2022 New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships

 CAPTION: The racing was close throughout most of the classes at Taranaki’s popular Barrett Road Motorcycle Park facility at the weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

The sport of motocross is really taking off in New Zealand, in more ways than one, and this was aptly demonstrated at the 2022 edition of the New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships in Taranaki at the weekend.

Not only was the action high-flying and fierce at the Aon Insurance-sponsored three-day event, but potential Kiwi internationals of the future also revealed themselves in the always torrid race action.

A sun-baked Taranaki put on an incredible spectacle. The undulating course, in the shadow of a snow-capped Mount Taranaki, provided an exciting challenge for all concerned, especially as the ruts grew progressively deeper and made it all the more difficult for the young riders to cope with as fatigue had really begun to set in by Sunday afternoon.

But the riders – all aged between eight and 16 years and on bikes with engine capacities between 65cc and 250cc, typically responded by showing they had the both mental and physical toughness needed to match their speed and talent.

Two Kiwi former world champions, New Plymouth’s Shayne King and Tauranga’s Ben Townley, were there to pass on the baton to their sons, with these young men showing they too could one day be world calibre riders.

Several other senior stars of the recent past – men such as Craig Brown, Damien King, Bryan Heaphy and Nigel Smith, to name a few – were also on hand to mentor some of the competitors and the junior nationals once again worked well as a nursery ground for New Zealand’s future sporting heroes.

Best-performed rider in the premier 14-16 years’ 250cc category at the weekend was Waitoki’s Cole Davies, the just-turned 15-year-old also wrapping up the 15-16 years’ 125cc class title. It was a commanding performance from Davies, who won nine of his 10 races over the weekend and was runner-up in the other race.

Runner-up to Davies in the 250cc class was Invercargill’s Seth Morrow, with New Plymouth’s Rian King settling for third overall.

Second to Davies in the 15-16 years’ 125cc class was fellow double-class campaigner King, while Bombay’s Reuben Smith snatched the final podium spot.

There were similarly tight battles throughout  the top positions in all the other classes too, although double-class ironman Morrow seemed well in control in winning the 12-14 years’ 125cc class title for a second consecutive season. He won all five races in  this class over the weekend.

Joining Morrow on that younger 125cc podium were Hamilton’s Carson Mackie and Leeston’s Kase Thoms, these two riders finishing equal on points, but Mackie getting the nod to take runner-up honours by virtue of the count-back rule.

Appleby’s Wills Harvey seemed untroubled in winning the 14-16 years’ 85cc/150cc class, finishing the weekend unbeaten in this class. Finishing second and third respectively behind Harvey were Whakatane’s Aydan Hall and Nelson’s Connor Heaphy.

Karaka’s Hayden Draper won the 12-13 years’ 85cc/150cc class ahead of Tauranga’s Levi Townley and Taupo’s Declan Connors. Townley won four of his five races in this class, but an electrical issue in the other race handed him an unwelcome non-score and that cost him dearly.

Hastings rider Harry Daly and Tauranga’s Jaggar Townley were locked in a fierce battle for the top spot in the 8-11 years’ 85cc/15occ class, but Daly won the race that really counted, the last one of the weekend, to take the title by just two points from this younger of the two Townley boys.

Tauranga’s Arama Te Whetu had led this class after Friday’s first race, but a mixed bag of results over the two days that followed meant he had to settle for third overall in this class.

Jaggar Townley won four of his five races in the 8-11 years’ 65cc class, finishing the championships ahead of Taupo’s Connor Feather and Tokoroa’s Levi Rodgers.

Tokoroa’s Breanna Rodgers won the 12-16 years’ 125cc/250cc women’s class ahead of Australia’s Rayne Alefosio and Stratford’s Jessica Harris, while Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne dominated the 12-16 years’ 85cc/125cc women’s class for a second consecutive season. Horne this time finished ahead of Auckland’s Ruby Leech and Waitoki’s Milla Glasgow.

Whangarei’s Hannah Perris was dominant in the 8-11 years’ 85cc/150cc women’s class, finishing the weekend ahead of Feilding’s Indie Allison and Hamilton’s Ella Mackie.

“It was a fantastic weekend. The host club delivered everything they had promised,” said Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Lindsey Heileson.

“There has been some fantastic racing. This shows a real growth for the sport and this event is where our future Motocross of Nations team riders will come from. There’s a lot of great talent coming through.”

President of the host Taranaki Motorcycle Club, Kelvin Gray, said it was a huge honour to host an event of this magnitude.

“This is our club’s 100th-year anniversary too. We had been planning to celebrate that at Easter, but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to cancel. To be appointed to run this is a real boost to the club and a testament to the huge amount of work done by our committee members over a couple of years.

“Feedback from the riders has been awesome and they really liked the track. The weather played its part too and it was such a wonderfully friendly family atmosphere at the track.”

The 2022 New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships were supported by Aon Insurance, Yamaha NZ and Dent Contracting.

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