Kiwis will have work cut out
The opening round of the New Zealand Motocross Championship will see a class field of international riders set to do battle on the Blackflips Track, near Pleasant Point, on Sunday.
With Australian riders Todd Waters and Kirk Gibbs, along with Scottish-born 2007 and 2008 British champion Billy McKenzie vying for the MX1 crown, the Kiwis will have to work for wins.
South Canterbury Motorcycle Club president Dan Batchelor said the series will be exciting with stacked competition in all classes.
"Obviously we are rapt to have the international riders coming to Timaru, they add another dimension to the event and we know the typical trans-Tasman rivalry will see the Kiwis really step up.
"For me personally, I am looking forward to seeing McKenzie on the Yamaha and of course we haven't seen much of Courtney Duncan recently and she is always exciting to watch."
Top local hopes are Josh May, who was first last year in the New Zealand junior 250cc supercross, and third at Timaru in the New Zealand junior 250cc motocross.
He will, however, find it tough moving up to the senior nationals for the first time.
Another to keep an eye on is Harrison Sayer, who was third in the junior 125cc in Timaru last year. Charles Koudys will compete in the MX1, while Braydon Benton and Daniel Brosnahan will join Sayer in the junior 125cc field. Josh Batchelor will race the MX3 class.
The club had been working hard to ensure the track and facilities were in perfect condition for racing.
"Track prep is the main priority for the event, with plenty of watering and tractors ripping around the 2.6km venue."
Batchelor said changes have been made with several new jumps added.
"The attention this year has been on improving the quality of the track and [we have aimed] to make it more flowing and safer.
"In addition all low lying sections of the track now feature new drainage which allows far more control over our watering programme ensuring water can be applied evenly and for longer".
Batchelor said the fundamentals of the track are very much the same - it is still a challenging, long, fast circuit with very little time to rest.
"However, we have taken on board the comments made by riders and the track is slightly slower, safer and the changes to corners and jump approaches will provide closer than ever racing."
Batchelor said Chris McKnight and his team started work earlier this year, so the track was finished well ahead of the scheduled event.
"This has allowed more time to make sure the finishing touches are dealt with, concentrating on getting water into a very dry South Canterbury landscape."
The series major sponsor this year, Backflips Clothing, is pulling out all the stops, he said.
"The vision is to see this event as a real entertainment spectacle and not just racing.
"To this end we have a humungous 'Slip'n'Slip' ready to go, the giant boxing ring where we hope to see riders, teams and spectators battle it out off the track and we will have the cheapest helicopter flights available anywhere going all day.
Batchelor said the club want to provide a real family experience.
"The facility size and layout provides heaps of vantage points and lends itself to people coming along with the whole family.
"Bring the barbecue and a pop-up and make a whole day of it," he said.
- The Timaru Herald