The 2016 New Zealand Motocross Championships are shaping up to be a real “us versus them” battle between Anzac neighbours.
Australians and Kiwis have had a fierce sporting rivalry going on since old colonial times and, while it is mostly friendly, both sides do love the niggle and the gloves are set to come off again in the Manawatu this weekend.
New Zealand riders have won Australian titles in the past — Cody Cooper, Daryl Hurley, Kayne Lamont, Hamish Harwood a few of those special Kiwis with Aussie trophies in their cabinets — but the Australians had their revenge when Gold Coast rider Jay Wilson took the New Zealand MX2 crown last year.
The question being asked now is could an Aussie steal our silverware again in 2016?
Australian riders Dean Ferris, Todd Waters and Jed Beaton put themselves solidly on the podium at the opening round of four in this year’s New Zealand Motocross Championships series near Timaru a fortnight ago and perhaps they will head to round two in the Manawatu this weekend bracing for the inevitable Kiwi backlash.
Dean Ferris leads Mt Maunganui’s defending New Zealand MX1 champion, Cody Cooper, at Timaru.
Ferris and Waters finished the day at Timaru first and third respectively in the glamour MX1 class, sandwiching Mt Maunganui’s defending national champion Cody Cooper between them.
With just 13 points to separate the top three in this class, anything is still possible and, although he was unbeaten at round one, Ferris can’t afford to rest on his laurels when racing lights up at the Flipp’s Motocross Park facility at Himatangi, near Palmerston North, on Sunday.
The Flipp’s track is sand-based and this year is the first time it has been included in the national championships calendar, so only a few of the locals will be totally familiar with it, with few of the other Kiwis and none of the international visitors having had any previous experience there.
That factor probably won’t worry Ferris, however, who won the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville last month on his first visit to the place and he had also never set eyes on the Timaru track before he turned up there and scored a remarkable hat-trick of wins.
The former Grand Prix star is obviously a quick learner.
Two Kiwis head the standings in the MX2 (250cc) class, with Waitakere-based Takaka rider Hamish Harwood in the No.1 position and Reporoa’s Hadleigh Knight just six points behind in second, but Victorian rider Beaton won the final MX2 race of the day at Timaru and secured the No.3 spot on the podium, aptly demonstrating that he should not be counted out for the title win.
The racing is a little tighter in the MX2 class, with just 21 points to separate the top seven individuals, Mangakino’s former national MX2 champion Kayne Lamont, Rangiora’s former national 125cc champion Micah McGoldrick, Waitakere’s former national 125cc champion Ethan Martens and Te Puke’s Logan Blackburn all lurking with intent.
The 125cc class is always fierce and the man to watch here is probably Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, currently third in the standings but perhaps only there because he struck bad luck at Timaru.
He will now be playing “catch-up” over the rest of the series.
Ngatea’s Ben Broad and Karaka’s Kurtis Lilly own the top two spots and, with talent to burn, they’ll take some catching, while Feilding’s Tony Cvitanovich, Wairoa’s Reece Lister and Beachlands’ rider Blake Gillard are also on the pace to claim a podium position for themselves.
When the noise of engines dies away at the end of racing on Sunday, the series will have reached the halfway stage. The second half of the calendar takes riders to the Rotorua Motorcycle Club’s track for round three on March 13, with the fourth and final round set for the Digger McEwen Motocross Park facility, on the outskirts of Taupo, on March 20.