Whakatane Summercross, one of summer’s biggest motocross events is just around the corner.
Celebrating its 44th birthday as one of the country’s premier stand-alone meetings, it’s set for the long weekend of December 27-28. Juniors will race on Sunday and seniors on Monday.
Most pundits pick national MX1 champion Cody Cooper to put his Honda Racing Team CRF450 on top. Kiwi international Cooper has won the main class in the past and, considering his recent wins at the Waikato and Auckland motocross championships, he rates a firm favourite to win at Whakatane again.
Cody Cooper in action. PICTURE / ANDY MCGECHAN, BIKESPORTNZ.COM
As well as attracting the cream of New Zealand racers to the Awakaponga circuit, near Matata, the Honda-sponsored event provides a springboard for riders heading into the busy part of the season, culminating with the four-round NZ Motocross Championships in February-March.
Another Kiwi international, Josh Coppins (Motueka, Yamaha), will keep Cooper honest, as will Hamish Harwood (Auckland, KTM), Brad Groombridge (Taupo, Suzuki), Roydon White (Tauranga, KTM) and especially Rhys Carter (Mt Maunganui, Suzuki), who won here last season.
Coppins retired from fulltime racing in 2012 but has been racing selected events in recent weeks and still has the pace to challenge. He won the MX1 class at the MX Fest at Taupo in October.
Cooper has great support from Honda and he’ll be joined by MX2 (250cc) class team-mates Logan Blackburn and Aaron Wiltshier.
The MX2 class is bulging with talent.
Former national MX2 champion Kayne Lamont (Yamaha) is on the comeback from injury and won the category at the MX Fest.
Josiah Natzke, Kieran Scheele, Campbell Bailey, Campbell King, Hadleigh Knight, Ethan Martens, Mitch Rees and brothers Cohen and Wyatt Chase also add star power. Joel Meikle and Reece Walker add depth to the class, as does Tyler Steiner.
It will also be worth watching local heroes such as Darren Capill, Sam Corston and Sam McPherson, women’s competitors Petri Rautenbach, Emma Marshall and Amy Corston and junior riders Sam Middleton, Isaac Olsen, Dom Beal, Wesley Milsom and Brodie Hatcher.
“This event will be the first big hit-out of the season to feature all the major teams,” said Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club spokesman Tony Rees.
A mini motocross section has been extended this year and has features that will really test the youngest riders. The more advanced of the 65cc class riders are invited to race with the juniors on the main track on Sunday.