The 2023 Battle of the Clubs MX at Taupo
CAPTION: Papamoa’s Cody Cooper (Kawasaki No.121) leads Te Puke’s Tyler Steiner (Suzuki No.8) at the start of this race at Saturday’s Battle of the Clubs event in Taupo. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
A team including a multi-time former Motocross of Nations team rider, stole the spotlight at the big annual Battle Of The Clubs motocross in Taupo on Saturday.
The Motocross of Nations (MXoN) is the pinnacle of the sport globally, often referred to as the “Olympic Games of motocross”, pitting nation against nation in an annual showdown to determine the best motocross country in the world, and the Taupo Motorcycle Club’s spin on that is to run a similar team-versus-team event as a fundraiser to help enable New Zealand to send a contingent to the MXoN each year.
The MXoN was last year staged near Chicago, in the United States, but this year that major event is returning to Ernee, in north-western France and the Kiwi contingent that will head to this event will be named in the coming weeks.
The Battle of the Clubs (BotC) event in Taupo at the weekend was slightly less glamourous or significant, with a family atmosphere and friendly rivalry at its core, but still vitally important in terms of helping to fund Kiwi representation on the international stage.
Instead of different countries going into motocross battle with one another, the domestic version in Taupo on Saturday featured teams aligned along club allegiances or loyalties, but that did nothing to lessen the passion or intensity of the racing and, in fact, may even have strengthened it.
The winning six-rider team this year was the one representing the North King Country Motorcycle Club and this comprised many-time former New Zealand MXoN team rider Cody Cooper, fellow Kiwi international James Scott, evergreen former national 500cc champion Mitch Rowe and rising star junior rider Luke Riley, with equally-talented brothers Nixon and Maz Parkes.
Stand-out performances also came from several other individuals, but the runner-up team was that which represented the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club, with the six-rider contingent representing Gold Coast Motocross Club (Kapiti) claiming the third podium position overall.
“It was great to see all of our top riders turn out to support a small team of people to get overseas and represent New Zealand, said Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Lindsey Heileson.
“Right through from the mini track to the senior track, the atmosphere has been amazing. It’s a great motocross family that we have here in New Zealand.”
MXoN team co-manager Shayne King knows a thing or two about the significance of the MXoN, having himself represented New Zealand as a rider on numerous occasions in the past.
“It’s a great honour to again be co-manager for our team overseas this year. We are heading to Ernee, in France, and a lot of our riders have experience with racing there. The soil there suits us.
“If you can imagine 80,000 people there cheering on the riders, the atmosphere is amazing.
“I’ve been on the podium for New Zealand twice at this event as a rider and I can remember the feeling of disbelief to be such a small country and to be able to be among the world’s elite is truly remarkable.
“I believe we can be there again, but everything needs to go our way on the day. You can be the fastest rider or team of riders, but sometimes things work against you. I believe we are a top-10 country.”
Host Taupo Motorcycle Club vice-president Jay Davison paid tribute to his club’s volunteer workers who made the weekend possible.
“The Battle of the Clubs is a fundraiser event hosted by the Taupo Motorcycle Club is now in its 14th year,” said Davison. “This past year has been very difficult at times with the huge amount of rain and the track has been difficult to prepare at times, but the club workers have done an amazing job to get the track ready.
“It has been a spectacular day of racing. Clubs and riders arrived from around the country, with 24 teams in total, including six teams from the South Island too, so it was another great turn-out. We raised about $16,000 last year and, although we still need to do a final tally, I believe we have exceeded that this year.”
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com