Team New Zealand ready to score
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MOTOCROSS TRIO DETERMINED TO STAND ON PODIUM THIS WEEKEND
It’s that time of year when racers forget about the past season’s rivalries and unite along different battle lines at the annual Motocross of Nations.
A talented trio will represent New Zealand at the 69th edition at Ernee, northwestern France, on Saturday and Sunday.
Cody Cooper (Mt Maunganui), Ben Townley (Tauranga) and Kayne Lamont (Mangakino) will fly the Kiwi flag, while Howard Lilly (Pukekohe) and Neil Ritchie (Palmerston North) manage the campaign.
Referred to as the “Olympic Games of motocross”, the Kiwis know it won’t be easy facing the world’s elite, but each is determined to put on a good showing.
The teams glitter with the biggest names in the sport, including riders from the US national championships scene and the predominantly European-based World Motocross Championships.
From rookie first-timers in 1984 to top-10 regulars just over 10 years later, Kiwi motocross riders have often rated among the best in the world.
New Zealand has been on the MXoN podium three times — at Foxhills, England, in 1998; Namur, Belgium, 2001, and Matterley Basin, England, 2006. Townley has been New Zealand’s most successful individual at the MXoN, the only Kiwi to celebrate a race win (two in fact). Perhaps significantly, it was exactly 10 years ago, in 2005, that the MXoN was last held at the Ernee circuit and Townley performed with much credit.
Riding a KTM in the open class, Townley won one of the three finals races at Ernee in 2005, claiming victory in the combined open class/MX2 (250cc) race, and backing that up by finishing runner-up behind American Ricky Carmichael in the open class/MXGP leg. New Zealand finished fourth, missing out on a place on the podium by just one point.
The following year, when the MXoN was staged near Winchester, southern England, Townley was on the smaller 250cc Kawasaki and had his work cut out against the 450cc open class and MXGP bikes, but it was a better team result.
The team’s MX2 (250cc) class rider in England, Townley managed 3-5 finishes in his two outings and the Kiwi trio finished third of the 20 nations.
Townley scored a race win again when the MXoN was staged in Denver, Colorado, in 2010, this time riding a 450cc Honda to win the open class/MX2 clash.
It all went sour in Townley’s next race when, running second, he severely twisted his ankle and was forced to withdraw.
The team ended up eighth overall.
However, if Townley can be even half as good this time, New Zealand’s hopes will definitely be bright.
Unfortunately, neither Cooper, Townley nor Lamont were available for the MXoN in Latvia last year, where Team New Zealand failed to qualify among the top 20 countries and slipped well down the world rankings.
But with generous support for this campaign from Auckland companies WIL Sport Management and Workshop Graphics, and massive fundraising by the Taupo Motorcycle Club with their Battle of the Clubs motocross event, the Kiwi contingent left for France in a very confident mood.