Knight eyes repeat victory
Atiamuri's Hadleigh Knight has an extra incentive to win when he races at the annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville this season.
He won the special Roddy Shirriffs Memorial Trophy last season - the prize for the highest-placed rider in the feature race who is under the age of 22.
This year it will possibly be an even more significant achievement with an entirely separate race now set aside to recognise the feat at the January 25-26 event.
To increase the profile of the Shirriffs Trophy, an additional race will be slotted into the Sunday programme.
Instead of the young 125cc and MX2 (250cc) class riders being incorporated into the all-capacities invitation feature race, where they were likely to be overshadowed by riders on the vastly more powerful 300cc and 450cc bikes, the younger riders on smaller bikes will now battle exclusively in their own race.
The winner will receive the trophy from the Shirriffs family and from Roddy Shirriffs' best friend from those days, Palmerston North businessman and former national motocross champion Phil Turnbull.
"I would love to defend my Roddy Shirriffs title. That's the aim anyway," said 17-year-old Knight, who will race his CMR Red Bull KTM SX125 bike.
"I expect it won't be easy though. I know I'll have a fight on my hands beating [2012 Shirriffs trophy winner] Logan Blackburn, from Te Puke, and I reckon Tauranga's Aaron Wiltshire, Christchurch's Dylan Walsh and Hamilton's Josiah Natzke will be tough to beat too."
With only 125cc and MX2 bikes in the race, it will allow the Shirriffs Trophy contenders to really lock handlebars and should make for exciting racing.
The trophy race is just one of more than 40 on the programme for the two-day event, again attracting the cream of New Zealand's motocross talent, as well as overseas competitors.
Manawatu rider Roddy Shirriffs was only 21 when he died while racing at the Devil's Drop motocross track at Whanganui in 1976.
It was later discovered that a spark plug lead had come loose as he powered off the jump.