January 18, 2021: “Michelin SX4 – I’m coming for ya” was the call Josiah Natzke made on the day of the inaugural event on Saturday 9 January 2021.
Wanting redemption after being pipped at the post at the trial event in November, Bridgestone Kawasaki star Natzke was all class as he not only took the inaugural Michelin SX4 title but also managed to grab the Motul Lube Ladder and win three out of four of his heat races.
Natzke was in stellar form leading into the event and labelled his Michelin SX4 win as his favourite to date.
The best in the business were on show for all to see at Taupo Motocross Club in front of a packed crowd on Saturday. The event kicked off with introductory laps from all the riders alongside Michelin Juniors who we’re invited to ride and experience the pit lane alongside the professionals. The Motul Lube Ladder was competitive with only half a second splitting the top four riders Wyatt Chase, Cody Cooper, Campbell King and Kayne Lamont. That was until last competitor Natzke started his engine and came home with a lap time of 25.435 seconds, over one second faster than his nearest rival.
The NZ Natural Clothing Nitro Lane was a crowd favourite and keep the heat races tight with the top 6 riders finishing within three points of each other. Qualifying for the Semi Finals were first time competitors Tommy Watts and Tyler Steiner, MX2 rider James Scott, nine-time MX1 NZ Champion Cody Cooper, Altherm JCR Yamaha rider Kayne Lamont, Campbell King, late comer Wyatt Chase and table topping Natzke.
Post the two very tight Semi Finals the Final saw Natzke line up against Altherm JCR Yamaha standout Kayne Lamont and both the Honda Racing Teams Cody Cooper and James Scott. With Lamont taking an early lead a costly mistake saw Natzke capitalise on an inner line and there was no way of stopping the Hamilton man. The chocolates were his!
Michelin SX4 proved to be a crowd favourite with spectators travelling from around the country to experience the most recent innovation on the motocross calendar. The Rock’s Mike Garvey was on hand to keep fans engaged while they were given the chance to experience a hot lap in a Yamaha YXZ with Red Bull athlete Mad Mike Whiddett. With families being a key component of the event, junior riders were given the chance to ride with the professionals on track thanks to Michelin. Dad’s grabbed their kids and competed in the NZ Natural Clothing Piggy Back race. We found a new Michelin SX4 icon in #ChainsawMan and ticket holders were given an exclusive opportunity to ride the Michelin SX4 track on the Sunday morning post event. The food trucks, bar and Isuzu Taupo Bumper Party saw huge numbers through and nobody wanted the night to end.
Ben Townley summation of the event “Until next time” clearly shows the directors intentions to keep the new innovative format of the sport going. “There is plenty to do in the wash up but we’ve got some big plans for Michelin SX4. We’re looking forward to working with all riders, sponsors and fans to see what needs tweaking, but you will most certainly see us going again in 2022 – stay tuned!”
To stay up to date head to www.sx4.co.nz or follow through Instagram @sx4nz.
DECEMBER 28, 2020: A bolt of lightning might have been the only way to stop Waikato rider Josiah Natzke in his tracks at the weekend.
It’s almost certain that only a freak of nature could have slowed down the national MX2 (250cc class) No.2 from Hamilton as he registered five wins from five starts at the big annual Whakatane Summercross event near Matata on Sunday.
With Natzke finishing unbeaten at this traditional post-Christmas spectacular, it has surely rung a few warning bells for his MX2 class rivals ahead of the 2021 national championships due to start early in the New Year.
The Bridgestone Kawasaki Racing Team star was a stand-out performer at Summercross this time around, although also impressive was his MX1 class team-mate Ethan Martens, who holeshot three of the big bike races, giving the green team an incredible total of eight holeshots from 10 races in the two premier classes.
However, Auckland’s Martens had to settle for fourth overall in the MX1 class, as Hamilton’s Kayne Lamont and Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper shared all five MX1 race wins between them – Lamont winning the class narrowly from Cooper, with Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter, Martens and Wairoa’s Tommy Watts rounding out the top five.
But it was Natzke who stole the show for the weekend with his clean sweep of wins.
Natzke qualified his Kawasaki KX250F fastest early on Sunday, then raced to first of his five MX2 race wins, crossing the line half a second ahead of Mangakino’s 2020 national MX2 champion Maximus Purvis.
But, close though as that was, Natzke was just warming up. He won the next race by more than three seconds from Purvis and set the tone for a dominance not often seen in this most frantic of bike classes.
For race three, Natzke crossed the finish line more than 14 seconds ahead of Tauranga’s former MX2 world champion Ben Townley.
Race four saw Natzke take the chequered flag by an impressive 15 seconds from Oparau’s James Scott and the fifth and final race was another Natzke master class as he cleared out to win by nearly 25 seconds from runner-up Townley.
