike Championships, on the tarmac of the nearby Taupo International Motocross Park, the pumice and sand-based Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park facility, next to the motorway at the northern fringes of Taupo, will this weekend host both the third and fourth rounds of the 2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships.
This weekend’s racing will also feature rounds two and three of the parallel-but-separate senior women’s motocross nationals.
And so, it will be a massive double-header weekend for New Zealand’s motocross elite, with both competitions to wrap up with back-to-back two days of racing.
Saturday, March 25, will be round three for the men and round two for the women, while the following day will be the final round for both parties in this year’s Aon Insurance, Pirelli tyres and Fox apparel-sponsored contest.
These senior nationals may be remembered as the most closely-fought series in many years and anything is still possible, with points tight between many of the podium contenders.
Defending national MX1 champion Hamish Harwood, from Royal Heights, in Auckland, lost his grip on the MX1 class lead at the previous round near Rotorua last month and it’s local Mangakino identity Maximus Purvis who now holds a 10-point advantage.
With three MX1 class races at Taupo on Saturday and then just two more on Sunday, Harwood may need a miracle if he is going to catch and overtake Purvis, particularly with the local man racing on his home soil.
However, dual class superman Harwood remains untouchable in his hunt for 125cc class glory this year and he enjoys a solid 32-point advantage over Taupo’s Cody Griffiths, with Kerikeri’s Logan Denize and Appleby’s Wills Harvey not too far behind Griffiths.
Another dual-class ironman, Papamoa’s Cody Cooper – running third overall in the MX1 class – has been beaten just once in the six MX2 (250cc) races run thus far.
Cooper is a comfortable 25 points clear of second-ranked MX2 rider James Scott, from Oparau, with Auckland-based former Taihape man Hayden Smith and Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon well with strike range of Scott.
The women have also produced high-calibre race action, responding to the spotlight with this being the first occasion that the senior women’s nationals have been run in tandem with the corresponding men’s competition, and is Mount Maunganui’s Roma Edwards who leads the way here.
Hamilton’s Aime Roberts and Opunake’s Taylar Rampton also battled ferociously at the front of the field, while Australian visitor Tahlia Drew, Rotorua’s Mel Patterson, Maungaturoto’s Meg Paton, Waihi’s Summer Perrin and Wainuiomata’s Ella Burns kept them honest.
Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Lindsey Heileson says it is impossible to predict where the silverware may end up this season “and that’s just the way it should be”.
“The racing so far has been phenomenal, and I believe we can expect more edge-of-the-seat racing in Taupo this weekend.”
The motocross nationals did not go ahead at all last season because of restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, adding further significance to this year’s contest.
2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships:
Round one: February 12 – South Otago (at Balclutha);
Round two: February 26 – Rotorua (including women’s nationals);
Rounds three & four: March 25-26 – Taupo (including women’s nationals).
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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