The 2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships for both the senior men and women wrapped up in Taupo at the weekend with a sensational double-header.
Two days of intense racing – with the penultimate round at Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motocross Park on Saturday and the final round at the same venue the following day – this year’s Aon Insurance, Pirelli tyres and Fox apparel-sponsored contest delivered everything that was expected and possibly even more.
All the various bike brands were well represented at or near the front of all four championship categories, and, in the end, each of the four separate championship podiums featured a different bike brand on top.
Although three of these championship classes were decided with a race to spare, the women’s battle went right down to the wire.
The weekend’s racing represented the third and fourth rounds for the men, but also rounds two and three of the parallel-but-separate senior women’s motocross nationals and the two main protagonists – Mount Maunganui’s Roma Edwards and Hamilton’s Amie Roberts – were level on points with just two races remaining for them on Sunday to complete their roster.
When the dust had settled late on Sunday afternoon, it was Edwards on top with Roberts forced to accept the runner-up spot.
Opunake’s Taylar Rampton eventually clinched third overall in the women’s championship, with Rotorua’s Mel Patterson Wainuiomata’s Ella Burns rounding out the top five.
Defending national MX1 champion Hamish Harwood, from Royal Heights, in Auckland, had lost his grip on the MX1 class lead at the previous round near Rotorua last month and it was Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis who held a healthy advantage as the riders then headed to Purvis’ home turf for the final two-day battle.
Harwood knew he might need a miracle if he was going to catch and overtake Purvis, but that miracle never arrived at Taupo and a succession of uncharacteristic crashes seriously derailed Harwood’s attack.
Purvis dominated the class on both Saturday and Sunday and he therefore comfortably added the national MX1 crown to the MX2 title he won when the nationals were last raced in 2021.
Harwood manged to shake off his bruises and claim runner-up honours, while multi-time former champion Cody Cooper, from Papamoa, Austrian visitor Michael Kratzer and Taupo’s Brad Groombridge completed the top five in MX1.
Dual-class ironman Cooper celebrated seven wins from nine starts in the MX2 (250cc) class, then clinched the title with a race to spare on Sunday – a solid fifth placing in that penultimate race enough for him to achieve that – and so he sat out of the final MX2 race in a bid to save his energy for a final push in the MX1 class.
Cooper finished the series four points clear of Auckland-based former Taihape man Hayden Smith in the MX2 class, with Oparau’s James Scott, Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon and Clevedon’s Cobie Bourke completing the top five.
Also a dual class superman, Harwood was unstoppable in his charge for 125cc class glory this year and, like Cooper, he clinched the title with a race to spare and so he too sat out his final 125cc race of the series so that he could conserve his strength for the last MX1 class race.
Runner-up to Harwood in the 125cc class this season was Taupo’s Cody Griffiths, with Kerikeri’s Logan Denize, Dairy Flats rider Cole Davies and Bombay’s Reuben Smith rounding out the top five.
The race-within-a-race in the MX2 class for under-19 honours was won by Dixon, with Bourke and New Plymouth’s Rian King completing the podium here, followed by Te Puke’s Flynn Watts and Pukekawa’s Tyler Brown.
Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Lindsey Heileson said: “It was another fantastic weekend of racing and the competition was extremely tough. It was an awesome spectacle.
“The women’s class was truly sensational and that went down to the last race.
“This is the first time we’ve run rounds back-to-back over consecutive days and maybe this was too tough for a lot of the riders.
“We will do a de-brief and then start making plans for next year. We will have different venues and make sure we’re doing the right thing for the sport.”
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 calendar
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 photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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