MOTOCROSS MAESTRO RETURNS TO EUROPE GP SCENE OF HIS YOUTH FOR SHOT AT PREMIER VETERANS’ EVENT
It will be like a trip down memory lane for Waikato’s Darryll King when he heads back to Europe this month.
The 46-year-old two-time former world championship runner-up and multi-time former Australian and New Zealand motocross champion heads to the Dutch Motocross Grand Prix at Assen to tackle the 2016 FIM Veterans’ World Cup on August 29, a much-anticipated return to the GP scene of his youth and a chance to refresh old friendships with some of the sport’s former superstars.
The Yamaha stalwart is looking forward to reliving his heyday years and he is thrilled to be back racing in Europe, an area of the world where he had raced with so much success in the 1990s.
Hamilton’s King twice finished runner-up in the 500cc Motocross World Championships, in 1997 and again in 1998, both times beaten to the main prize by Belgian legend Joel Smets.
King also won the Australian Motocross Championships open class title three times, in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Then, in 2012, he successfully defended his New Zealand MX2 (250cc) championship crown, a remarkable achievement for a man then aged 43, up against young men in their teens and twenties. He is now not quite as active on the race scene as he was a few years ago, but, when the opportunities arise, he still delights in ripping up the tracks, and the other competitors, in the veterans’ ranks.
The winner of the Veterans’ World Cup in England in 2012, Yamaha stalwart King was unable to defend his title in 2013 and narrowly missed out on recapturing it when he finished first and fourth in his two races in Sweden last year, beaten to the title by Czech rider Martin Zerava by just four points.
Zerava (Suzuki) took the title by finishing 2-1 in the two races in Sweden, while Sweden’s three-time former veterans’ world champion, Mats Nilsson, took his Yamaha to finish 3-2 and settle for third place overall, just one point behind King.
Spaniard Francisco Garcia Vico only just missed out on the podium, finishing fourth in Sweden, while another Swedish rider, Stefan Norstrom, settled for fifth overall.
King is now more determined to win as he builds up for another crack at capturing the premier crown for racers over the age of 40 and he heads offshore in a confident mood, even with the knowledge both Zerava and Nilsson will be on the starting gate at Assen.
“Although I never raced a GP there [at Assen] when I was riding fulltime in Europe in the 1990s, I have been doing a lot of work to make sure I’m prepared,” King said.
“I’m really well set up and have been riding a lot of local club events to get my fitness up. It would be nice to stand on top of the podium in Europe again.” As part of his warm-up campaign, King raced at the Conondale Classic on Australia’s Sunshine Coast a week ago, comfortably winning the pro class and the International 500 Twin-shock Challenge.
In the pro class he battled with multiple former Australian championship winner Glenn Bell, who twice finished runner-up to King before dropping out of the third and final race.
King therefore won the championship ahead of Australian riders Ben Schodel and Shaun Jennison.
King’s younger brother, Taranaki’s 1996 500cc world champion Shayne King, finished 12th overall in the same class.
“My bike broke in one moto, so I could not battle DK and Bell for the overall, but I did win the pre-90 class ahead of DK by two points. That for me was pretty cool,” explained Shayne.
Darryll says he is thrilled to be back racing in Europe and rekindling his memories of racing there in the 1990s.
New Zealand has a proud history of success in veterans’ racing, with Auckland’s Tony Cooksley winning the world title for Yamaha in 2007.