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First Shots fired at Motocross Nationals

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The opening round of this year's New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taranaki on Sunday was a scorcher in more ways than one.

Temperatures at the popular Barrett Road facility, on the outskirts of New Plymouth, hovered around the 30-degree Celsius mark, and the race action was equally hot on the steep and demanding track.

The defending national MX1 champion, 34-year-old Mount Maunganui man Cody Cooper (Honda), became acutely aware that the young brigade may be catching him up as he struggled all day with a man 10 years his junior, Hamilton-base former Mangakino rider Kayne Lamont (Yamaha).

The 24-year-old Lamont won all three MX1 class races on Sunday and looked quite comfortable doing so, in the process establishing a solid 15-point lead over Cooper at the top of the series standings.

However, there was more to it than just the polished form of the young challenger, with Cooper indicating that he was struggling to come to grips with his suspension settings, issues that perhaps led to his big crash in the day's final MX1 race.

Cooper was spat off his bike while leading the race and he was forced to settle for fifth place at the finish, albeit still enough for him to finish the day overall runner-up in the class. 

Third best rider in the premier MX1 class was visiting Australian Kirk Gibbs (KTM), his 4-3-2 score-card over the three races perhaps no real indicator of his potential, because he too fell victim to the track on more than one occasion.

Lamont can rightfully celebrate his stunning hat-trick of wins on Sunday, but he will also be mindful that Cooper and Gibbs, and all the other MX1 competitors, will likely bounce back with a vengeance at round two in Rotorua in three weeks' time.

Meanwhile, in the MX2 (250cc) class, defending champion Hamish Harwood (KTM) was in scintillating form.

The22-year-old Takapuna-based former Takaka man won all three MX2 races on Sunday, finishing the day 15 points clear of Taupo's national cross-country champion Brad Groombridge (Suzuki).

Stamina and consistency made the multi-talented Groombridge, who is also and enduro and cross-country expert, a particularly potent challenger.

Third best in this class was visiting Australian Jay Wilson (Yamaha), the former Grand Prix motocross star becoming faster as the day wore on and his 8-3-2 score-card left him just five points adrift of Groombridge.

The National 125cc class was a fierce Kiwi-Aussie battle with Mangakino's Maximus Purvis and Yarra Valley rider Mason Semmens sharing the wins.

Yamaha's Purvis finished 1-1-2 and KTM rider Semmens finished 2-2-1, giving a narrow three-point advantage to Purvis after this opening round.

Third best rider in this class was Cambridge's Seton Head (KTM), although he is a massive 17 points behind Semmens in the series standings.

The first two rounds of this year's national series also incorporated the inaugural Women's Cup competition, a chance for the women to share some of the spotlight outside of their own two-day nationals.

The first of those two Women's Cup rounds on Sunday saw Opunake's 2017 national women's champion Taylar Rampton take charge on her home turf.

She took her Suzuki to register a 1-1-2 score-card and end the day with a three-point advantage over former national women's champion Letitia Alabaster (KTM), of Rotorua, with and another Rotorua rider, Mel Patterson (KTM), nine points further back in third overall.

After Sunday's opener, the series now heads to Rotorua for round two on February 25. Round three is set for Hawke's Bay on March 11, with the fourth and final round in Taupo on March 24.

Rounds three and four of the nationals will incorporate a Youth Cup (under-19 years) competition.

All four rounds of the 2018 New Zealand Motocross Championship will be live streamed on www.mnz.co.nz and the Motorcycling New Zealand Facebook page, thanks to the generosity of sponsors Workshop Graphics, Pirelli, Eni, Image Centre Group, KTM, Husqvarna, Fox Racing, Kawasaki New Zealand, Yamaha New Zealand, Honda New Zealand and Crombie Lockwood.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

 

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