OCTOBER 28, 2019: Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke celebrated a glorious debut ride for Kawasaki at the annual MX Fest event in Taupo over the long Labour Weekend.
Back home after several seasons of professional racing in Europe, the 20-year-old marked his first official ride for the Eni Oil Kawasaki Racing Team in New Zealand with a thrilling MX2 class victory, although it came as a bit of a surprise and he wasn’t even sure he’d done that until long after the racing had concluded.
The engines had been shut down and the bikes all loaded up into the Kawasaki truck when he learned he’d won the class on a count-back, just edging out Kiwi former Grand Prix star Josh Coppins.
The two men had ended the day level on points, but Natzke got the nod for the trophy because he’d recorded more race wins in the MX2 class over the weekend – Natzke produced two wins to Coppins’ one in their four races.
It was a fantastic outcome for Natzke, who had long battled some of the top GP stars of Europe, with mixed success, before returning to sign up with the green bike brand and then immediately tasting success against one of the sport’s legends.
Natzke finished 3-1-1 in the three MX2 races early in the day, before lining up for his final outing, the all-capacity-bikes Shootout feature.
He settled for eighth overall in that novelty feature of the afternoon, one place behind Motueka’s Coppins, with 450cc bike riders not-surprisingly claiming the top six spots ahead of them.
“I thought I had lost to be honest. I had to work hard for it today. I crashed in the first corner in my first race and came back from last to finish third, so that was good. In the second race I got an easy win and in race three I won again after a battle with Josh (Coppins).
“I don’t really like it that the shootout counts for points towards our MX2 class result, when we’re mixed up with 450cc bikes. But I guess it worked out for me because of my earlier wins.
“I learned a lot from racing with Josh today. Where I had to pass him in that third race … any other rider I could blow past them, but Josh is so experienced and has so much race craft, that I had to dig deep.”
After more than five years racing in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany, it’s fair to say that Natzke also has vast experience of his own.
“I am loving the new bike and the Kawasaki guys around me are great. The geometry of the KX250 really suits me and I feel comfortable on the bike.”
It was a similar bike that carried Otago’s Courtney Duncan to her first Women’s Motocross World Championships title win earlier this year.
Icing on the cake for Natzke was his also finishing third in the Speedcross final on Saturday evening, a stadium motocross event styled on international supercross tracks. Natzke finished that stand-alone spectacle behind two 450cc bike riders, Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper and Taupo’s Brad Groombridge.
Meanwhile, Natzke’s fellow Eni Oil Kawasaki Racing Team rider Flynn Watts also celebrated his debut ride for the squad with an outstanding overall runner-up finish in the 12-16 years’ 85cc class during Saturday’s junior racing at Taupo.
Watts finished with a 1-2-2 score-card on Saturday, narrowly edged out for the top podium spot by Invercargill’s Jack Symon, who went 2-1-1.
Natzke is supported by Kawasaki NZ, Eni Oil, Mainstream, Bridgestone, Rekluse, Alpinestars, 100%, Un4Seen Graphics, Pro Circuit, Moto HQ, Polisport, Koromiko Engineering, RK Chains, CFX Seats, Goodbuzz, Renthal Handlebars and MTX Sprockets.