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
The opening round of the new-look WorldSSP300 Championship took place last weekend at the Spanish circuit of Motorland Argaon, with a win for Kawasaki and two podium places for the Ninja 400 in total.
Spanish rider Manuel Gonzalez, only 16 years of age, took his Kawasaki ParkinGo Team to the very top step of the podium at his home race.
Last year he scored three podiums in this exciting class, designed around young riders, but to record his first WorldSSP300 race win a home left the teenager from Madrid almost speechless. He had also taken pole position after Superpole Qualifying, with a new best lap of 2’06.938.
Title challenger in previous season Scott Deroue (Kawasaki Motoport) had a remarkable ride from 14th on the grid to third place, picking off rivals at just the right time to get him into the leading bunch in the final lap.
Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Provec), the reigning champion, was well in the multi-rider fight for the podium places but was unlucky to fall on lap six after being hit from behind, losing the chance to start her title defence in style. Like all her competitors she will have eight more chances to go all-out for race wins, in a season that runs from Motorland in April to Losail in October.
Ana, the first woman to win a full FIM World Championship in roadracing, does not leave her home around without any reward. She set a new lap record on lap two with a 2’07.487 on her impressive run through the leading positions.
With over fifty young hopefuls trying to take ultimate glory in the FIM Supersport300 World Championship in 2019, qualifying has to be split into ‘A’ and ‘B’ groups, with the fastest few from each group joined on the final starting grid for the race on Sunday afternoon by the top rider from a ‘last chance race on Saturday.
A few talented riders needed to qualify for the grid via that last chance race route, and even some others like Deroue and Carrasco found it relatively tough in qualifying. No less than 36 riders started the 11-Lap race today.
Bruno leraci (Kawasaki GP Project) was another top ten rider at Motorland on a a Ninja 400, in eighth place. Robert Schotman (Motoport Kawasaki) just missed out on the top ten places in 11th. No fewer than 11 of the top 20 riders were on Kawasakis today.
Proof of just how competitive this class can be found in the fact that the top seven rider were covered by just 0.891 seconds at the chequered flag in Motorland.
In the current championship standings with just one race gone, Gonzales leads with 25 points, Hego De Cancellis has 20 and Deroue has 16. The next round will take place in a few days time, as Assen in the Netherlands, with raceday on Sunday the 14th of April.
Manuel Gonzalez, stated: “I do not have words for this race win because it was so difficult – but I enjoyed it a lot! The last lap was so tough because the slipstream in the main straight was difficult to manage. But I overtook De Cancellis in the last corner. Thanks to all the team for the hard work they have done here. See you all at the next races.”
Scott Deroue, stated: “Yes it was incredible to come through for a podium. This weekend was quite hard and in qualifying I was not really good. I was not the best place on the grid so I knew we had to do something. I was just pushing, pushing – like unbelievably hard I think this is one of my best races ever. I already won some races in this class but I think this race was the best ever.”
Ana Carrasco, stated: “It is a pity to not score. We had some issues in the practices sessions and I started the race from the fourth row the race itself I felt to be very fast, and comfortable, so much that we actually set a new lap record. Some bikes had better acceleration but in braking and top speed I was super strong. In the crash two guys in front of me touched and I had to close the throttle – then some hit me from the back. It is a shame because I am sure I could have finished on top. I just wanted to say thanks to all the people that come to see me here at Motorland, to my team and Kawasaki, I am on the bike again in only four days, at Assen – I can’t wait!”
Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team Kawasaki) became the first female winner of a full FIM World Championship road-racing category when she finished just one single point ahead of her closest rival in the WorldSSP300 championship race at Magny Cours.
Starting in a lowly 25th position on the grid Carrasco was involved in a fight for 20th place for much of the race but she made progress to 19th spot. In the closing laps she moved to a 13th place that would be enough to give her a one-point lead over Mika Perez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team) in the final points table.
Perez was in a position to win the championship himself on the last sector of the final lap but his race leading position was taken from him with two corners to go, and his 20 points were not quite enough to give him the crown.
Carrasco was unaware that she had won the championship on her slowdown lap almost until her team stopped her for a trackside celebration, with her championship-winning T-shirt having the phrase ‘Ride Like A Girl” emblazoned on the front. In her post-race interview Carrasco dedicated her championship win to the late Moto2 rider Luis Salom, who was a friend of Ana’s and the cousin of David Salom, her team manager.
In another astonishingly close and battling WorldSSP300 race, Scott Deroue (Motoport Kawasaki) was also in contention for both the race and title wins until he was forced out with a technical issue.
Perez and Deroue battled it out for the championship up front but when Deroue suddenly slowed with problems changing gear, Perez was in the lead. He was then the driving seat for the championship itself until Daniel Valle ambushed him in the final two turns. Perez lost out on the title by just 0.168 seconds, in a race that was so close that Carrasco, in 13th place, was only 2.468 seconds behind the race winner.
Kawasaki wrapped up the championship at the previous round, and finally ended up with a 61-point advantage at the end of the eight round championship.
Nick Kalinin (GP Project Kawasaki was seventh today, but front row qualifier Robert Schotman (Motoport Kawasaki) did not finish. Enzo de la Vega (GP Project Team Kawasaki) led the race twice but finished ninth, while Dorren Loureiro (DS Junior Team Kawasaki) tenth. Tom Edwards (Nutec – Benjan Kawasaki) was another non-finisher.
In the final championship standings Carrasco has 93 points, Perez 92 and Deroue 80, putting three Kawasaki Ninja 400 riders in the top three positions overall.
Ana Carrasco, stated: “It is unbelievable to win the championship and we worked so hard to be here. I did not know I had won on the slowdown lap. I tried to see some TVs to check but I did not see any. I only realised when I got to turn five and I asked the spectators if I was first. I can only say thank you to a David Salom and all the Kawasaki DS Junior Team, it is for all of them. I also want to say thank you to my family who have done so much for me. I want to dedicate this title to Luis Salom. The day we lost him I promised to dedicate my first title to him. At the moment I am happy because we have achieved our goals, but I do not realise all of the things about being the first woman in history. I think after a few days I will be more conscious of this.”
Mika Perez, stated: “I gave my maximum today. I knew it was win or crash, and finally I got second. I tried everything and the team did a great job. We were very close to the win but we have to congratulate Ana and the race winner Dani because they did an incredible job.”
Scott Deroue, stated: “We had a really good weekend until now and I think we were one of the fastest. Every session we were in the top positions so I was feeling really good. I felt the same in the race and I was in the top three all the time. Then with seven laps to go my gear lever broke and it was over. We had good speed this season and were really consistent but in Misano we had a problem and today we were supposed to finish on the podium again, and then this happens.”