The 2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships

CAPTION: The riders were never far apart as pent-up energy was finally released when the 2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships kicked off in Southland on Sunday. Photo by Andy McGechan,

The first round of four in the 2023 senior New Zealand Motocross Championships was fast and furious as the nation’s top dirt bike racers finally got to unleash in Southland on Sunday.

The opening round of the Aon Insurance, Pirelli tyres and Fox apparel-sponsored series in Balclutha on Sunday was the first big opportunity for top-class racing since the season-opening stand-alone MXFest event in Taupo in October, so anticipation was at an all-time high.

The motocross nationals did not go ahead at all last season because of restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, so that had also turned up the level of expectancy.

The 2023 edition of the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville in late January had unfortunately been rained off, with organisers forced to abandon the traditional two-day event when the venue became flooded, and so riders were certainly chomping at the bit to go racing on Sunday.

And they didn’t hold back, with intense racing across all three championship classes and nothing certain until the final lap of each race.

Stand-out individual was Auckland’s Royal Heights-based former Takaka man Hamish Harwood, who won five of the six races he started in two separate classes.

He won all three 125cc races, finishing ahead of Dairy Flats’ rising young star Cole Davies, with Keri Keri’s Logan Denize rounding out the 125cc class podium on Sunday.

Harwood also won the premier MX1 class, winning the first two races of the day, but then forced to accept runner-up position, behind Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis in the final race of the weekend.

Uncertainty surrounds the MX2 (250cc) class, with results officially listed as “pending” from second ranking onwards, but there was no doubt about who dominated and won, with Papamoa’s Cody Cooper simply unstoppable.

With three wins from his three starts in the MX2 class, the 39-year-old Cooper, a multi-time former New Zealand champion in all categories, will head to round two in the North Island in a comfortable position regardless of what eventually happens with the results beneath him.

“It was fantastic to finally get some racing underway,” said Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Lindsey Heileson.

“It was an amazing start to the series and the South Otago Motorcycle Club really produced a great event. The riders turned out in good numbers and the weather played its part too with the sun streaming down.

“The level of riding was extremely high and a fantastic showcase for the sport.”

The next round in the series is set for two weeks’ time on the outskirts of Rotorua (on February 26), followed by racing at Fernhill, near Hastings, on March 19 and, finally, at Taupo, on March 26.

The 2023 senior women’s motocross nationals will share the programme for the North Island rounds, enhancing even more the scale and importance of the racing this season.

It will be the first time that the senior women’s nationals will run in tandem with the corresponding men’s competition.

Racing at all rounds is being live-streamed courtesy during race days.

2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships:

Round one: February 12 – South Otago (at Balclutha);

Round two: February 26 – Rotorua (including women’s nationals);

Round three: March 19 – Hastings (including women’s nationals);

Round four: March 26 – Taupo (including women’s nationals).

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,