Natzke, who will turn 22 on January 1, was determined to put the event to good use in terms of his preparation for the nationals, although the unique Summercross format did mix things up somewhat.
“The first MX2 race was quite close, but that was a sprint race, only five laps (and took barely eight minutes), so not much chance really for me to break away,” said Natzke.
“The second outing was a sprint race too and Max (Purvis) was my nearest challenger again, but I just focussed on what I had to do and got the job done.
“The next two races were short too, but the last race of the day was much longer (11 laps).”
Clearly leading the points standings after four of the five races, the pressure was off for Natzke, so he chose to set a target for himself.
“Just for fun, I wanted to see how big a gap I could get over the others. That was my goal for race five. I even made a mistake and fell off in that last race, but managed to get up and get going again quickly, so kept my big lead intact.
“This was my first time on the new 2021-model Kawasaki and I’m really pleased with the bike. I’m feeling confident ahead of the New Zealand Grand Prix at Woodville (on January 30-31) and the motocross nationals.”
Meanwhile, fellow Kawasaki rider Taylar Rampton, from Opunake, dominated the senior women’s grade at Summercross, finishing the day unbeaten to win ahead of women’s national champion Amie Roberts, of Hamilton, and Rotorua’s Letitia Alabaster.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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
OCTOBER 5, 2020: It is enough to make his rivals green with envy – the sheer dominance enjoyed by Kawasaki ace Josiah Natzke at the weekend.
With an amazing 10 wins from 10 starts, the Bridgestone Kawasaki Racing Team rider from Hamilton was simply unstoppable at the 2020 New Zealand Motocross TT Championships at Taupiri, near Huntly, on Saturday and Sunday.
The 21-year-old multi-time former national motocross champion dominated racing on both days, gaining maximum points by winning every race in both the MX1 and MX2 (250cc) classes by a comfortable margin.
“There’s not much happening overseas at the moment, so my focus is totally on the New Zealand scene at the moment,” said Natzke, sounding a warning for his rivals with the 2021 New Zealand Motocross Championships season just around the corner.
“This weekend was my first time this season on the 250cc bike and I am only racing the Kawasaki KX450F at the moment for a little extra bike time, but will be focussing solely on the MX2 class with the Kawasaki KX250F in the next couple of weeks.
“Kawasaki New Zealand has been supporting me really well and I will be looking to racing overseas again later in 2021, if the opportunity arises. Europe would not be my first option. I didn’t enjoy it so much over there the last time I was in Europe, but I would target a ride in the United States or maybe just in Australia. I would love to go racing for the Kawasaki Pro Circuit race team in America and I’m on the right colour bike for that,” he laughed.
“I’m doing everything I can to remain fit and fast. I expect to win races and, if I want to achieve overseas, then I have to prove it here first.”
He certainly proved he was international calibre with his blistering form at Taupiri.
Natzke was superbly backed up in the MX1 class at the weekend by team-mate Ethan Martens, the man from Waitakere eventually settling for third overall in the class, behind Natzke and Hamilton’s national MX1 No.4 Kayne Lamont.
“Kawasaki have been right behind me … Shane Verhoeven and Mike Cotter have been great,” said Natzke. “They go above and beyond for me. They know what my goals and plans are and they’re right on board with me on that.”
Other class winners at the weekend were Stratford’s Camo Keegan (ATV quad bike class); New Plymouth’s Mitch Rowe (in the veterans over-45 years, classic pre-1996 bikes and MX3 classes), Red Beach’s Joseph Andrell (senior 125cc class); Te Kauwhata’s Matthew Vining (veterans aged 40-44 years); Hamilton’s Amie Roberts (senior women); Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne (junior women); Horotiu’s Carter Hanes (junior 250cc); Pukekawa’s Tyler Brown (junior 12-16 years’ 125cc); Cambridge’s Jared Hannon (junior 12-16 years’ 85cc); Taupo’s Declan Connors (junior 8-11 years’ 85cc); Hamilton’s Mikayla Rowe (class pre-2001 bikes); Scott Taylor (enduro bikes); Waitara’s Ollie Payne (mini 65cc); Helensville’s Adam Bockett (mini 50cc).
Meanwhile, Cambridge’s Mike Cotter, the general manager at Kawasaki New Zealand, showed he’d forgotten nothing from his heyday 20 years ago as he kept Natzke and current national MX2 No.3 James Scott, from Oparau, honest in the MX2 (250cc) battles.
Cotter, a 46-year-old father-of-two, races only rarely these days but muscle memory must surely have come into play as the three-time former New Zealand champion (in 1999 and 2000) finished a creditable third overall in the MX2 class.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com