CAPTION: Rotorua's Briarly Dodunski, expected to be among the frontrunners in the women's racing when the start gates drop in Rotorua on Sunday. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
FEBRUARY 22, 2023: The 2023 senior New Zealand Motocross Championships action set for the Bay of Plenty this weekend offers double the delight for race fans.
Sunday's racing, scheduled for the popular Phillips family farmland track just outside Rotorua, will pack two massive competitions into one, with New Zealand's elite men and women sharing the national championship event programme for the first time.
The one-day event registers as the second round of four in the Aon Insurance, Pirelli tyres and Fox apparel-sponsored 2023 senior men's series, in addition to featuring the first round of three in the senior women's series.
The action will kick off Sunday morning on the Phillips family farm, just 20 kilometres south-west of Rotorua, on State Highway 30 at Horohoro, and it is likely to be frenzied right from the first drop of the start gate from about 10am.
It is the first time that the senior women’s nationals will have been run in tandem with the corresponding men's competition and the combination naturally provides added entertainment value to both competitions.
In the women’s ranks this Sunday, we should expect to see potential title-winning performances from 2022 British Women's Motocross Champion Roma Edwards, of Mount Maunganui, Hamilton sisters Aime and Brianna Roberts, Opunake's Taylar Rampton, Maungaturoto's Meg Paton, Wainuiomata's Ella Burns and Rotorua trio Mel Patterson, Ticayla Manson and Briarly Dodunski, among others.
The premier MX1 men's class is currently led by defending national champion Hamish Harwood, from Royal Heights, in Auckland, with Mangakino's Maximus Purvis in runner-up spot after round one of the men's competition at Balclutha earlier this month, while Papamoa's multi-time former national MX1 champion Cody Cooper is currently ranked No.3 after the racing that day in Southland.
Dual-class hero Harwood was untouchable in the 125cc class racing at Balclutha and so he also tops the small bike class, ahead of Dairy Flats rider Cole Davies and Kerikeri's Logan Denize.
Cooper, another dual-class ironman, scored a hat-trick of wins in the MX2 (250cc) class at Balclutha and the 39-year-old leads this division from a slew of talented youngsters, including riders such as Clevedon's Cobie Bourke, Oparau's James Scott, Silverdale-based former Taihape man Hayden Smith, Tauranga's Madoc Dixon, Helensville's Josh Jack, Otautau's Jack Treloar and New Plymouth's Rian King, to name a few.
The MX2 class points, however, are listed as "provisional" – aside from Cooper's unquestioned dominance – with the outcome of a protest still pending to determine the positions behind him.
Meanwhile, with the recent Cyclone Gabrielle wreaking havoc across much of the North Island last week, it means that the next round of the series, originally set for the now-devastated Ngaruroro Raceway circuit near Fernhill, in Hawke's Bay, is unable to go ahead.
Instead of Hawke's Bay hosting round three of the men and round two of the women, the final round that is scheduled Taupo's Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park, will be upgraded to a double-header event, racing to be run at Taupo on Saturday, March 25, before wrapping up both series at the same venue the following day.
The motocross nationals did not go ahead at all last season because of restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, so that adds further to the significance of this year's series.
Racing at all rounds will be live-streamed courtesy CTASlive.nz throughout the day.
2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships:
Round one: February 12 – South Otago (at Balclutha);
Round two: February 26 – Rotorua (including women's nationals);
Rounds three & four: March 25-26 – Taupo (including women's nationals).
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com