Motueka's Josh Coppins started his Grand Prix motocross career as an 18-year-old in Talavera, Spain, in 1995, and on Sunday he signed off at Teutschenthal in Germany.
The well-travelled Kiwi, now 35, has had a long and illustrious career racing at the sport's ultimate level and his final farewell was one of mixed emotions.
“I felt pretty good. I wasn't suffering as much physically and enjoyed it more because of that,” Coppins said.
“I don't have any regrets at all about retiring. It is time, and it's time to move on.”
He also raced at the Italian GP at Faenza a fortnight ago, his first for this season and his first since officially retiring from the GP scene at the end of 2010 - but he was thrilled to be at the final two GP events of this year, to wave the flag for Yamaha in the MX1 class.
He finished seventh in Saturday's qualifying race and then battled through Sunday's first gruelling 40-minute race to finish in 12th spot.
In the second race, the Kiwi hero was 11th, which gave him the overall 11th place for the day in his final fling at FIM Motocross World Championship racing.
“I struggled with my starts today [in Germany] and rode pretty decently, but I reckon I should have been up a bit higher in the races. Both races were OK, I just had to come back through and it wasn't easy to pass. If I would have started higher, then I would have finished further up.
“I reckon the pace from fifth to outside the top 10 was pretty similar to be honest. I think I could have done another step up but we've run out of GPs.”
Even with just the two GPs under his wheels for this year, Coppins slots in at 26th in the championship standings, registering ahead of many riders who have raced at each one of the 16 GPs held this season.
In Germany, Coppins finished ahead of such notable GP regulars riders as Kevin Strijbos, Tanel Leok, Davide Guarneri, Shaun Simpson, and Jonathan Barragan.
Coppins won seven GPs for Yamaha between 2007 to 2009 and he came agonisingly close to winning the MX1 world crown in 2007, until injury ruined his campaign.
This latest stint in Europe was granted to him by the appreciative Yamaha company as a way of saying thanks to the Kiwi legend. “After winning in Australia it was great to have the opportunity to properly close the book by coming back to one of the most professional teams I've worked with in Grand Prix racing,” Coppins said. “It was a nice way to finish a long career.”
Although racing only domestically in the past two seasons, that period culminated with his winning the Australian open class crown just a month ago.
Coppins now prepares for the final big international race of his career, when he will captain Team New Zealand at the Motocross of Nations at Lommel in Belgium this coming weekend.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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