Kiwi motocross team poised to take on the world
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New Zealand racers are again poised to launch an attack on the rest of the world.
The big annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN), widely referred to as "The Olympic Games of Motocross", is a one-weekend affair that brings together the word's elite for an event where the racers put aside the past season's bitter rivalries and unite along different battle lines, with three-rider teams formed to instead fly the flags of their respective homelands.
And it is a talented trio of riders who will represent New Zealand at this season's 72nd annual edition of the MXoN, set for Buchanan, in Michigan, in the United States, on the weekend of October 6-7.
Mount Maunganui duo Cody Cooper (Honda) and Rhys Carter (Kawasaki) and Christchurch's Dylan Walsh (Husqvarna) will fly the Kiwi flag in Michigan, while Taupo businessman Bevan Weal and Kiwi former motocross world champion Shayne King will share the job of managing the campaign.
Former Takaka man Hamish Harwood (KTM), now based in West Auckland, has been named as the "reserve" rider.
The Kiwi riders know it won’t be easy facing the world’s elite on such a massive stage, but each of them is determined to put on another good showing.
The three-rider teams are glittering with the biggest names in the sport, including riders from both the national championships scene in the United States and the predominantly European-based Motocross World Championships.
From rookie first-timers in 1984 to top-10 regulars just over 10 years later, Kiwi motocross riders have boxed well above their weight and often rated among some of the best in the world.
Team New Zealand for 2018 (from left), Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper, Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter and Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh. Photo / Andy McGechan
Cooper is one rider in particular who should feel right at home this time around, the Bay of Plenty rider having been an integral part of nine MXoN campaigns in the past.
He has also been racing fulltime in the US this season and is currently ranked ninth overall in their national championship series, that 12-round contest now past the halfway mark.
His wealth of experience could be the difference between the team earning a top 10 result, something New Zealand has done on 14 memorable occasions, or missing the cut for the main races.
"The management team has put together some great riders for the job," said Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad.
"We don't want to understate the role that Hamish (Harwood) plays in this either. He is our reserve because he is so versatile and can adapt to race in any of the three bike classes.
"We are really fortunate this year to have so many riders already competing overseas, both in the US and in Europe.
"Shayne (King) has competed at the highest level internationally and his experience can't be underestimated. We also have to thank (former GP riders) Josh Coppins and Ben Townley too for the work they have done in opening doors for us overseas."
The MXoN team has major sponsorship support this year from Penny Homes and a top 10 result is possible, although this would still be considered a massive achievement, especially considering that New Zealand has one of the smallest populations of any nation at the event and has a long way to travel.
With generous support for this year's campaign coming from the sport's governing body here, Motorcycling New Zealand, and from Penny Homes, along with massive fundraising undertaken by the Taupo Motorcycle Club with their Battle of the Clubs motocross event in June adding cash to the cause, the Kiwi contingent can head to the US in a confident mood.