The 2023 Australian Junior Motocross Championships
CAPTION: Cambridge’s Nico Verhoeven, now a champion in Australia.
Four Kiwis crossed the Tasman Sea to tackle the Australian Motocross Championships this season and each of them excelled in conditions that were hot on track in every sense of the word.
Cambridge’s Nico Verhoeven, Taupo’s Connor Feather, Otorohanga’s Cooper Phillips and Dannevirke’s Ollie Corbin accepted the challenge to travel to the 2023 junior motocross nationals at Darwin’s Acacia Hills motocross track and it truly was a welcome learning experience for them.
Practice and qualifying kicked off on Wednesday, July 12, followed by three days of incredible racing against elite riders, mostly from the Southern Hemisphere, and in extremely warm temperatures that none of them would have been accustomed to.
The track was also unfamiliar to the New Zealand contingent, the circuit being a tight affair, sculpted from gravelly orange dirt, which also didn’t seem to hold moisture all too well.
The track had small table top jumps coming out of tight corners and a supercross whoop section, which also made it hard for the riders to judge their bike set-up.
It was a hot challenge for the Kiwis – including the parents and supporters – with temperatures reaching 35 degrees throughout the day and the track preparation was interesting too, with track crew even drowning the track in water during the day to dampen the ‘bulldust’, as the locals called it.
This left water-logged ruts and the riding conditions were extremely slippery and this lasted for at least four races afterwards.
It was impressive to see the 50cc bikes competing also, on the same track as the much bigger bikes, and handling the conditions with no problems at all.
The Kiwi boys were the talk of the pits with the youngest rider, Verhoeven, winning all but his first race and that was due to his suffering a small bike hiccup.
When the dust had settled, however, Verhoeven had claimed first place overall in the 7-10 years’ 65cc class.
Feather also took the top spot, winning the 10-12 years’ 65cc class with an impressive performance, taking two seconds and three wins. He also had amazing rides in the 85cc class, battling with the factory boys and finishing fifth overall.
Phillips, in his last ride on an 85cc bike, also had success and challenged with three third place finishes – and one shocker result in the mud, resulting in him finishing seventh place in that race – and he managed to reach the podium also, finishing third overall in the 14-16 years’ 85cc class.
Corbin, riding a crisp, new stock bike in the 12-15 years’ 125cc class, was consistent, despite not feeling well on day one, and he finished a credible 11th overall at his first Australian event.
All the New Zealand riders took a lot away from the experience and the intensity of riding such an event, but they did also look forward to getting away to the cooler temperatures at home.
For Verhoeven, the adventures had just begun, however, as he immediately flew off to the United States to take part in the famous Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National Motocross Championships in Nashville, Tennessee.
Verhoeven, alongside fellow Kiwi Jared Hannon, from Cambridge, had qualified for this event by contesting area and regional qualifiers in the United States in May.
The world-renowned Loretta Lynn’s event runs in the first week of August.
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com