OCTOBER 26, 2020: The Bay of Plenty region was bursting with motorcycling talent over Labour Weekend, the country’s motocross elite all determined to take a share of the glory at this traditional season opener.
And Hamilton’s national MX2 (250cc class) No.2 Josiah Natzke was certainly one man who made the most of his opportunity to steal the limelight.
The Bridgestone Kawasaki Racing Team star was a stand-out performer at Saturday evening’s Alpinestars SX4 Speedcross stadium event and was also winner on both of the two days of senior racing on Friday and Sunday, either leading his races from the start or simply carving through traffic after a mixed start.
Just a few months ago, racing like this was not thought possible as the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic sent jitters across the planet, but New Zealand – an isolated and self-sufficient island nation so far away from the virus troubles of Europe and the USA – is almost experiencing life as normal.
The popular MX Fest event again attracted all the nation’s major riders and race teams and this year it was an extra special event, run over three days, from October 23-25, as it was expanded to include the annual Battle of the Clubs event on Friday, that stand-alone event a traditional fundraiser for Team New Zealand’s annual assault on the Motocross of Nations (MXoN) in Europe.
Although the 2020 edition of this international “Olympic Games of Motocross” is not going ahead in France this season, it simply meant that funds raised would help the Kiwis get a head-start on building for their 2021 campaign.
The Battle of the Clubs is an event that had originally been scheduled to run earlier this year, before it was postponed due to the pandemic.
Natzke and his Cambridge Motorcycle Club team-mates – Mike Cotter, Carson Mackie, Brodie Connolly, Hunter Scott and Dylan Westgate – dominated the BOTC on Friday, winning the event outright, thanks in a large part to Natzke’s rare outing in the MX1 class, riding a Kawasaki KX450F.
Natzke qualified second to multi-time national MX1 champion Cody Cooper, who was representing the Tauranga Motorcycle Club, and then Natzke won the MX1/Vets combined race, before finishing runner-up to Cooper in the MX1/MX2 combined race.
Westgate was similarly impressive for the Cambridge effort, winning both his junior grade races.
Natzke also finished a brave runner-up to Cooper in the supercross-style SX4 Speedcross event on Saturday evening before reverting to a solely MX2 (250cc) campaign in the senior motocross on Sunday.
With four wins from four starts against his MX2 rivals, Natzke dominated the 250cc racing, finishing the day a whopping 15 points clear of his nearest threat, current national MX2 champion Maximus Purvis, from Mangakino.
“My first two races were pretty smooth sailing,” said Natzke. “I got two holeshots and two comfortable wins. I’m in a great position now in terms of my build-up for the nationals, probably better than where my rivals are right now to be honest. It could be a different story in March.
“In my third race I messed up the start and had to fight through to the front. I was behind James Scott and Maximus Purvis. Scott was leading but he fell off and then Purvis crashed too and the win kind of fell into my lap.
“The bike is great and I’m feeling confident right now. I can’t wait for the nationals.”
Purvis finished overall runner-up, with Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly third, while Hamilton’s Seton Head impressed by taking his Kawasaki KX250F to fourth overall, probably his best result at this level of competition.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com