Honda Summercross set to explode in the BOP
It's summer time again and time too for the start of the new motocross season to get twisted full throttle, so that can only mean one thing, it's also time for the big annual Whakatane Summercross.
Hosted each year by the Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club at its popular Awakaponga circuit, near Matata, the Honda-sponsored Summercross event has again attracted a "Who's Who" of Kiwi motocross talent.
Because the Christmas Day and Boxing Day holidays occur as they do this season (on Friday and Saturday), the seniors, women and veterans will race on Sunday, December 27, and the minis, juniors and junior women follow the next day, on Monday, December 28.
The event again this year acts as a springboard for riders heading into the busy part of the season, culminating with the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships in January, February and March.
It will be hard to look much further than Mount Maunganui’s multi-time national MX1 champion Cody Cooper, always a crowd favourite at this popular post-Christmas blow-out.
He was been the main trophy winner at Summercross on more occasions than any other competitor, winning there five times – in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 too – so, if he wins again this time around, it will be the former Opotiki man's sixth outright Summercross win in total.
Cooper was a late withdrawal from racing at Summercross last year.
He decided the injury he had sustained during training just two days earlier was "too uncomfortable" for him to continue beyond the first lap of his warm-up at Summercross on the Sunday morning.
He's happy to be back to full fitness and ready to reclaim the silverware, although standing in Cooper's way will be last year's Summercross champion, Hamilton rider Kayne Lamont, along with dozens of equally-talented stars of the sport, men such as Mount Maunganui's Rhys Carter, Taupo's Brad Groombridge, Tauranga's Josiah Natzke, Oparau's James Scott, Mangakino's Maximus Purvis, Edgecumbe's Quade Young, Tauranga's Brodie Connolly, Wairoa's Tommy Watts and Waitakere's Ethan Martens, to name a few.
Rising stars in the sport such as Tauranga's Madoc Dixon, Palmerston North's Luka Freemantle, New Plymouth's Logan Kerrisk and Rongotea duo Seth Henson and Zac Jillings also add undeniable class to proceedings and any of them could be fancied to spring a surprise or two.
All of these riders add even more depth to the racing and perhaps make picking a winner almost impossible.
Cooper and fellow former Kiwi international Ben Townley put their heads together help John Breingan and the Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club team to design the track, so its sure to be fun and challenging too for competitors of all grades.
Local heroes and heroines – from Whakatane, Ohope, Edgecumbe, Thornton and Kawerau – will, naturally, be out in force again this year, including Finn Baker, Miller Spence, Hunter Davies, Corey and Chloe Munn, Ashlee and Josh Jennings, Jack Elliott, Corban Toone, Olly McIlroy, Troy Wilson, Carter Davies, Morgan Purcell, Samuel East, Hadley Gibson, Aydan Hall, Flynn Spence, Quade Young, James Wilson, Troy Wilson, Andrew Savage, Geordie Boon, Jak Purcell, Darren Capill, Charlotte Knight, Kaylene Cornes, Sophie Tierney, Brooklyn McGovern and Flynn Watts.
"This event is always a big one," says host Bay of Plenty Motorcycle Club spokesman Tony Rees.
"The club will be working hard out to make sure that people can come along and really enjoy Summercross.
"The track always gets spruced up quite a bit for Summercross because the calibre of riders here goes up a little bit from the usual club level events.
"This is the kick-off to the main part of the season. All the top teams and riders want to be here to see how that might go at the nationals."
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com