The 2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships

CAPTION: Expect more close racing like this when the gates drop in Rotorua on Sunday. Photo by Andy McGechan,

The opening round of the 2023 senior New Zealand Motocross Championships in the South Island earlier this month was simply sensational.

And now it’s all systems go for New Zealand’s elite men and women to produce more of the same at the second round of the series in the Bay of Plenty this coming weekend.

The nation’s top dirt bike racers will flock to the popular Phillip’s farm property, just outside Rotorua, on Sunday, promising more of the same fierce and uncompromising racing that was evident in the deep south, at Balclutha, nearly two weeks ago.

Sunday’s second round of the Aon Insurance, Pirelli tyres and Fox apparel-sponsored 2023 series is scheduled for the Phillips family farm, just 20 kilometres south-west of Rotorua, on State Highway 30 at Horohoro, and it is expected to again feature exceptionally-close racing across all the championship classes.

The premier MX1 class is currently led by defending national champion Hamish Harwood, from Royal Heights, in Auckland, with Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis in runner-up spot after round one, while Papamoa’s multi-time former national MX1 champion Cody Cooper is currently ranked No.3 after the racing at Balclutha.

Dual-class hero Harwood was untouchable in the 125cc class racing at Balclutha and so he also tops the small bike class, ahead of Dairy Flats rider Cole Davies and Kerikeri’s Logan Denize.

Cooper, another dual-class ironman, scored a hat-trick of wins in the MX2 (250cc) class at Balclutha and the 39-year-old leads this division from a slew of talented youngsters, including riders such as Clevedon’s Cobie Bourke, Oparau’s James Scott, Silverdale-based former Taihape man Hayden Smith, Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon, Helensville’s Josh Jack, Otautau’s Jack Treloar and New Plymouth’s Rian King, to name a few.

The MX2 class points, however, are listed as “provisional” – aside from Cooper’s unquestioned dominance – with the outcome of a protest still pending to determine the positions behind him.

Enhancing even more the overall scale and importance of the racing this season, the three-round 2023 senior women’s motocross nationals also shares the programme with the North Island rounds of the series.

It will be the first time that the senior women’s nationals will have been run in tandem with the corresponding men’s competition and this weekend will represent the opening phase of the women’s championship series.

In the women’s ranks this Sunday, we should expect to see potential title-winning performances from 2022 British Women’s Motocross Champion Roma Edwards, of Mount Maunganui, Hamilton sisters Aime and Brianna Roberts, Opunake’s Taylar Rampton, Maungaturoto’s Meg Paton, Wainuiomata’s Ella Burns and Rotorua trio Mel Patterson, Ticayla Manson and Briarly Dodunski, among others.

Meanwhile, with the recent Cyclone Gabrielle wreaking havoc across much of the North Island last week, it means that the next round of the series, originally set for the now-devastated Ngaruroro Raceway circuit near Fernhill, in Hawke’s Bay, is unable to go ahead.

Instead of Hawke’s Bay hosting round three of the men and round two of the women, the final round that is scheduled Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park, will be upgraded to a double-header event, racing to be run at Taupo on Saturday, March 25, before wrapping up both parallel series at the same venue the following day.

The motocross nationals did not go ahead at all last season because of restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, so that adds further to the significance of this year’s series.

Racing at all rounds will be live-streamed courtesy throughout the day.

2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships:

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

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

Rounds three & four: March 25-26 – Taupo (including women’s nationals).

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,