March 27, 2023: There was simply no stopping Kawasaki ace Cody Cooper as he produced another startling performance in this year’s senior New Zealand Motocross Championships, which wrapped up at Taupo on Sunday.
They say age is just a number and that may be true, but this is traditionally a young person’s game and a 39-year-old winning titles at the pinnacle of the sport is truly outstanding.
The multi-time former national champion from Papamoa reckons he’s loving the sport more and more with each passing year and, since his transition to the high-profile Bridgestone Kawasaki Racing Team, he believes he’s going even faster than before.
That’s probably true too, because he won the MX2 (250cc) title at the weekend with a race to spare and, with that, he handed Kawasaki its first New Zealand motocross title in 16 years, when Rotorua’s Michael Phillips won the MX2 (250cc) crown for the brand in 2007.
Cooper had been an extremely busy man during his build-up to the 2023 nationals, starting off by winning the premier MX1 class at the MX Fest extravaganza at Taupo’s 2022-23 season opener in late October.
He backed that up by easily winning his men’s 35-39 year’s class at the 2022 New Zealand Veterans’ and Women’s Motocross Championships near Cambridge just a week later.
Cooper then dominated the Waikato Motocross Championships series in December, this time opting to also race a 250cc version of his four-stroke Kawasaki and this time he comfortably won both the MX1 and MX2 categories.
That’s a mighty impressive build-up to the 2023 senior New Zealand Motocross Championships and he completed his mission at the weekend, winning the national MX2 class title with a race to spare at the final round in Taupo on Sunday.
He actually tackled the MX1 class as well, but Cooper was forced here to settle for the third step on the podium, beaten to the chequered flag in that class by Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis and Auckland’s Hamish Harwood.
The vastly-experienced Cooper was one of only three riders brave enough to enter more than one class this season – with Harwood and Auckland-based former Taihape man Hayden Smith the other two riders to do so – and Cooper was a strong contender in the MX1 class throughout the series.
“It was definitely satisfying to wrap up the MX2 title with a race to spare, because this meant I could rest, not have to line up for the final MX2 race, and save a bit of energy for the final MX1 race,” said Cooper.
He had played it smart in that penultimate race of the series.
“I had a reasonable start until everyone crashed in front of me and I got bottled up in the mess. I settled down to battle back through the field.
“I was keeping an eye on where (main MX2 class rival) Hayden Smith was and knew that, in the position he was on the track ahead of me, in third or fourth I think, I could afford to finish seventh or eighth and still seal the title.”
Cooper finished fifth and the title was his.
“I was feeling quite fatigued this weekend, especially with doing two classes and it being back-to-back racing on Saturday and Sunday. But both bikes handle like a dream and that helps immensely.”
If Cooper returns for another crack at winning the MX1 and MX titles next season, or perhaps if rising young Kawasaki stars such as Te Puke’s Flynn Watts, Pukekawa’s Tyler Brown, Palmerston North’s Luka Freemantle or Opunake woman Taylar Rampton also break through to join him at the top of a nationals podium, Kawasaki could come close to reliving the famous “Green Sweep” that the brand had celebrated back in 1984 when it scooped up the titles in every senior championship category available.
Meanwhile, Harwood wrapped up the 125cc class title on Sunday and Mount Maunganui’s Roma Edwards won the women’s championship class.
2023 New Zealand Motocross Championships:
- Round one: February 12 – South Otago (at Balclutha);
- Round two: February 26 – Rotorua (including women’s nationals);
- Round three: March 19 – Hastings (including women’s nationals);
- Round four: March 26 – Taupo (including women’s nationals).
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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