CODY COOPER TAKES CHARGE AT NATIONALS OPENER
The number 121 is emblazoned on the front and sides of Cody Cooper's motorcycle, an unprepossessing digit that hints at nothing more than the fact that he is not the reigning New Zealand Motocross Champion. But the rider from The Mount took first place at the first round of the 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships nonetheless.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
But that could be set to change this season as the man from Mount Maunganui launched his bid for top honours in the premier MX1 class at the first of four rounds for the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taranaki on Sunday.
Coincidentally, those same digits were also the same ones that could be used to register his results at the Barrett Road Motocross Park, on the outskirts of New Plymouth, Cooper finishing the day with a 2-1-1 score-card, enough to give him a three-point edge over his nearest threat, defending champion Kirk Gibbs.
Australian visitor Gibbs finished the day 1-2-2 to settle for the runner-up position, while Mangakino's Kayne Lamont chimed in with three third placings and he took the third step on the MX1 podium. Lamont is just nine points behind Gibbs.
Cooper is a six-time former New Zealand MX1 champion and did not take kindly to losing his crown to Gibbs last season, something he is determined to rectify this year, his performance in Taranaki on Sunday certainly setting him on the right path to achieve that.
Cooper is in hot form at the moment – he won the MX1 class at the annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville a week ago.
But what Cooper craves most is winning the national title and there is actually still a long way to go before he can relax, with another three tough events (and nine races) to survive in the coming weeks.
"I was trying to tippy-toe around the track today, to not make any mistakes," said Cooper.
"There are parts of this Taranaki track where you can be pushing and feel good and then suddenly it all lets go.
"As long as I was in the hunt for the title when I left here today I would be happy and I'm actually leading the way, so that's even better."
Meanwhile, West Aucklander Hamish Harwood is on target to make it a fourth consecutive MX2 (250cc) class title win this season after he finished 2-2-1 in the three MX2 races on Sunday.
That score-card put him nine points ahead of another visiting Australian, Wilson Todd, while Mangakino's Maximus Purvis equalled Todd's points tally, but settled for the third step on the MX2 podium thanks to the count-back rule.
Ironman Harwood also took charge in the 125cc class, winning all three races there on Sunday, with Tauranga's Brodie Connolly and Ngatea's Ben Broad completing the 125cc podium.
Harwood is nine points clear of Connolly, with Broad six points further back in third.
The MX2 class battle-within-a-battle for under-19 honours went to Purvis, with Australian Morgan Fogarty and Hamilton's Reef Wheki rounding out that podium.
Round two of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships is set for Rotorua in just two weeks' time (on February 17). Round three follows at Pukekohe on February 24 and, finally, the nationals wrap up at Taupo on March 10.
Round one of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships was additionally supported by Mach 1 Yamaha, while Patterson O'Connor Motorcycles supports round two, Ebbett Pukekohe supports round three and Yamalube supports round four.