RIVALRY IN TAUPO WILL BE INTENSE, BUT ALL FOR GOOD CAUSE
It’s the “State of Origin” of motocross this weekend.
Expect the country’s most talented motocross riders to put aside their traditional rivalries and brand allegiances as they instead band together to race under provincial colours, all for a good cause that will benefit the motorcycling community.
The riders will flock to Taupo on Saturday for the sixth annual Battle of the Clubs (BOTC) motocross, the event 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 at Ernee, in north-western France.
Team New Zealand failed to qualify among the top 20 countries at this event when it was staged in Latvia last September and that means no travel assistance funds are being offered by the world’s governing body for the New Zealand team to attend this year’s event in France.
The Taupo Motorcycle Club’s annual fundraiser initiative this weekend therefore takes on added significance.
The event organisers hope they can at least equal or even exceed the $10,000 they have previously been able to offer to Motorcycling New Zealand to assist the three-rider national squad.
The “State of Origin” format used for racing at the BOTC motocross will be similar to what the Team NZ trio can expect when they line up in France against national teams from all around the world this September.
The venue for this year’s MXoN at Ernee is just inland from the D-Day landing beaches of World War II and is set for the weekend of September 26-27.
Each of the national teams at the MXoN comprise just three riders — one on an MX2 (250cc) bike, one on an MX1 (450cc) bike and one on an open class bike — while the club-based teams at the BOTC each comprise six riders — three junior and three senior riders — who will compete on 85cc, 125cc, 250cc and 450cc machines.
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.
The South Waikato Motorcycle Club won last year’s BOTC event, while previous winners were the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club (in 2010), the Bay of Plenty MCC (in 2011) and the host Taupo MCC (2012 and 2013). Around $9000 was raised at the event last season, that cash going towards New Zealand’s three-rider entry to the MXoN in Latvia last year.
The sport’s governing body here, Motorcycling New Zealand, has whittled down the flood of applicants to a short-list of six riders for the New Zealand squad to head to France and they are (in no particular order) national MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Mount Maunganui), former national MX2 champion Kayne Lamont (Mangakino), national 125cc champion Josiah Natzke (Hamilton), former world and national champion Ben Townley (Tauranga) and talented Rotorua brothers Michael and John Phillips.
The final selection of the three riders (plus a reserve) who will eventually make the trip will be announced in the coming weeks. MNZ motocross commissioner Howard Lilly, of Auckland, commented that “while three of these six men won’t make the final cut, they remain just an injury away from being drafted in” to represent New Zealand in France.
Cooper, Lamont, Townley and both the Phillips brothers have previously raced for New Zealand at the MXoN. Natzke has yet to represent his country at the event but he is currently in Europe and racing with great success in the European 125 Motocross Championships.
New Zealand has a proud tradition of featuring prominently at the MXoN.
New Zealand’s team stood on the podium in England in 1998 (third), in Belgium in 2001 (third) and in England again in 2006 (third) and while these were incredible achievements for such a small nation, it has almost become mission impossible for Team New Zealand in recent times.