The 2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships

CAPTION: Havelock North’s Oliver Ayre (bike No.554) snatches the lead at the start of this MX2 class race at Horohoro on Sunday. Photo by Andy McGechan,

The 2023 senior New Zealand Motocross Championships may be remembered as one of the most closely-fought in years after a brutal but entertaining day of high-intensity racing near Rotorua on Sunday.

Anything is still possible and riders will no doubt now be knuckling down to prepare for the final push in Taupo next month.

The series has reached the halfway stage for the men, with the racing near at Horohoro, just south of Rotorua, on Sunday registering as the second round of four, while the event was actually a glorious two-for-one extravaganza as the nation’s elite women shared the day’s programme to kick off their three-round series.

The parallel men’s and women’s nationals will offer up another “real bang for your buck weekend” in a month’s time when both competitions will wrap up with back-to-back two days of racing in Taupo – on Saturday, March 25, and then finally Sunday, March 26.

March 25 will be round three for the men and round two for the women, while the following day will be the final round for both parties in this year’s Aon Insurance, Pirelli tyres and Fox apparel-sponsored competition.

It was win-some, lose-some weekend for defending national MX1 champion Hamish Harwood, the man from Royal Heights, in Auckland, losing his grip on the MX1 class lead – an advantage that he had established at round one in Balclutha a fortnight ago – as Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis came on strong at Horohoro with a 2-1-1 scorecard from the three MX1 races.

However, dual class superman Harwood remains untouchable in his hunt for 125cc class glory this year, finishing the weekend with an increasingly iron-like grip on the 125cc class trophy, with Taupo’s Cody Griffiths, Kerikeri’s Logan Denize and Appleby’s Wills Harvey the best of those keeping Harwood honest.

Another dual-class ironman, Papamoa’s Cody Cooper, finished 1-3-1 in the three MX2 (250cc) class races at Horohoro and he is now further in front at the head of this grade, while he also took a 450cc version of his bike to finish runner-up to Purvis in the MX1 class on Sunday.

The women also produced high-calibre race action, responding to the spotlight with this being the first occasion that the senior women’s nationals have been run in tandem with the corresponding men’s competition.

Mount Maunganui’s Roma Edwards, Hamilton’s Aime Roberts and Opunake’s Taylar Rampton battled ferociously at the front of the field, while Australian visitor Tahlia Drew and Rotorua’s home-town heroine Mel Patterson, from Rotorua, kept them honest.

Edwards topped the women’s podium on Sunday, with Roberts runner-up and Rampton finishing third.

Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Lindsey Heileson was all smiles at the conclusion of Sunday’s racing at Horohoro.

“Today has been phenomenal … the racing, the track, having the women involved for the first time here … it has been amazing,” he said.

“Everything about the event has been stunning. The racing on track was second-to-none and the club here has done a great job setting it up and producing it all to the highest level. We are really looking forward to the final two days in Taupo now.”

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

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,