2023 Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville

CAPTION: It’s a traffic jam of the motocross variety as Westgate’s Hamish Harwood (bike No.1), Te Puke’s Tyler Steiner (5) and Papamoa’s Cody Cooper (121) battle for an advantage at the front. Fierce action like this is in store for race fans at the eastern end of the Manawatu Gorge this coming weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

A massive turf war is set to erupt on the outskirts of Woodville this coming weekend.

The biggest dirt bike race in the Southern Hemisphere – the annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville – will celebrate its 61st anniversary on Saturday and Sunday (January 28-29) with what is expected to be another scorching two days of intense race action.

And this big Honda-sponsored event is set to be another massive ‘superstar showdown’, especially with the four-round national championships series poised to kick off in the South Island just two weeks later.

With such a jam-packed racing calendar ahead, competitors know they’d better already be performing at the peak at Woodville this weekend.

The iconic event celebrated its 60th in birthday in January 2021, but then the pandemic raised its ugly head and forced almost every major sporting competition nationwide, actually worldwide too, to be shut down.

Despite skipping a beat therefore in 2022, or perhaps even because of this, the racing this weekend is sure to be red hot.

Host Manawatu-Orion Motorcycle Club president Brad Ritchie said he was “very excited to see it will be all back to normal for the event”.

“It is always a very special occasion for everyone. It always starts the year off on a high.

“It was an absolute heartbreak not being able to run this event in January last year, but it seems to have picked back up to a new high level. The club’s committee is determined to do it bigger and better than before and we have had wonderful support from the land owner and they’re really exciting to work with.

“All our main sponsors are back and we can’t thank them enough either.

“We’ll have Sky Sport Next giving coverage to the event, so anyone that can’t make it will still be able to view the racing. It will be screened live worldwide.”

The outright winner of Woodville in 2021, Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, has now retired from racing, his Woodville win no doubt a career highlight, so picking a favourite this time around is anyone’s guess.

An impressive array of Kiwi internationals are among the entries, experienced campaigners such as multi-time former New Zealand motocross champion and many time Woodville winner Cody Cooper, of Papamoa, Westgate’s current national MX1 champion Hamish Harwood, Te Puke’s Tyler Steiner, Mangakino’s former national motocross champion Maximus Purvis, Dunedin’s Sam Cuthbertson, Taihape’s multi-time national champion Hayden Smith and Hamilton’s former national MX2 champion and former Woodville winner Kayne Lamont, to name a few, in the glamour MX1 class.

Woodville is one of the biggest events on the Kiwi calendar and it will be an ideal build-up for a few of the Kiwi internationals who may be seeking to resurrect their careers overseas now that the pandemic fears have eased.

Since the stand-alone event was first staged over half a century ago, in late 1961, the Woodville Motocross has grown to become the jewel in New Zealand’s motocross crown and hundreds of riders will battle over the weekend, including minis, juniors, seniors, women and veterans.

Only six riders have won the main trophy at Woodville three times or more in the past – Taranaki’s Shayne King (an incredible 9-time Woodville winner), his elder brother Darryll King (5-time winner), Motueka’s Josh Coppins (5-time winner), Cooper (3), Tauranga’s Peter Ploen (3) and Pahiatua’s Ken Cleghorn (3).

All ages and levels of ability are catered for by the Woodville GP event, with the novelty river race on Sunday also a major crowd-pleaser and perhaps appealing more to the enduro and cross-country racing brigade.

Racing over the two days attracts thousands of spectators to the Tararua region, filling motel rooms and camping grounds to the point of overflowing, the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville is a must-see spectacle for any motorsports enthusiast.

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