Taupo Again to Host Final-round Thriller

Taupo Again to Host Final-round Thriller

The 2017 NZ Motocross Championships

RIGHT: Mangakino's Kayne Lamont (Yamaha), hoping to turn home turf advantage into solid points on Saturday. Photo by Andy McGechan,

MARCH 20, 2017: The shifting sands of Taupo's popular Digger McEwen Motocross Park will once again be the venue for a thrilling championship finale.

The fourth and final round of this season's New Zealand Motocross Championships will be held on Saturday at this world-famous circuit that was once the venue of the Junior Motocross World Championships and host to such international superstars as Jeremy Seewer and Glen Coldenhoff, not to mention Belgian legends Stefan Everts and Joel Smets or American hero Eli Tomac.

This weekend it will be the turn of New Zealand's own crop of internationals – riders such as Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper, Takaka's Hamish Harwood, Christchurch's Dylan Walsh and Mount Maunganui's Rhys Carter, to name a few – who will go into battle.

This year's Mazda and DRD magazine-sponsored nationals will go right down to the wire in all three bike categories, with virtually nothing to separate the various class leaders from their chief rivals.

The premier MX1 class is finely balanced, with Australian MX1 champion Dean Ferris hoping to also add the Kiwi MX1 crown to his trophy cabinet.

Ferris is currently just one point ahead of defending national champion Cooper, with fellow Australians Todd Waters and Luke Styke not too far behind in third and fourth position respectively.

Kiwi heroes Carter, Mangakino's Kayne Lamont and Taupo's Brad Groombridge make up the top seven in this class and all these three riders have an enviable reputation on this circuit.

Perhaps home turf knowledge will assist them on Saturday.

Cooper, Harwood, Carter, Lamont and Groombridge have all represented New Zealand as part of the three-rider Motocross of Nations team in past years – racing the world's elite in countries such as Italy, France, the United States and Belgium – and so the pressure of a big occasion is not likely to unsettle them.

The MX2 (250cc) class should provide another explosive confrontation on Saturday.

It is tight at the top in this category, with defending champion Harwood just 11 points ahead of his nearest challenger, Walsh.

If Walsh wins every MX2 race at Taupo on Saturday and Harwood finishes runner-up each time, as happened at the previous round at Himatangi two weeks ago, then Harwood will retain his title by just two points.

If not, it's anybody's guess where that trophy will go.

In addition to Walsh, Waitakere's Ethan Martens, Te Puke's Logan Blackburn or Reporoa's Hadleigh Knight could be expected to win the day at Taupo, with Cambridge's Trent Collins and visiting Australian Kaleb Barham also possible winners.

It is intense at the top of the 125cc class too, with just eight points to separate Taihape's class leader Hayden Smith from Karaka's Kurtis Lilly.

Racing kicks off on Saturday at about 10am.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan,