Team effort for NZ campaign
The country's best motocross riders will put aside their traditional rivalries and brand allegiances as they instead combine under provincial colours this weekend.
They will flock to Taupo on Saturday for the fifth annual Battle of the Clubs motocross, a fundraiser to help send a three-rider New Zealand team to the big annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN) - the Olympic Games of motocross - this year to be held in Latvia.
The format used for racing at the fundraiser motocross in Taupo will be very similar to what the Team New Zealand trio can expect in Latvia in September when they line up against national teams from all around the world.
Riders will this weekend align on club loyalties, uniting under regional flags to find out which one club is the best in New Zealand motocross.
The club-based teams each consist of six riders - three junior and three senior - who will compete on 85cc, 125cc, 250cc and 450cc machines.
The entry fee from each of the clubs, gold coin donations from spectators and the proceeds from raffle ticket sales will be a welcome boost for the Motorcycling New Zealand coffers.
The host club, Taupo, have won this event for the past two seasons and their line-up will no doubt be strong again.
However, the Tauranga team's Cody Cooper and Rotorua's Dion Picard were the standout individuals in 2012, while Cooper and Patetonga Motorcycle Club rider Josiah Natzke were the leading individuals in 2013.
Cooper will not be a contender this time around, having injured himself in the Australian nationals a few weeks ago.
Also unavailable for the Taupo event are Kayne Lamont (Mangakino) and Rhys Carter (Mt Maunganui), who, together with Cooper, formed the three-rider New Zealand squad to race the MXoN in Germany last season.
Lamont and Carter are instead expected to line up at the sixth round of 10 in the Australian Motocross Championships, in Victoria this weekend.
That means race fans might expect riders such as Atiamuri's Hadleigh Knight, Taupo brothers Cohen and Wyatt Chase, Pukekohe's Jayden Turnwald and Taranaki's Nick Hornby to be among just a few of the sport's superstars who will step forward.
For Hawera's Daryl Hurley and Taupo's Brad Groombridge, the MXoN fundraiser carries special significance.
Groombridge raced for New Zealand at the MXoN in the US in 2010 and he knows just how important the event is.
"It's huge. The MXoN is an awesome event and I'm proud to be supporting New Zealand's campaign," he said.
Hurley, now in semi-retirement, will spearhead the Taranaki effort in Taupo and 23-year-old Groombridge will lead Taupo's title defence.
In addition to being a multi-time former national motocross and supercross champion, Hurley also has plenty of actual MXoN experience, having been one of the Team New Zealand trio to race in Belgium in 2001 (where the team finished third overall), in the Netherlands in 2004 and in the US in 2007.
Last season the fundraising event raised nearly $10,000 towards New Zealand's three-rider entry to the MXoN in Germany last year, and it is hoped as similar amount will be raised this time around.
The three riders (plus a reserve) to represent New Zealand in Latvia are expected to be named in the coming weeks.
Taranaki Daily News