CAPTION: The women’s class riders bolt out of the starting gate at round one of the New Zealand Motocross Championships at Horohoro, near Rotorua, on Saturday. Photo by Andy McGechan,

FEBRUARY 4, 2024: The 2024 New Zealand Motocross Championships kicked off in the Bay of Plenty on Saturday with the racing almost as wild as the weather.

Strong winds and rain lashed the hilly farmland circuit at Horohoro, near Rotorua, interspersed will warm, dry spells, and this kept the country’s elite motocross riders on their toes and also ensured the support personnel earned their keep.

This first of four rounds in the Yamaha Motor New Zealand-sponsored series certainly delivered high grade entertainment, with three of the four championship classes producing multiple race winners.

West Auckland-based former Takaka man Hamish Harwood and Australian visitor Jed Beaton took wins in the premier MX1 class, although Harwood’s 1-1-2 scoreline gave him the points advantage overall and he will have the series leader’s red number board as the riders now head to round two in the South Island in two weeks’ time.

Beaton did not in fact finish runner-up on the day, the honour going instead to Kiwi professional Josiah Natzke, the man from Mount Maunganui proving that consistency counts as his 2-2-3 score-card gave him the edge over Beaton’s 5-3-1. An official also explained that Beaton was dropped one position in race two for “cutting the course”.

Oparau’s James Scott, backed up his MX2 class win from the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville a week earlier, winning this class again at Rotorua.

His 1-2-2 scoreline was superior to that of Australian visitor Caleb Ward (who finished 2-2-1 over the three races), while defending national MX2 champion Cody Cooper was the third race winner in this class on Saturday, the Opotiki man’s 4-1-3 tally earning him the third podium spot.

Appleby’s Wills Harvey was again outstanding in the 125cc class at the weekend. A week after winning the Roddy Shirriffs Memorial trophy as top senior rider aged under 21 at Woodville, he went even better and scored an impressive hat-trick of wins at Rotorua.

Runner-up was Silverdale-based former Invercargill rider Seth Morrow, while Bombay’s Reuben Smith claimed the third podium step.

The senior Women’s championship, being run in conjunction with the men’s competition and, for the first time over all four rounds, and it was first blood to Australian visitor Taylah McCutcheon as she romped to a convincing victory in race one, ahead of 15-year-old Karaitiana Horne, from Raetihi.

However, the dual-class Aussie then crashed at the start of her first MX2 class race and this sidelined her for the rest of the weekend.

With McCutcheon out, Horne comfortably won the next two races and finished the day on top of the class, ahead of Rotorua’s Letitia Alabaster and Opunake’s Taylar Rampton.

Motorcycling New Zealand motocross co-commissioner Sonia Cloke said she was delighted with how it all turned out.

“The Rotorua Club turned it on today, as we knew they would. Rotorua was the perfect venue to kick off the 2024 Yamaha NZ Senior Motocross Championships,” she said.

“The weather provided changeable track conditions, which challenged the riders throughout the day. We were all treated to some great competition which we are sure will continue to build throughout the series.

“A massive thanks to the Rotorua Motorcycle Club, our sponsors, volunteers, officials and sponsors.”

Round two will send riders to Balclutha, at the southern tip of the South Island, on February 25. After that, the series takes riders north again, with Pukekohe hosting round three at Harrisville, on March 23.

The fourth and final round is set for the Barrett Road facility on the outskirts of New Plymouth on April 13.

In addition to Yamaha Motor New Zealand, other key financial backers for the 2024 season include Fox, Pirelli, Alpinestars, Motomuck and Grassroots Trust, all offering great support to the popular annual series.

2024 Yamaha Motor NZ Motocross Championships calendar:

Round 1, Rotorua, February 3, 2024

Round 2, Balclutha, February 25, 2024

Round 3, Pukekohe, March 23, 2024

Round 4, Taranaki, April 13, 2024

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,