Teams racing of the highest order are lighting up the track as the popular annual Battle of the Teams motocross produces some scintillating match-ups.
The Battle of the Teams fundraiser motocross attracted six-rider teams from all parts of the country on Saturday.
The competition raised funds for Team New Zealand's annual assault on the Motocross of Nations, usually in Europe but this year to be staged in the United States.
The MXoN, often referred to as the "Olympic Games of Motocross", did not proceed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and New Zealand did not send a team to the MXoN in Italy last year due to safety concerns and continuing travel difficulties associated the pandemic.
Those hiccups aside, the team-versus-team format used for Saturday's event in Taupo – which is similar to the nation-versus-nation configuration of the MXoN – is obviously still immensely popular with the New Zealand motocross community.
The number of teams entered at Taupo this year was a record, with a staggering 52 separate teams signing up to race.
There were some intriguing match-ups in Saturday's Battle of the Teams event, with typical draw-card riders such as Otago's three-time former women's motocross world champion Courtney Duncan, Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper, Oparau's James Scott, Tauranga's Brodie Connolly, Invercargill’s Jack Symon, Silverdale's Hayden Smith, Waipukurau's Rhys Carter, Christchurch’s Justin McDonald and Taupo's Brad Groombridge, for example, all giving the event added "star power".
Individuals such as Wellington's Josh Bartosh, Cambridge's Jared Hannon, Te Puke's Flynn Watts, Invercargill's Seth Morrow, Pukekohe's Tyler Brown, Te Awamutu's Nixon Parkes, Bombay's Reuben Smith and New Plymouth brothers Rian and Curtis King, to name just a few, were also outstanding on Saturday.
In the end, it was the depth of talent and the consistency of Team Alpinestars that shone through to take away the main trophy as outright winners.
Runners-up were the CML Racing Team riders, with Team Green taking the third spot on the podium. The Taupo Motorcycle Club Blue Team and then Team Good Times made up the top-five finishers overall.
"The weather played its part and it was another great fundraiser event, with riders coming from as far as Invercargill and Whangarei," says Taupo Motorcycle Club president Bevan Weal, the man who, coincidentally, is also co-manager for New Zealand’s 2022 MXoN campaign.
"This Taupo event is so important. The club makes no money from this. It's all about generating funds to get our team to the other side of the world to race the MXoN."
Sharing the managerial duties is New Plymouth's former motocross world champion Shayne King, the multi-time former national champion who was also, on numerous occasions in the past, a team rider for New Zealand at the MXoN.
King says it's so important to have Kiwi representation at the MXoN.
"So of the individuals racing at Taupo could well be in the mix to form the MXoN team in September. It's so cool to pull on that black jersey and step out with the New Zealand flag flying.
"You're up against the best riders in the world and, after not racing at the MXoN for the past two years, everyone is bursting to go.
"We've got some pretty good riders to choose from and the American fans at the Red Bud track really go off ... it's like dynamite there ... it's quite an experience."
This year's edition of the MXoN is set for Michigan, in the United States, on the weekend of September 24-25.
More than $13,000 was raised by the Battle of the Teams event on Saturday.
-By Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com