Cooper fends off Aussie challenge
IT’S A FIFTH NATIONAL TITLE FOR THE LAD FROM THE BAY OF PLENTY
Bay of Plenty’s Cody Cooper has now made it four national MX1 title wins in a row — five in total — after another gripping New Zealand Motocross Championships series wrapped up in Taupo just over a week ago.
The now 32-year-old Cooper first won the national MX1 title in 2011 (then riding a Suzuki) and followed with MX1 title wins in 2013 (Suzuki), 2014 (Honda) and 2015 (Honda), before claiming his fifth MX1 crown this year.
The man from Mt Maunganui was at his brilliant best as he successfully defended his MX1 crown at the final of the four-round 2016 series on Taupo’s sandy Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park. He fended off stern challenges from two Australian riders, both of whom were former Grand Prix stars in Europe, and a crop of very fast fellow Kiwis as well.
Cooper (Honda Racing Team CRF450) began the final round just three points in front of Gold Coast rider Todd Waters (MC2 Suzuki Racing Team RM-Z450) and five ahead of Kyogle’s Dean Ferris (Altherm JCR Yamaha YZ450F), the two Australians who had threatened most to end Cooper’s long reign as New Zealand’s No.1 motocross racer.
Fourth best in the points at the start of Taupo’s finale was Queenstown’s Scott Columb (Whyteline Kawasaki, above), and Taupo’s Brad Groombridge (MC2 Suzuki Racing Team) rounded out the top five.
Only the two visiting Australians had a realistic chance of overcoming Cooper and it was these three riders who again dominated proceedings at Taupo.
When Ferris won the first of three MX1 races that day, the dynamics changed remarkably. Ferris had gone from third, and five points adrift of Cooper, to second and just two points behind.
When Cooper won race two from Ferris, and Waters again finished third, the Kiwi hero had snatched back the initiative and restored his advantage to five points.
That made the mathematics painfully simple: even if Ferris won the third and final race of the day, second place would be enough for Cooper to keep his crown for a fourth consecutive season.
And that’s exactly how it panned out, Ferris winning comfortably while Cooper cruised home in second, all the time watching over his shoulder for a late charge and possible attack from Waters.
The threat from Waters never came and a calm and relaxed Cooper crossed the finish line second and sealed the title again.
“There was no backing down from me today,” said Cooper. “I might have had to take a pay cut if I didn’t win,” he laughed.
The other two championship classes were a little more cut and dried.
In the MX2 (250cc) class, Takaka’s Hamish Harwood (CML Racing Team KTM) started the day at Taupo with a 13-point lead over his nearest rival, Australian Jed Beaton (Triple B Valley Fresh Yamaha), and, in the 125cc class, Ngatea’s Ben Broad (Fox BikesportNZ KTM) was 23 points ahead of his closest threat, Taupo’s Wyatt Chase (Total Oils BikesportNZ Yamaha).
Harwood and Broad prevailed at Taupo with solid, sensible riding performances and claimed their respective titles.
Mangakino’s Kayne Lamont (Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team YZ250F) dominated the MX2 class at Taupo, but Harwood’s main threat for the title, Beaton, ran into trouble with a first-turn snarl-up in the early part of the day, meaning Harwood was comfortable to twice finish runner-up to Lamont and then cruise to the finish line in fourth in the day’s last MX2 race, his mission accomplished.
“I had not been nervous before racing at the previous rounds, but I was today,” the 20-year-old Harwood admitted afterwards.
“But I felt comfortable too. I knew Jed [Beaton] was a long way behind me in the first race and so I just stayed smooth and rode smart to the finish.”
For 17-year-old 125cc class hero Broad, he had also done enough at the first three of four rounds of the series to arrive at Taupo with almost an entire race up his sleeve.
Broad therefore had no reason to panic and finished with a 1-2-2 score-card at Taupo, more than enough to complete the task.
It also gave him an eventual 20-point winning margin, the largest of any of the championship winners this year.
Third overall in the 125cc championship was Beachlands rider Blake Gillard (Mr Motorcycles KTM), albeit finishing the series 73 points behind Chase and 93 behind Broad.