JUNIOR RIDERS HAVE SHOT AT INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION
The world awaits the crowning of New Zealand junior motocross champions from April 10-14.
Perhaps inspired by young Kiwi riders such as Craig Coleman, Ivan Miller, Bryan Patterson, Darryl Atkins, Josh Coppins, Ben Townley, Katherine Prumm, Courtney Duncan and brothers Darryll, Shayne and Damien King, to name just a few — riders who have in the past stamped their authority on the international stage — the latest wave of motocross talent is set to stand up and be counted.
The annual New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships are scheduled for Te Kuiti this Saturday and Sunday, with hundreds of young riders from all over the country and overseas expected to flood into the small King Country town for a weekend of fierce fighting.
And while big international contracts are not yet on the table for this weekend’s winners, a positive result at Te Kuiti could surely be the first step down that road to international stardom.
This event, co-sponsored by JT Racing, Otorohonda and King Country Honda, will feature the cream of motocross talent aged between 8 and 16. The older riders, in particular, will be keen to clinch a national title before they are obliged to join the senior ranks, where racing and winning gets that much tougher.
Several mouth-watering showdowns are anticipated.
Local favourite Aaron King will twice go head to head with Thames Valley’s just-crowned senior 125cc Number 3 Ben Broad.
Otorohanga’s King and Ngatea’s Broad are the only riders racing in both the 15-16 years’ 125cc and 14-16 years’ 250cc and both rate among the favourites.
In the 15-16 years’ 125cc class, the pair should be sternly tested by riders such as Wyatt Chase, Tony Cvitanovich and Jayden Turnwald; while in the 14-16 years’ 250cc class, they will find tough opposition in the form of Trent Collins, Tyler Steiner, cross-country ace Luke Mobberley and Reece Walker.
With five wins from five starts, South Islander Walker sent a clear message to his rivals at the junior nationals last season, easily winning the 12-14 years’ 125cc class title, and it is highly likely he could repeat that feat in the 250cc four-stroke class this time around.
Sean Kelly, who finished an impressive eighth overall in the recent senior 125cc nationals, also rates among the favourites in the 15-16 years’ 125cc class, especially on home turf.
In the younger 125cc class, for riders aged 12-14 years, expect Bailey Banks, Daniel White, Trent Garland, Max Hefferen and Kotemaori cross-country racing hero Reece Lister, among others, to be battling near the front.
Another much-anticipated match-up will be the clash in the 13-16 years’ 85cc class between Maximus Purvis and James Scott.
With racing expected to be tight right through the grades, it’s unlikely anything will be wrapped up until late on Sunday afternoon.
An international racing career will be the dream of many riders this weekend — they’ll have seen how recent junior champion Josiah Natzke turned his successes here into a factory contract.
Still aged only 16, Hamilton’s Natzke left for Europe last month to take up a contract racing for the KTM factory in the EMX125 European Motocross Championships.
The New Zealand senior 125cc champion in 2014 and again this season, his international campaign kicks off at Trentino in Italy on April 19 and concludes in Assen, Netherlands, at the end of August.
Could Broad, King, Cvitanovich, Chase, Kelly, Walker, Turnwald, Collins or Steiner, for example, possibly join him there next season or perhaps the year after that?