2022 Motocross of Nations in the USA

CAPTION: There was plenty of support for the Kiwi riders again this year, but luck did not favour Team New Zealand at the Motocross of Nations in the United States. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

New Zealand could not quite make it back to the elite top-20 ranks at this year’s 75th annual Motocross of Nations in the United States.

However, despite failing to achieve a prime finish at this edition of the “Olympic Games of Motocross” in Michigan, at the weekend, the Kiwi contingent can feel proud of their brave efforts in trying circumstances.

The popular Motocross of Nations was packed with drama throughout the two days of qualification and points race action at the RedBud circuit near Chicago and the three-rider team from New Zealand battled through to finish up 21st out of the 34 countries represented.

The Kiwi trio – Tauranga’s Josiah Natzke (MXGP class), Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly (MX2 class) and Waipukurau’s Rhys Carter (Open class) – rode with courage and cannot be too disappointed with their overall result.

After failing during preliminary qualifying races on Saturday to earn direct entry to the main races, the Kiwi trio were obliged to contest the B Final race first thing on Sunday morning

Natzke finished 17th in his qualifier, Carter finished 20th in his qualifying race and Connolly was sidelined by an engine failure, meaning he completed just five of 11 laps in his MX2 (250cc) class qualifier and, while credited with 29th, his was the score to be discarded from the Kiwi’s total.

Unfortunately, this consigned Team New Zealand to 23rd place out of the 34 nations entered this year and they therefore missed the 20-team cut, unable to progress directly to the finals races the following day.

It then became a must-win assignment for the Kiwis. Team New Zealand had to win Sunday morning’s B Final and earn a last-chance, backdoor route to the finals … nothing less would do if they were to achieve a top-20 result for 2022.

But it wasn’t to be.

“Rhys had a huge crash in the first corner of the B Final and so it was down to Brodie Connolly and Josiah Natzke to bring it home,” explained King.

Connolly took his 250cc bike to lead the B Final for much of the race, eventually settling for a runner-up finish, behind Venezuelan 450cc rider Lorenzo Locurio.

Meanwhile, Natzke produced the charge of the weekend, battling through from a long way back at the start to eventually claim sixth position at the chequered flag, just ahead of another Venezuelan 450cc rider, Anthony Rodriguez.

This was enough to put Team New Zealand first-equal with Team Venezuela in the B Final standings, but the count-back rule gave the nod to the South Americans when their third rider finished 22nd, while Carter was listed as a non-finisher.

“We got so close today to making the main race after the technical issue we had with Brodie Connolly’s bike in the MX2 class race on Saturday,” said team manager Shayne King afterwards.

“Winning the B Final is always a challenge, but all the guys gave it their all and I’m super proud of all of them.”

The host Americans won the event overall, the first time they had won the Motocross of Nations in 11 years, with Team France claiming the runner-up spot and Team Australia was third overall.

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