2023 New Zealand Cross-country Championships

CAPTION: Eketahuna’s Sheldon Brown (Yamaha), winner of the 90-minute junior grade race on Saturday. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

NOVEMBER 13, 2023: The 2023 New Zealand Cross-country Championships got underway in the Bay of Plenty at the weekend with a large number of motorcycle riders making the most of their trip to the region.

Warm weather greeted the more than 75 elite riders who showed up at for the nationals the farmland course near Rotoma, but the intensity of the racing made it even hotter still and, according to Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Paul Whibley, it showed the sport is indeed in a healthy state.

This year’s Whyteline Beta Motorcycles-sponsored three-round series started off with Taupo’s three-time former champion Brad Groombridge dominating the senior grade, winning the two-hour senior race by exactly two minutes from Cambridge’s Jared Hannon, with another Taupo rider, Wil Yeoman, clinching the third podium position.

Rotorua’s Callum Dudson and Eketahuna’s Luke Brown rounded out the top five finishers in the senior grade.

Best of the race-within-a-race for veteran 35-44 years’ riders was Hamilton’s Phil Goodwright (20th overall), while best of the veteran 45-54 years’ riders was New Plymouth’s Tony Parker (21st overall) and Auckland’s Charlotte Russ was best of the females, finishing 28th overall.

“It’s always good to get a win under the belt to start a series. It takes a bit of pressure off,” said the 33-year-old Groombridge afterwards.

“I actually had half a foot-peg snap off during the race and didn’t realise until the end of it that this had happened. I think I was a bit lucky. It could have ended badly for me.

“I didn’t get a great start, but managed to snatch the lead during a fuel stop after two laps (about 40 minutes into the race).

“I’m looking ahead most to the final round because that involves a little more strategy and management. The two-hour race on Saturday was a bit of a sprint for me really.”

Most outstanding of the junior riders on Saturday was Brown’s younger brother, Sheldon Brown, who won the 90-minute junior race by a slim nine seconds from Te Awamutu’s Nixon Parkes, with Aucklander Millen Cargill, Rotorua’s James Bates and Cambridge’s Harrison Findlay completing the top five.

Best of the small bike (85cc two-stroke and 150cc four-stroke) riders was Raglan’s Ryley Shaw, who finished the junior race 16th overall.

Round two is set for Maddix Park, near Tauranga, on November 25.

2023 New Zealand Cross-country Championships calendar:

Round one, Saturday, November 11, at Rotoma, near Matata;

Round two, Saturday, November 25, at Maddix Park, Tauranga;

Round three, Sunday, December 10, at Tinui, near Masterton.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com