The just-turned 40-year-old showed that age is no barrier to performing at the top level if you’ve got a winning machine underneath you and a superb crew to back you up.
The Papamoa rider, a multi-time New Zealand motocross champion, took his Tristram European-backed CML GasGas Racing Team bike to win the premier MX1 class at the big annual MX Fest event at the Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park, on the outskirts of Taupo, over Labour Weekend.
It was his first race meeting in New Zealand after he’d only signed up to race for the GasGas brand a few weeks earlier … but what a way to mark his debut.
This sport is never easy, but Cooper dug deep to win the races that mattered at Taupo, snatching the class overall ahead of Otautau rider Jack Treloar and Wairoa’s Tommy Watts.
Cooper also took his GasGas MC450F to outlast all riders in the feature shoot-out, a series of races that eliminated riders at each phase.
The shootout started with the top riders from each of the 125cc, MX2 and MX1 classes and culling out the slowest riders each time, reducing the competition from 40 riders in the first stanza, to 20, to 10, to six and eventually there were just three riders in the final outing.
Cooper was the last man standing, winning the final three-rider shootout ahead of Watts and Oparau’s James Scott.
Cooper had finished 1-3-1 in his MX1 class races and his eventual 12-point winning margin over Treloar gave the GasGas rider a massive boost in confidence with a jam-packed season of racing now ahead of him.
These results may offer a clue to which individuals might be battling for the silverware at the big annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville in late January or when the nationals kick off near Rotorua in February and Cooper must be tipped as a favourite to win again.
Cooper is the current national MX2 champion and is also a multi-time former national champion in the 125cc and MX1 categories as well.
“It’s a great way to start the season. I had no problems physically and this is possibly because I have been riding at a good level a fair bit lately,” he said, in reference to his representing New Zealand at the Motocross of Nations in France earlier this month.
“I had not ridden the GasGas much at all before the Motocross of Nations (on October 7-8) and I’m still fine-tuning suspension settings.
“I felt better on the bike here in Taupo this weekend than I usually do at this time of the year, so I couldn’t have asked for much more than what I achieved this weekend,” said Cooper, that statement further emphasising just how remarkable was this “old man’s” achievement in winning at Taupo against all the rising young stars of the sport.
“I’m feeling refreshed. (CML GasGas Racing Team manager) Karl Brabant operates an awesome team. I didn’t realise how good it was until I was a part of it and doing stuff with Karl. I’m a happy man and love riding this bike.”
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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