New Zealand Cross-country Championships
CAPTION: The dates have now been set for the 2024 New Zealand Cross-Country Championships. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
The Kiwi dirt bike racing community is eagerly anticipating the start to the 2023 edition of the New Zealand Cross-country Championships, now just weeks away, and the 2024 season is also now on the horizon.
This year’s upcoming series may be considered something of a “rescue package”, the competition resurrected at short notice and forced to run later in the year than would usually have been the case when a void was created by the unexpected retirement earlier this year of Motorcycling New Zealand’s long-time cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth.
But the dirt bike discipline is in great hands again with new organisers Paul Whibley and Claire Clare stepping into the breach and forming a three-round series for 2023 that will now run through November and December.
The 2023 season is set to blast off in the Bay of Plenty in early November and should completely satisfy the needs and wants of the motorcycling community, although a few South Islanders may feel a little bit short-changed with all three rounds in the North Island only.
Dates for a three-round 2023 national cross-country championships series are: Round one, Saturday, November 11, at Pongakawa, near Te Puke; Round two, Saturday, November 25, at Maddix Park, Tauranga; Round three, Sunday, December 10, at Tinui, near Masterton.
But now, to further emphasise that the sport is moving forward at pace again, dates have just been announced for the 2024 season as well, expanded back out to four rounds and also including two rounds in the South Island.
Dates and venues for the series in 2024 will be: Round one, Friday, February 9, Nelson; Round two, Sunday, February 11, Nelson; Round three, Saturday, March 30, Central Hawke’s Bay; Round four, Monday, April 1, Bush Riders Club, at Tinui, near Masterton.
“With it all coming together at short notice for 2023 and finding farmland that we could use a little problematic, we just had to bite the bullet and be grateful that we could run something meaningful this year,” said Clare.
“It’s fantastic of course that we can add in South Island venues again in 2024 and the Nelson region offers a great backdrop for the excitement that cross-country racing provides.
“By having both the South Island rounds running back-to-back, and just three days apart, while the two North Island rounds will similarly also run back-to-back and just days apart, offering a day between rounds for riders to rest and recover, this also means inter-island travel expenses have been minimised and riders can plan a campaign that will be truly cost-effective.”
Whibley, the former United States champion from the Manawatu who is now retired as a regular racer, added: “I’m quite excited see it kick off. We have had a lot of feedback from the riders and it has all been positive.
“Claire and I have a plan to grow the New Zealand Cross-Country Championships,” said Whibley. “We want to streamline the classes a little, slow down the average speeds to make it safer, mix in some variety of terrain and work alongside the clubs to improve marking systems. We hope these improvements will boost entries and create some intense racing.
“This will also align the nationals closer to what is going on internationally, providing a platform where aspiring racers can launch from to take the next steps in their racing careers.”
2023 New Zealand Cross-country Championships calendar:
Round one, Saturday, November 11, at Pongokawa, between Matata and Tauranga;
Round two, Saturday, November 25, at Maddix Park, Tauranga;
Round three, Sunday, December 10, at Tinui, near Masterton.
2024 New Zealand Cross-country Championships calendar:
Round one, Friday, February 9, Nelson;
Round two, Sunday, February 11, Nelson;
Round three, Saturday, March 30, Central Hawke’s Bay;
Round four, Monday, April 1 (Easter Monday), Bush Riders Club, at Tinui, near Masterton.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com