February 13, 2023: He is 39 years old and has a trophy cabinet that’s fit to burst, but Bay of Plenty’s Cody Cooper isn’t ready for the smoking pipe, slippers and retirement home option just yet.
The Kawasaki hero from Papamoa reckons he still has work to do and one of his tasks is to grab another national title, or possibly two, in this year’s senior New Zealand Motocross Championships.
The opening round of the Aon Insurance, Pirelli tyres and Fox apparel-sponsored series at Balclutha, in Southland, on Sunday was really the first major race on the 2023 calendar and the Bridgestone Kawasaki Racing Team rider was naturally eager to get out on the race track again.
Cooper had won the premier MX1 class at the MX Fest extravaganza in Taupo in late October and then went on to easily win his men’s 35-39 year’s class at the 2022 New Zealand Veterans’ and Women’s Motocross Championships near Cambridge a week later.
He 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.
With an impressive 2023 season build-up like that, his rivals might well have been worried and, if not worried, they should at least have been respectful.
Cooper certainly earned that respect at Balclutha on Sunday, eclipsing the entire field as he dominated the talent-laden MX2 class.
With three wins from three starts in the MX2 class, Cooper set a benchmark that will be hard to beat and, because of uncertainty regarding results behind him – with full results officially listed only as “pending” – he doesn’t really know who might be his main threat at the three remaining rounds of the series.
In addition to blitzing the MX2 class on Sunday, Cooper also finished the day third overall in the MX1 class, behind defending national MX1 champion Hamish Harwood and Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis.
“I’m pretty happy with that … I can’t complain,” said Cooper afterwards.
“I feel I need to work on some areas of my riding, but my starts were very good. I think I holeshot every race or at least in front by the time we were all heading to the second corner.
“I love the 250 because it’s more flexible, more supple. With the 450, I think it had too much power for this track, a little bit too much for me actually. We made a few changes to the 450 suspension and it was better after that.
“I can’t remember when I last raced a 250cc bike at the nationals … it was ages ago. I’m loving the smaller bike. It’s a stock bike and so much fun to ride.
“I might want to take a look at my hydration and diet in general, with me racing two classes it’s really tough. I’m happy with the speed, handling and reliability of the bikes … it’s just my body that needs some work,” he laughed.
The next round in the series is set for two weeks’ time on the outskirts of Rotorua (on February 26), followed by racing at Fernhill, near Hastings, on March 19 and, finally, at Taupo, on March 26.
The 2023 senior women’s motocross nationals will share the programme for the North Island rounds, enhancing even more the scale and importance of the racing this season.
It will be the first time that the senior women’s nationals will run in tandem with the corresponding men’s competition.
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 and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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