OCTOBER 22, 2021: Two teams, each including two former Motocross of Nations team riders, stole the spotlight at the big annual Battle Of The Teams motocross in Taupo on Friday.
The winning Team Green Kawasaki line-up at the big annual Battle of the Teams fundraiser motocross in Taupo, pictured here standing behind Josiah Natzke’s Kawasaki KX250.
The Motocross of Nations (MXoN) is the pinnacle of the sport globally, often referred to as the “Olympic Games of motocross”, pitting nation against nation in an annual showdown to determine the best motocross country in the world, and the Taupo Motorcycle Club’s spin on that is to run a similar team-versus-team event as a fundraiser to help enable New Zealand to send a contingent to the MXoN each year.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Team New Zealand to sit out the MXoN – typically staged in Europe – in 2020 and again in 2021, but Taupo’s Battle Of The Clubs went ahead anyway this year with the sole aim of boosting the bank account for future MXoN bids by Team New Zealand.
This year it was the six-rider team representing Team Green Kawasaki that stole the honours in the popular domestic event, Rotorua’s Jonathan Martelli (MX1), Tauranga’s Josiah Natzke (MX2), Hawera’s Daryl Hurley (Veteran), Morrinsville’s Jarrod Hannon (Junior 250cc), Te Puke’s Flynn Watts (Junior 125cc) and Mangakino’s Maz Parkes (Junior 85cc) combining brilliantly to seal the main prize by seven points from the Alpinestars Team.
Natzke and Hurley have both in the past represented New Zealand at the MXoN in Europe and the United States and it was perhaps their experience at this popular international clash that gave Team Green Kawasaki an edge on Friday.
The runner-up Alpinestars team comprised Mount Maunganui pair Rhys Carter (MX1) and Cody Cooper (Veteran), Taupo’s Cohen Chase (MX2), New Plymouth’s Rian King (Junior 250cc), Levin’s Phoenix van Dusschoten (Junior 125cc) and Napier’ Boston Scott (Junior 85cc).
Cooper and Carter had also formerly been MXoN riders for New Zealand in past years.
In the junior/senior breakdown, Team Green Kawasaki topped the junior rankings, while the Alpinestars team headed the senior rankings, but, most significantly, it was the men in green who won the contest overall.
Kawasaki New Zealand’s managing director Shane Verhoeven, the team manager on Friday, was naturally thrilled with the outcome his riders achieved.
“It was a challenge with COVID that’s for sure. We had a couple of riders stuck at the border and we had to recruit at the last minute to fill the gaps. But it worked out well and I’m over the moon with the team.
“Actually it was the juniors that pulled us through and we were second overall in the senior grade too. When you see riders like Cody Cooper and Daryl Hurley riding in the veterans’ grade just shows how fast the older guys were today.
“Kawasaki on top … hey, let the good times roll.”
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
OCTOBER 25, 2021: The 2021-22 motocross season could not have kicked off any better for Kawasaki racer Josiah Natzke.
Team Green Kawasaki rider Josiah Natzke kicked off his 2021 season in the best way possible, taking the chequered flag on two separate days over Labour Weekend.
The 22-year-old from Mount Maunganui firstly helped his six-rider Team Green squad to overall victory at Friday’s annual Battle Of The Teams motocross in Taupo and then he lined up again two days later to ride as an individual and dominate the talent-laden MX2 (250cc) class at the big annual MX Fest event that was also staged at the Digger McEwen Motorcycle Park on the outskirts of Taupo.
With COVID-19 pandemic imposing chaos on many of New Zealand’s major sporting activities at present, and with so many of them actually postponed or abandoned completely, it was remarkable in itself that the three-day festival of motocross was able to be staged at all.
Natzke and his Bridgestone Kawasaki Racing Team certainly made the most of the opportunity that was presented by the proactive and forward-thinking Taupo Motorcycle Club, the extravaganza heralding the start to the 2021-22 motocross season over three days of Labour Weekend.
Friday’s stand-alone Battle Of The Teams fundraiser event and the MX Fest event that followed – juniors racing on Saturday and seniors on Sunday – was a rare gem for the motorcycling community that had been forced to stand by due to COVID restrictions and there are now fingers crossed that the season can continue in one form or another.
Natzke took his Kawasaki KX250 four-stroke bike to win all three of his MX2 class races on Sunday, each time heading off challenges from Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, the rising star who won the 125cc class and the under-19 title in the nationals last season but who has since jumped up to race the more powerful 250cc competition.
Third best in this class on Sunday was Southland racer Jack Treloar, the 18-year-old apprentice builder from Otautau, near Invercargill, rewarded for his long journey with a truly solid podium performance.
Natzke’s unbeaten run will surely have rung a few alarm bells for his MX2 class rivals ahead of the run of summer events that are scheduled, but not yet confirmed, for December and then on into the New Year.
“It was a great way to start the season. I haven’t done a lot of preparation … just a little bit of riding and fitness, but nothing crazy,” said Natzke afterwards.
“It’s a shame (Oparau’s national MX2 No.2) James Scott wasn’t able to be here because he would have spiced things up a bit more. Brodie (Connolly) rode great today.
“This is a good starting point for me this early in the season. I was peaking more at this time last year, but it’s just good to have a good day on the bike. I’ve got a lot of work to do yet before I’m ready for the nationals.
“The Kawasaki was awesome. It’s a stock bike with an aftermarket pipe on it and that’s all.”
Other senior class winners on Sunday were Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (MX1); New Plymouth’s Rian King (125cc); Whakatane’s Darren Capill (MX3 and veterans over-45 years); Masterton’s Johnny Burkhart (veterans 35-44 years).
Junior and women’s class winners on Saturday were Morrinsville’s Jared Hannon (14-16 years 250cc class and 15-16 years 125cc class); Tauranga’s Jack Coleman (12-14 years 125cc class); Invercargill’s Seth Morrow (12-16 years 85cc class); Oropi’s Levi Townley (8-11 years 85cc class); Tokoroa’s Levi Rodgers (8-11 years Pro 65cc class); Tauranga’s Roma Edwards (women).
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Upcoming Season Key Dates:
- 20 November – SX4 – Taupo
- 27 November – Skyline MX – Cambridge
- 27 December – Summercross – Whakatane
- 26 January – King of the Mountain – New Plymouth
- 6 February – New Zealand Motocross Championship Round 1 – Otago
- 20 February – New Zealand Motocross Championship Round 2 – Rotorua
- 20 March – New Zealand Motocross Championship Round 3 – Hawkes Bay
- 27 March – New Zealand Motocross Championship Round 4 – Taupo