Winton track a magnet for country's best riders

Some of the best supercross riders in New Zealand will converge on Southland tomorrow as they look to dip into a $4000 prize pool.

Competitive supercross hit Southland for the first time last year when the opening round of the South Island Supercross Series was raced at a purpose-built 32-jump track at Jim Cooper's Oreti Plains farm, near Winton.

The event drew a crowd of more than 700 and was a raging success, with several leading New Zealand riders labelling the track the best in the country.

Supercross is derived from motocross, with tracks usually more technical and with a higher degree of difficulty. The sport is hugely popular in the United States, where riders usually race on temporary tracks in indoor arenas.

Organisers hope to build on last year's showpiece when the "World's Most Southern Supercross Race" is held at Cooper's farm tomorrow.

The event has taken on increased significance, with Cooper saying it may be the only supercross event in New Zealand this year because Timaru has yet to decide whether to host a round.

The tough economic climate has seen rider numbers drop and several other clubs around the country are unwilling to host a major competition due to the high costs involved.

Many of the top supercross names in New Zealand ventured south to compete last December and another quality lineup has been assembled for tomorrow.

Cooper said organisers were ecstatic to have Australian Sam Martin, fourth in the Australian under-19 supercross series, confirmed for the event.

Top Kiwi supercross competitors Rhys Carter, Peter Broxholme, Kieran Leigh, Rotorua's Michael Phillips and youngster Micah McGoldrick, who has won multiple New Zealand titles, will be other names to watch out for.

Sixteen-year-old Southlander Conrad White, who excelled in the junior 250cc class last year, will also be looking to do well in front of a home crowd.

The classes being contested will be open class, super lites, junior lites (11-16 years) and junior 250cc (12-16 years).

Cooper said 30 entries had been received across the four grades.

Each class will race three heats, with the top overall points scorer being declared the winner.

Cooper began constructing dirt jumps on his his property seven years ago, but it was only last year the track was transformed into a permanent elite-level supercross circuit.

Leading track builder Mason Phillips, of Papamoa, designed the challenging course, which Cooper and his team of helpers then turned into a motorcycling paradise by using salvaged dirt from two underpasses and a dairy conversion.

He said they had only made slight changes to last year's track with a couple of jumps being changed and the start also being altered so the bikes were travelling towards the spectators.

They had also tried to create better vantage points for the crowd to see the action.

"The track is awesome, we've just about got it finished. We've just got a little bit of preparation to do," he said.

"Everyone was quite rapt last year, so we're going to try and run the same event again."

Cooper said interest among young riders in Southland had grown since last year's event, which was encouraging.

Until the creation of Cooper's track, there was no supercross track in the region. There are only six in New Zealand.

"On the weekend, we had eight young local riders. There was no way these boys were doing it last year," he said.

Southland businesses have got in behind the event with about 30 sponsors jumping on board - including naming rights sponsor Brent Scammell Honda.

The gates open at 3pm with racing starting at 4pm. The cost for adults is $15, with secondary school students $10 and primary school pupils $5. The track is located at 242 Ryan Rd, which is signposted from Winton.

The Southland Times