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RETIREMENT IS ON THE BACK BURNER AS WORLD TITLE AGAIN BECKONS
Multi-time former Australian and New Zealand motocross champion Darryll King is now in his late 40s, but he still commands a huge amount of respect in all corners of the world.
There was a time when he ruled the roost, before eventually retiring from the World Championship Grand Prix phase of his career in 2000.
And the 47-year-old Yamaha ace has plenty more to offer, not just as a coach and mentor, because he remains a feared competitor.
Now living in the Philippines when he’s not at home in Hamilton, King raced for the Tauranga Motorcycle Club at the recent Battle of the Clubs fundraiser motocross in Taupo, finishing as the best-performed veterans’ class rider at the annual event.
King and his Yamaha YZ450F finished fourth (combined vets/MX2 race) and seventh (combined vets/MX1 race) in his two outings, helping his club crew to finish fourth of the 26 teams competing that day.
However, those results didn’t really matter to King — the significance was simply that he was able to support the event that had been created to boost funds for sending the New Zealand team to the Motocross of Nations (MXoN) in Italy next month.
King understands more than most the international importance of the MXoN event, having been on the three-rider teams to compete at the MXoN on an incredible nine occasions between 1987 and 2000. He was one of the few Kiwis to have stood on the podium at the MXoN, when New Zealand finished third at Foxhills, in England, in 1998.
King was twice a world 500cc motocross championships runner-up, in 1997 and again in 1998, before abandoning the GP scene at the end of 2000 and returning home.
Although he had by then been retired from top international racing for a couple of years and was in his early 40s, he stunned again when he was able to add two more national titles to his CV, winning the New Zealand MX2 (250cc) title in 2011 and again in 2012.
King has seen a lot happen in his beloved sport over the years and has always been keen to put something back. He often runs training schools for young riders, and will shortly head overseas in another bid for international accolades.
He will race at the annual Veterans’ Motocross World Cup (VMX) in the Netherlands in just over two weeks, an event at which he’s traditionally been a leading contender.
King finished runner-up in both races at the VMX event in Assen last year and was forced to settle for overall runner-up, behind Swedish Yamaha rider Mats Nilsson. And he was championship runner-up in 2014 too, on that occasion behind Czech Republic rider Martin Zerava.
This year he is determined to reclaim the No.1 ranking he’d earned when winning the world VMX crown in England in 2012.
“It’s again [on the infield] at the Assen road-race track in Holland on August 27-28,” King says.
“The organisers bring in sand and dump it there.
“ It’s pretty hard to race in. It’s an amazing track but you can’t practise there beforehand. I want to get over there early and do a few laps on sandy tracks nearby.
“They’re mean riders and they don’t give an inch. They’ll smash you in the corners if you leave a gap. They might be older guys — like me, of course — but they are all lean and mean and as fit as ever. I know what to expect and I’ll be better-prepared this year.
I’ve lost some weight and I’m fitter. I’ve been doing some sand riding in recent weeks and racing at club events, too. Then I’ll go to Holland to try again.
“It’s just so much fun to walk and talk with the GP guys from back in the old days.
“I know I’ve said in the past that I’ve retired, but it’s just such a wonderful sport, I don’t think I ever could.”
Meanwhile, the three-rider New Zealand squad to contest the MXoN in Italy on September 24-25 has been named.
Mt Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, Takaka’s Hamish Harwood and Hamilton’s Josiah Natzke will race on the steep Maggiora circuit, northwest of Milan.
The squad will be managed by Taupo businessman Bevan Weal.