2023 Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville

 CAPTION: Mother Nature was too powerful by far for the assembled masses of New Zealand’s motocross elite, with heavy rain forcing organisers to cancel the 2023 edition of the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville at the weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

Perhaps will be third time lucky for the host Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club next year after its jewel in the crown event, the annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville, suffered its second consecutive cancellation at the weekend.

Club president Brad Ritchie said he was a “shattered man” as he made the difficult decision, after consultation with his committee, to cancel the iconic at about midday on Saturday.

Top-grade racing had again been scheduled to fill two days – minis, juniors and veterans on Saturday and seniors, women and the crowd-favourite river racing on Sunday – but no bikes were actually kicked into life again this year as torrential rain overnight on Friday caused extensive flooding at the farmland circuit.

The popular Honda-sponsored event had also been abandoned last season, only on that occasion it was the COVID-19 pandemic that did the damage.

Last year’s event would have enabled event founder Tim Gibbes, of Palmerston North, the former international racer now aged 89, to join with the club in marking the event’s 61st anniversary and that would have been the case again if it had gone ahead at the weekend.

“We are grateful that we could celebrate the event’s 60th anniversary in January 2021 … and now we’ve had two attempts to mark the 61st, but have now twice been foiled by circumstances beyond our control,” said Ritchie.

“I’m sure I’m speaking for the entire Kiwi motocross community in saying that it has been devastating. But we are also encouraged and humbled that, despite the sad announcement, we have been shown such great support and understanding from sponsors, fans, the riders and the land owners too.

“We scooted around the pits at about 3am on Saturday to awaken camping riders and advise them to evacuate the pit area. By daybreak the river was already lapping high on the banks. It continued to rise and then overflowed to flood large sections of the track.

“Literally thousands of man-hours are put into running events like this. It’s mostly behind-the-scenes and all done by unpaid volunteers, so it’s particularly gut-wrenching for them.

The next opportunity for the nation’s top racers to strut their skills will be at the opening event of the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships, set to kick off in Balclutha in two weeks’ time, on February 12.

“We wish well to all those riders travelling to the South Island and fingers are crossed that racing there will be able to go off without a hitch,” Ritchie said.

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