MATES BATTLE TO RAISE FUNDS FOR KIWIS’ WORLD EVENT CAMPAIGN
It will be one big weekend to help out another when New Zealand’s leading motocross riders flock to Taupo this Saturday for the seventh annual Battle of the Clubs motocross.
The Battle of the Clubs (BOTC) event is a fundraiser to help send a three-rider New Zealand team to contest the big annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN) — the Olympic Games of motocross — this year to be held in Italy on the weekend of September 24-25.
Team New Zealand finished a respectable eighth overall when the MXoN was staged in north-western France last year, Bay of Plenty riders Ben Townley, Cody Cooper and Kayne Lamont impressive at the event at Ernee, near Rennes, not far from the World War II D-Day landing beaches at Normandy.
The Taupo Motorcycle Club’s annual fundraiser initiative has provided a significant financial boost to the Team New Zealand campaign each year since the inaugural BOTC was held in 2010.
The BOTC fundraiser on Saturday will pit mate against mate as the country’s most talented motocross riders put aside their traditional rivalries and brand allegiances as they instead join together under provincial colours to compete.
The “State of Origin” format used for racing at the BOTC motocross will be very similar to what the Team New Zealand trio can expect when they line up in Italy against national teams from around the world this September.
Each of the national teams at the MXoN comprises just three riders — one on an MX2 (250cc) bike, one on an MX1 (450cc) bike and one on an open class (any capacity) bike — whereas the club-based teams at the BOTC will each have six competitors — three junior and three senior riders — who will race on 85cc, 125cc, 250cc and 450cc machines.
Tauranga’s Aaron Wiltshier, helping his club to win the Battle of the Clubs motocross crown last season.
Each contestant rides twice, with the two worst results to be discarded so that only 10 of the 12 results at the BOTC are counted in the final tally.
Racing this Saturday will again be at the popular Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park, on the outskirts of Taupo.
The Tauranga Motorcycle Club won last year’s BOTC event, and previous winners were the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club (at the inaugural running in 2010), the Rotorua MCC (in 2011), the host Taupo MCC (in 2012 and 2013) and the South Waikato Motorcycle Club (in 2014).
Last season’s event raised approximately $10,000, which went towards New Zealand’s three-rider entry to the MXoN in France last year, and it is hoped as similar amount will be raised to send the Kiwi team to Italy this time around.
The naming of the team manager and the selection of the three riders (plus a reserve) who will eventually make the trip to Italy is expected in the coming weeks.
Host country France won the 2015 MXoN, and the United States and Belgium completed the podium. The three-rider teams from Estonia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Austria rounded out the top 10 of the more than 30 countries entered.
A different Kiwi trio had failed to qualify among the top 20 countries at this event when it was staged in Latvia the previous September and so it was a huge relief that the New Zealanders were able to perform with such distinction last year and reinstall themselves among the world’s elite motocross nations.
Kiwis have finished third outright at the MXoN on three occasions.
New Zealand’s team stood on the podium in England in 1998 (with Darryll King, Shayne King and Josh Coppins), in Belgium in 2001 (Daryl Hurley, Josh Coppins, Shayne King) and in England again in 2006 (Josh Coppins, Cody Cooper, Ben Townley).
These achievements for a country with such a relatively small population and one that typically has the furthest to travel.
Taupo rider Brad Groombridge raced for New Zealand at the MXoN in the United States in 2010 and knows just how important the event is.
“It’s huge. The MXoN is an awesome event and I’m proud to be supporting New Zealand’s campaign,” said Groombridge. “The MXoN is at just another level to anything that we can experience in New Zealand.”