It was a special weekend of motocross that had everything – high intensity dirt bike action combined with a slew of different race winners to celebrate a significant motocross birthday party.
The 60th annual Honda-sponsored New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville on Saturday and Sunday was a celebration of the sport, the popular event at the eastern end of the Manawatu Gorge achieving a landmark in more ways than one.
It was not only marking six decades since the sport was properly introduced to New Zealand in 1961 by now-87-year-old Palmerston North man Tim Gibbes, but it was also for the first time being run in conjunction with the first round of four in the 2021 New Zealand Motocross Championships.
It was a rare double honour – the opening round of the national championships tied in with New Zealand's largest stand-alone motocross event – and the riders rose to the occasion.
With all three races in each class counting towards the Woodville GP titles and only the first two of the three races being deemed eligible for the national championships, the event threw up separate podiums in each class.
Taupo’s Wyatt Chase therefore won the Woodville GP crown for the first time and West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, incidentally the GP title winner last season, missed out on repeating the feat, but Harwood left Woodville with a slender six-point lead in the premier MX1 class for the national title hunt, the national series continuing on at Rotorua in three weeks’ time (on Sunday, February 21), with round three to follow at Pukekohe on Saturday, March 20. It all wraps up at Taupo on Sunday, March 28.
Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis won the MX2 (250cc) class for the Woodville GP trophy and he also leads that class for national honours, while the same applies for Matamata’s Brodie Connolly in the MX125 class. In addition, Connolly also leads the points in terms of Under-19 years' age-group honours.
Motueka’s Roma Edwards topped the women’s class at Woodville and she also leads the chase for Women’s Cup honours.
Motorcycling New Zealand Motocross commissioner Ray Broad said it was a spectacular weekend of racing, with so many riders and a large crowd thrilled to be a part of the 60th celebrations.
"The first two races of GP carry over points towards New Zealand titles, so when we head to round two at Rotorua, those riders still have it all to play for and the fierce battling that we saw at Woodville will continue on.
"We knew that, with all that goes on here at Woodville, it was always going to be difficult getting through three championship-length races, which is why the last round of sprint races weren't counted towards national championship points."
Broad added that the 2021 Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville, and all of the other rounds of the nationals too, would be live-streamed on the Sky Sport Next programme and also repeat screened on Sky Sport.
For 21-year-old Taupo rider Chase it was a particularly special weekend as he won his first Woodville GP title in the premier 450cc MX1 bike class.
"This is a massive win for me," said Chase. "This is a title that all motocross riders want to win and it's great that my name will go on the trophy alongside so many legendary riders that have gone before me."
The New Zealand Motocross Championships are supported by Aon Insurance, Kawasaki New Zealand, Pirelli tyres and Fox apparel.
Class winners from the weekend’s 60th annual New Zealand Motocross
Woodville GP seniors (Sunday):
Woodville GP: Taupo’s Wyatt Chase (MX1 class and main Woodville GP trophy); Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (MX2 class); Matamata’s Brodie Connolly (MX125); Motueka’s Roma Edwards (Women); Rotorua’s Cam Negus (Veterans); Palmerston North’s Paul Whibley (River Race); Connolly (Roddy Shirriffs Under-19 trophy).
Senior NZ Motocross Champs points:
MX1 class: 1. West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, 47 points; 2. Chase, 41; 3= Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper and Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont, 40.
MX2 class: 1. Purvis, 50 points; 2. Oparau’s James Scott, 44; 3. Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke, 40.
MX125 class: 1. Connolly, 47 points; 2. Silverdale’s Hayden Smith, 45; 3. Clevedon’s Cobie Bourke, 40.
Women’s Cup: 1. Edwards, 72 points; 2. Opunake’s Taylar Rampton, 69; 3. Hamilton’s Amie Roberts, 58.
Under-19 class: 1. Connolly, 50 points; 2. Tauranga’s Donovan Ward, 38; 3. Te Aroha Luke Van der Lee, 36.
Woodville GP juniors (Saturday):
Pukekawa's Tyler Brown (14-16 years’ 250cc class); Invercargill’s Jack Symon (15-16 years, 125cc class); Te Puke’s Flynn Watts (12-14 years’ 125cc class); Auckland’s Lachlan Bourn (14-16 years’ 85cc class); Waitoki’s Cole Davies (12-13 years’ 85cc class); Taupo’s Declan Connors (8-11 years’ 85cc class); Tauranga's Levin Townley (8-11 years’ 65cc class); Palmerston North’s Hannah Powell (12-16 years’ women 125cc/250cc); Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne (12-16 years’ women’ 85cc/150cc); Taupo’s Mikayla Griffiths (8-11 years’ 85cc/150cc).
Senior 2021 NZ Motocross Champs calendar:
Round One: January 30-31, 2021 (in conjunction with the NZMX Grand Prix at Woodville). Manawatu-Orion MCC. MX1 (& 2T Cup), MX2 (& under-19), MX125 & round one of the Women's Cup.
Round Two: Sunday, February 21, 2021. Rotorua Motorcycle Club. MX1 (& 2T Cup), MX2 (& under-19), MX125 & MX3.
Round Three: Saturday, March 20. Pukekohe Motorcycle Club. MX1 (& 2T Cup), MX2 (& under-19), MX125 & MX3 (followed by Junior and Mini open at Pukekohe on Sunday, March 21).
Round Four: Sunday, March 28. Taupo Motorcycle Club. MX1 (& 2T Cup), MX2 (& under-19), MX125, MX3 & round two of the Women's Cup. Prize giving is arranged for that evening.
-Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com