The Kiwi motorcycling community will have to band together like never before if they hope to see New Zealand again rank among the world’s motocross elite this season.
We have a proud tradition of featuring prominently at the annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN), a three-rider Kiwi squad reaching the podium three times.
Our team were placed in England in 1998 (Darryll King, Shayne King and Josh Coppins), Belgium in 2001 (Daryl Hurley, Coppins, Shayne King) and in England again in 2006 (Coppins, Cody Cooper, Ben Townley).
While these were incredible achievements for a small nation, it has almost become mission impossible for Team NZ since.
The team failed to qualify in the top 20 countries at the event in Latvia in September. That means the world’s governing body will not offer travelling assistance funds to attend this year’s event in France.
The Taupo Motorcycle Club’s annual fundraiser therefore takes on added significance.
This will be the sixth year the club has run its Battle of the Clubs Motocross, and it’s hoping it can at least equal the $10,000 it has previously been able to offer Motorcycling NZ to help the three-rider squad.
MXoN is set for Ernee, in northwestern France, on September 26-27.
The Battle of the Clubs, on Saturday, June 27, will see the country’s most talented motocross riders put aside traditional rivalries and brand allegiances as they compete under provincial colours.
The format will be similar to what the Team NZ trio can expect in France against national teams.
The club-based teams at BOTC comprise six riders — three juniors and three seniors — competing on 85cc, 125cc, 250cc and 450cc machines.
Each contestant rides twice, with the two worst results discarded so that only 10 of the 12 results are counted. South Waikato Motorcycle Club won last year’s event, while previous winners were Pukekohe (2010), Bay of Plenty (2011) and the hosts in 2012 and 2013.
The entry fee from each club, plus a gold coin donation from spectators and raffle ticket sales, will boost the coffers. Several riders likely to race the BOTC have also been Team NZ members, making this an event of international calibre in its own right.
They include Hurley, Cooper, Coppins, Townley, Brad Groombridge, Kayne Lamont, John Phillips and Scott Columb. For 24-year-old Groombridge, the MXoN fundraiser carries special significance. He raced when the team finished ninth at the 2010 MXoN in the United States and knows how important the event is.
“It is very important for New Zealand to be represented at this event and I’m just happy that I can support whatever team is chosen to go to France.”
His father, Taupo MCC president Stu Groombridge, is also keen to emphasise the BOTC’s importance.
“It is vital we do as much as we can to support Team New Zealand to compete in France. Cody Cooper and John Phillips are expected to ride at the BOTC too while they take a break from racing in Australia, so the racing will certainly be intense and exciting.”
The three riders (plus a reserve) to represent New Zealand in France are expected to be named in the coming weeks.