CAPTION: Opotiki’s defending champion Cody Cooper (GASGAS MC250F), top rider in the MX2 class at Balclutha at the weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan,

FEBRUARY 26, 2024: The 2024 Yamaha New Zealand Motocross Championships reached the halfway stage in the deep south at the weekend, Balclutha hosting round two of four.

This first of four rounds in the Yamaha Motor New Zealand-sponsored series was held near Rotorua just over three weeks ago and round two at Balclutha, in Southland, on Sunday has left observers in no doubt as to who might be the likely title candidates this season.

West Auckland-based former Takaka man Hamish Harwood, in the MX1 class, Opotiki’s Cody Cooper, in the MX2 class, Bombay’s Reuben Smith, in the 125cc class, and Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne, in the women’s class, are the respective championship leaders after fierce racing in Balclutha on Sunday.

These are the riders dictating the pace and setting a benchmark for others to aspire to, but there’s actually a long way yet to go and anything can still happen.

Round three is set for Pukekohe on March 23, with the fourth and final round scheduled for New Plymouth on April 13, so there is no time for the various class leaders to be resting on laurels.

Australian Jed Beaton (two wins) and Harwood (one win) shared victories in the premier MX1 class at Balclutha, with Taihape’s man Hayden Smith also impressive in finishing third overall; defending national MX2 champion Cooper and Australian visitor Caleb Ward shared wins in the MX2 (250cc) class, with Oparau’s James Scott also a standout, while Bombay’s Reuben Smith dominated the 125cc class with a hat-trick of wins, as Invercargill rider Seth Morrow and Appleby’s Wills Harvey also shone out.

Invercargill’s Jack Symon, fourth overall in the MX2 class today, is the top MX2 rider aged under 19.

The senior women’s championship sees Raetihi 15-year-old Horne in the driving seat, with Opunake’s Taylar Rampton and Auckland’s Thalia Heileson not too far behind.

Inglewood’s Cam Hunger won the non-championship MX3 class at Balclutha.

There’s now a four-week break before round three, at Pukekohe on March 23, ample time for riders to re-tune their bikes, recover from any injuries and sharpen up their resolve as the series enters its next phase.

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,