Cooper grabs slender lead after opening round

STU PIDDINGTON
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2014
Courtney Duncan
STU PIDDINGTON/Fairfax NZ
BACK IN BUSINESS: Palmerston's Courtney Duncan was happy with hid return to Motocross after taking time out following concussions suffered in the United States last year.

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The opening round of the New Zealand motocross championships had plenty of close racing but no clear title contenders.

The Backflips Track near Pleasant Point again tested the country's best riders with biggest lead in any class being just three points.

In the MX1, defending champion Cody Cooper, of Mt Maunganui, won the first and third races but Australian Dale Ford took the second, so Cooper ended the day on his Honda on 70 points with Ford on 67.

Scotland's Billy McKenzie two seconds and a third means he remains in the mix with 64 points.

Both Cooper and Ford had a chance of leaving Timaru with the early lead in the championhips but Cooper powered away in the final race.

Ford and McKenzie, however, had a battle royal.

McKenzie got past Ford with a lap to go but the Australian battled back.

Cooper said the start was crucial as being second in the dust was tough.

"Everyone's riding was awesome, the competition is great."

Former Timaruvian Justin McDonald had a tidy day on his Honda finishing seventh overall with his best finish a fifth in the final race.

Mangakino's Kayne Lamon looked set for a clean sweep in the MX2 class on his Husqvarna but made a costly mistake in the final race.

Lamont appeared to get the wrong line into one of the jumps and got tangled in the barrier. By the the time he had extracted himself Queenstown's Scott Columb had too much of a lead to reel in and Lamont had to be satisfied with second.

He, however, finished the day with 72 points, three ahead of Columb, who had recorded two seconds prior to his win.

Australian Jay Wilson was in third overall with 55 points, after two thirds.

Columb said he it was going to be a long series with the competition so close.

"I'm the old dog in this group," he said.

The senior 125cc class proved the closest contest with Te Puke's Logan Blackburn finishing one point ahead of Hamilton's Josiah Natzke, with 68.

Blackburn, the favourite to take the crown, stormed home on his Yamaha to win the final two races after Natzke took the first.

Blackburn said he struggled in the first race as he had put a new clutch on the bike but had not tested it enough but also the competition was also very good.

Aaron Wiltshier took third place ahead of Palmerston's rising star of women's motocross Courtney Duncan.

Duncan, 18, appeared to have third place overall wrapped up until she had a spill in the final race, slipping to fifth.

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It was however a solid return to the sport for Duncan who had been knocked out while racing in the United States so had taken time out.

Duncan was satisfied with her return and planned to complete the four-round championships.

"It was not too bad and I felt comfortable."

She hoped to return to United States at some stage.

The last time she had raced in New Zealand was a year ago in Timaru, when she won the round.

Event organiser Dan Batchelor was very happy with the day, including the crowd.

"We love bringing it to Timaru and showcasing the best track in the country, bar none."

Batchelor said they would not know until later in the week whether the club had made a profit because of the high cost of putting on the event.

A big positive however was the number of competitors who praised the improvements to the track that the Chris and Jeremy McKnight had made. Batchelor said the only real work-on for them was the amount of dust, but with the little rainfall it was not easy to find a viable solution.

Round two is at Tokoroa on February 23.

- The Timaru Herald

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