2024 Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville

CAPTION: The New Zealand team (pictured from left), Opunake’s Taylar Rampton, Palmerston North’s Hannah Powell, Morrinsville’s Breanna Rodgers, Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne, Rotorua’s Melissa Patterson and Rotorua’s Letitia Alabaster, performed with distinction in the inaugural FIM Oceania Women’s Cup competition, an integral part of the weekend’s Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

JANUARY 29, 2024: The elite women of motocross were saluted and revered at the weekend’s 61st annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville.

The Honda-sponsored event this year incorporated the inaugural FIM Oceania Women’s MX Cup within its massive two-day programme and this Trans-Tasman challenge was perhaps a fan favourite among the many thousands who attended and watched from the grassy slopes that formed a natural amphitheatre around the farmland circuit.

In the end, the talented-but-depleted six-rider Team New Zealand produced a solid effort, but they were ultimately overwhelmed by Team Australia’s ‘six of the best’.

When one after another of New Zealand’s first-choice riders become unavailable due to injury – including Otago’s four-time and current women’s motocross world champion Courtney Duncan – you could be forgiven for thinking New Zealand’s hopes of winning were forlorn at best.

But a battling Kiwi spirit endured and they produced a performance that had many of the crowd standing, cheering and urging them on.

Team New Zealand comprised Opunake’s Taylar Rampton, Palmerston North’s Hannah Powell, Morrinsville’s Breanna Rodgers, Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne and Rotorua duo Melissa Patterson and Letitia Alabaster, with the most junior rider, Kawasaki-mounted Horne, the stand-out among them.

Horne finished third, sixth and eighth in the three FIM Oceania Women’s MX Cup races, good enough for sixth overall among the 12 international competitors.

Australian heroine Charli Cannon led her six-rider contingent from the front, her 1-1-2 results on Sunday a massive boost for her team, which ended up occupying the top five positions overall.

Reigning Australian national women’s champion Cannon, who also raced the Women’s Motocross World Championships in 2023, won the first two Oceania races and settled for runner-up in race three and this was despite the 18-year-old carrying a significant leg injury (a footpeg sliced her thigh open), suffered in a training crash two weeks earlier.

Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) women’s commissioner Sandra Perry, who is also on the FIM Oceania Commission, said she was “extremely proud” of how the Kiwi girls performed.

“The racing was fantastic,” she said. “The Kiwi girls tried really hard and I think they enjoyed themselves too. Their efforts were really good and that’s it was all about.

“This is the first motocross I’ve been to in a while, but what made me a little bit tearful was seeing the large number of girls and women we now have involved in racing. It’s a growing part of our sport and we can see that the MNZ Women’s Commission is one of those factors making a difference.”

Riders were allocated points in an identical fashion to the world championship season-ending Motocross of Nations – often referred to as the ‘Olympic Games of motocross’ – with riders earning one point for first, two points for second, etc, and the team with the lowest score wins.

Team Australia won the FIM Oceania Women’s MX Cup by 53 points to New Zealand’s 128 and the overall individual standings were: 1. Charli Cannon (Aust); 2. Taylah McCutcheon (Aust); 3. Taylor Thompson (Aust); 4. Madison Healey (Aust); 5. Maddison Brown (Aust); 6. Karaitiana Horne (NZ); 7. Emma Milesevic (Aust); 8. Taylar Rampton (NZ); 9. Letitia Alabaster (NZ); 10. Breanna Rodgers (NZ); 11. Mel Patterson (NZ); 12. Hannah Powell (NZ).

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