Leading riders on track for Summercross action

By Motorsport - by Colin Smith

Next week's 40th anniversary BOP Motorcycle Club Summercross at Awakaponga is effectively a reunion for the leading Kiwi motocross riders who raced overseas during 2011.

The MX1 field for the December 27 senior racing is headed by stars Ben Townley (Mt Maunganui), Josh Coppins (Motueka) and national champ Cody Cooper (Papamoa), along with defending Summercross champ Michael Phillips (Rotorua).

With a recent switch to Honda, Townley is on the comeback trail after cutting his 2011 World Championship campaign short due to injury while Coppins (Yamaha), Phillips (Honda) and Cooper (Suzuki) raced in Australia this year, finishing second, sixth and eighth respectively in the Australian Nationals.

Mt Maunganui's Mason Phillips returns to local action at Summercross after another northern hemisphere summer racing in Canada, where he finished eighth in the MX1 title. His New Zealand programme is with Kawasaki in a team run from Rotorua's Patterson O'Connor Motorcycles.

And the MX1 field for Tuesday's racing near Matata also includes Aussie star Tye Simmonds (KTM) who raced in the US motocross nationals and supercross champs this year and recently finished second in the Australian Super-X series.

Hayden Clark (KTM) of Kumeu and Rotorua's Brad Groombridge on a Honda are also likely to figure strongly in the MX1 contest.

"It's a strong field and it's really the first race of the season so it will be interesting," said Michael Phillips, who raced to victory at Awakaponga last year in heavy rain and deep mud.

"Being the defending champ gives me a target on my back I suppose."

Phillips raced both Motocross and Supercross for Honda in Australia this year, finishing sixth on the MX Nationals after a late call-up by the Carlton Dry Honda squad.

"I also rode the whole Super-X series for the first time and finished up 10th which I'm pretty happy with. It's a pretty tough series.

"I got back from Australia about a month ago and it seemed like there was plenty of time to get ready but now it's just around the corner.

"Summercross will be my first race for Team Bel-Ray Honda riding out of Bay Honda in Whakatane."

For most of the topline riders Summercross begins their race preparation for the four-round New Zealand MX Nationals in February and March.

There is also impressive depth and no fewer than 57 entries in the MX2 (250cc) class headed by veteran and defending national champion Darryll King (Yamaha) of Hamilton.

His younger brother Damien (Cambridge) is back in action and now riding for Honda while Suzuki's challenge is headed by Rhys Carter (Papamoa) - and Honda racer Peter Broxholme (Tauranga) has shown good early season form.

Masterton's Luke Burkhart (KTM), Hamilton's Jesse Wiki (Honda), Taupo's Cam Dillon (Honda) and Hutt Valley racer Jayden Jessup (KTM) are other likely MX2 challengers.

Cambridge teenager Kieran Leigh (KTM) returns to local racing after a strong showing in Canada as Mason Phillips' MX2 team-mate and Tauranga's Scott Barr-Smith - who finished runner-up in the 125cc National series earlier this year - has switched to Honda and will ride the small capacity 2-stroke in the MX2 class next week.

Summercross 2011 is a two-day event with senior racing on Tuesday, December 27 while the junior classes, women's racing and Mini MX are on Wednesday, December 28.

Series over

Tauranga Superbike racer Sloan Frost has brought his Suzuki International Tri-Series to an early finish by deciding not to race at the traditional Wanganui Boxing Day event.

Frost dropped out of the opening race at the round two of the Tri-Series at Manfeild on Saturday with suspension problems on his M1 Motorsport BMW S1000RR before riding to fourth place in race two.

The first race began in dry conditions and Frost was in second place when it began to rain and the race was red-flagged to allow riders to switch to wet weather tyres.

Although he leapt to an early lead when the race restarted, Frost quickly realised he had a front suspension problem and the bike was unrideable.

"It wanted to tuck the front wheel under on every corner. Rather than risk crashing it I decided to pull out," Frost said.

"In the second race I got a bad start but got up to third at one point and had a good battle with Craig Shirriffs and Nick Cole," he said.

"After dropping the first race we've decided to miss Wanganui and concentrate on the national series. Now we'll put our 2011 engine into the bike which we know is stronger."

The national road race series starts at Christchurch's Ruapuna circuit on January 7-8 and continues with rounds two and three on consecutive weekends at Teretonga and Timaru. The North Island rounds at Hampton Downs and Taupo are on March 17-18 and March 24-25 respectively.

In other racing at Manfeild on Saturday Katikati racer Rhys Holmes had a busy six race campaign winning both BEARS races on his BMW S1000RR and also rode to a fifth and sixth in the F1 Superbike races. Holmes also rode a Yamaha R6 to a pair of fifth places in the 600cc Sports Production races.

Mount Maunganui's Graeme Billington (Honda CBR250RR) notched up two wins in the Ultra-Lites class which was completed at Manfeild and he finished second in the series behind Marton's Sarah Rosacker on another Honda CBR250RR.

Lead reduced

Tauranga's Cole Armstrong (Nissan Skyline) continues to lead the D1NZ national drifting championship but his advantage has been sliced to just one point.

Armstrong was knocked out of Saturday's third round at Taupo Motorsport Park by eventual third place finisher Jock Bennett (Matamata).

Aucklander Daynom Templeman (Mazda RX-7) dominated the Taupo event, taking the top qualifying position and progressing through the day to defeat Dargaville's Gaz Whiter (Nissan S14) in the final.

The Taupo result closes up the leaderboard with Armstrong in front on 235 points followed by "Mad Mike" Whiddett (Mazda RX7) on 234, Whiter with 229 and round two winner Curt Whitakker (Nissan R34) on 226.

The series has now completed three of its six rounds and takes a break till February 10-11 when Auckland hosts a night round at Mt Smart Stadium.

Holiday racing

The first of the holiday season race meetings at Baypark Speedway next Monday night will feature the South Pacific Super Saloon Car Championship and just the second visit from Minisprint drivers in the 10 years the track has been open.

A strong super saloon car field is expected for the South Pacific title with a $5000 prize pool up for grabs.

The 1300cc Minisprints have mustered a 21-car field from the Wellington, Stratford, Waikaraka Park, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Huntly and Kihikihi tracks headed by national champ Dayne Maxwell (Huntly).

The Minisprints will race for the Andrew Edwards Memorial Trophy in tribute to the young Ohaupo driver who had just stepped up from the minisprint class when he died from injuries received in a sprint car accident at Baypark in January 2008.

Along with national champ Maxwell the entries include Jamie Larsen (Wellington) and Daniel Hartigan (Tauranga) who finished second and third respectively at last season's national title.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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