Cody Cooper wins Tarawera 100 endurance
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It was a day for milestones when the Tarawera 100 dirt bike endurance race celebrated 40 years of action on Saturday.
New Zealand motocross champion Cody Cooper (Mt Maunganui) caught and passed defending title holder Brad Groombridge (Taupo) half-way around the final 38km lap to claim his fifth victory in the winter time Eastern Bay of Plenty classic.
Cooper’s win sees him draw level with Kawerau rider Wayne Jennings who also achieved five Tarawera 100 victories during the 1980s and 1990s.
The decision by the Tarawera Trail Bike Riders Club to shift the race from its traditional early-July date into August was rewarded with brilliant weather and a significant increase in the entry list to 181 entries and more than 210 riders.
From the 10am "shotgun’’ start near Te Teko, Cooper made a fast getaway on his Honda CRF 450 RX and led around the first short start loop but it was Suzuki racer Groombridge who was 1.8secs ahead at the end of lap one.
A quicker pit stop put Cooper out in front as lap two began and he then set the fastest lap of the race to return to the pits for the second refuel with the 46secs advantage.
Lap three saw Groombridge charge back into contention. He finished the lap trailing Cooper by 6.9secs and then set out on the final lap with a slender lead as Cooper lost a few seconds when he stalled his bike.
"I just pinned it and rode a flawless lap,’’ is how Groombridge described his third lap effort.
Cooper began the chase and soon realised Groombridge’s pace had slowed.
"He didn’t seem to be going as fast on the last lap,’’ said Cooper who was on the back wheel of the leader until moving ahead half way around the final lap of farmland and forestry course.
Groombridge’s hopes of defending his Tarawera 100 title had literally had slipped from his grasp because of a severely blistered left hand.
He crossed the finish line almost four minutes behind Cooper and said he’d ridden a large part of the final lap one-handed.
"The rest of my body feels fine but I couldn’t hold onto it,’’ said Groombridge.
Cooper had been preparing for a battle to the finish.
"I pushed hard on lap two and on the third lap I managed the pace but Brad caught me. Then on my last pit stop I stalled it so I had to chase him again,’’ said Cooper.
Third place went to young international MX star Hadleigh Knight who was between races in his Japanese MX Championship campaign.
It was mainly a lonely race for the Reporoa rider behind the two leaders and with a handy margin over the next battling group.
The podium finishers at the 40th annual Tarawera 100 were Taupo's Brad Groombridge, Mt Maunganui's Cody Cooper and Reporoa rider Hadleigh Knight. Photo / Colin Smith
Knight was gaining on Groombridge in the last part of the race to finish only 40secs behind. He was over four minutes clear of Auckland’s Callan May (Yamaha) who claimed fourth ahead of Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (Honda) who returned to dirt bike competition after a successful road race campaign last summer.
The closest battle in the race came in the Junior (Under-19) category with Cambridge rider Ashton Grey (Yamaha), Taupo’s Wyatt Chase (KTM) and Hawke’s Bay rider Reece Lister (KTM) separated by just 23secs at the finish.
They were sixth, eighth and ninth overall respectively and it had been an impressive fight back ride from Chase who was 39th after the short start loop.
In the Team categories Rotorua’s Dion Picard and Cameron Vaughan teamed up to win the 2 rider/2 bike category while Raglan’s Jason Dickey and Scott Birch shared a KTM to win the 2 rider/1 bike honours.
Matata’s Charlotte Knight (KTM) won the Women’s category while Te Puke’s Paul Singleton (KTM) claimed the Super Vets (40-49 years) class and Auckland rider Jeff Van Hout (KTM 350) was the Mega Vets (50-plus) winner.
NZ Home Loans/Tony Rees Motorcycles Honda Tarawera 100 — overall results:
- Cody Cooper (Mt Maunganui) Honda CRF 450 RX, 2h 44m 40.627s
- Brad Groombridge (Taupo) Suzuki RM-Z 450F, + 3m 54.642s
- Hadleigh Knight (Reporoa) KTM SX 250F, +- 4m 35.842s
- Callan May (Auckland) Yamaha YZ 250F, +9m 09.783s
- Mitch Rees (Whakatane) Honda CRF 450, +11m 58.807s
- Ashton Grey (Cambridge) Yamaha YZ 250F, + 13m 11.870s
- Peter Broxholme (Tauranga) Honda CRF 450 RX, +13m 29.065s
- Wyatt Chase (Taupo) KTM 250, +13m 31.479s
- Reece Lister (Hawke’s Bay) KTM 250F, +13m 34.920s
- Cameron Vaughan (Rotorua)/Dion Picard (Rotorua), Yamaha YZ 250F/Suzuki RM 450F, +15m 28.309s.