Tuesday, January 24


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

A repeat performance is the aim for Yamaha team-mates Josh Coppins and Darryll King this weekend.

Josh Coppins
Motueka’s Coppins and Hamilton’s King won the two main senior classes at Woodville last year, although they’ll have a fight on their hands to defend those GP titles this time around.

With more than 700 riders expected to race over the weekend, the 51st annual Honda-sponsored New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville is obviously a very strong magnet for the nation’s elite.

Woodville is the biggest event on the Kiwi motocross calendar for many reasons.

In addition to offering GP titles across several different bike categories and attracting the cream of talent from New Zealand, as well as many leading riders from overseas, the stand-alone event caters for entrants from as young as four years old, to senior men and women in their 40s and 50s.

Coppins is a five-time winner at Woodville and also the defending champion and he is keen to defend his GP title in the MX1 (450cc) class this weekend.

Coppins has put his many world championship campaigns behind him as the 34-year-old scales back his career at the top-level, but it would be a foolish rival who writes off the Yamaha ace repeating the feat on Sunday.

However, fellow Kiwi internationals Ben Townley (Honda), of Taupo, Christchurch’s Justin McDonald (Honda), Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (Suzuki) and Papamoa’s Mason Phillips (Kawasaki), as well as hot domestic prospects such as Hamilton’s Hayden Clark (KTM), Taupo’s Brad Groombridge (Honda) and Gisborne’s Matt Hunt (Yamaha), for example, all loom as serious threats to Coppins and his MX1 class ambitions.

“I won Woodville last year and the aim is to win it again this time around too,” said Coppins.

“I don’t really know what to expect because my build-up has not been great. I have been sidelined with injury, and the surgery that followed, for close to five months and only got back on the bike just after Christmas.

“Training has been going well though and I expect you’ll see a fired-up Coppins at Woodville this weekend. I believe I’ll be on the pace that’s for sure.”

The MX2 (250cc) class is no less dramatic, with last year’s winner of that class, Waikato’s King – the current national MX2 champion and a five-time previous winner of the main prize at Woodville – equally determined to retain his No.1 status at Woodville.

The now 43-year-old King will need to be wary of leading MX2 riders such as Queenstown’s Scott Columb (Suzuki), now back to full fitness after a nearly two-year absence from the sport because of injury, and other top MX2 racers such as Peter Broxholme (Honda), of Tauranga, Masterton’s Luke Burkhart (KTM), Mangakino’s Kayne Lamont (Suzuki), Waitakere’s Ethan Martens (Yamaha) and Australia’s Geran Stapleton (Honda), to name a few.

Pahiatua’s Paul Whibley (Yamaha) will use the Woodville event to sign-off at home before he heads back to the United States to again tackle the American cross-country scene.

He is currently ranked No.2 in the US and hot favourite to win the novel river race on Sunday afternoon.

There is a liberal sprinkling of Australians in the junior ranks, adding to the international flavour of the event.

Minis and juniors race on Saturday with the senior racing set to dominate the programme on Sunday.