MOTORSPORT: Success in Victoria gives Cooper boost

By Colin Smith


Papamoa's Cody Cooper heads to this weekend's fourth round of the Australian Motocross Nationals near Perth with his first win of the season under his belt.

Cooper was in pace-setting form for Team Motul Pirelli Suzuki at the third round of the series raced at Wonthaggi in Victoria on April 28-29.

He was fastest in Open Class qualifying and in Sunday morning's warm-up sessions on the fuel-injected 2012 model RM-Z450. However, poor starts and a number of incidents denied him the opportunity to win the round.

Cooper battled to frustrating 10th and seventh place finishes in the opening motos, before an improved start in the final 30-minute outing allowed him to race off to a dominant victory of almost 10 seconds.

That result confirmed the former New Zealand champion fifth for the weekend and he's now ranked seventh in the series, which is led by fellow Kiwi Josh Coppins (Yamaha) who leads Todd Waters (Suzuki) by 29 points.

"I felt like I had the speed to win all weekend so the first two races were disappointing," said Cooper.

"I knew I was able to maintain my speed in the final moto and I've been working on a lot of stuff between rounds," he said.

"I crashed in the first moto and then in moto two I got tangled up in the first turn, so I made it a hard day for myself, but I'll take some confidence from that third moto win."

The Wanneroo track north of Perth is mainly a sand track.

"I raced there in 2006 and it's the sandiest track of the whole season," said Cooper.

After missing the second round of the series with an ankle injury Rotorua's Michael Phillips (Honda) was back in action at the Wonthaggi round, scoring his first points of the season with 16th, 17th and 13th placings and he is 21st in the Open Class championship standings.

Unique challenge

The schedule for the Australian Motocross Nationals opens the opportunity for Cody Cooper to defend his Tarawera 100 crown this year.

The 2012 edition of the Tarawera 100 off-road motorcycle race will take place on Saturday, July 7 - on the weekend between the sixth and seventh rounds of the Australian MX Champs.

This year's event is the 35th running of the race organised by the Tarawera Trail Bike Riders Club on a 160km course using farmland and forest trails near Te Teko. Cooper led home his Suzuki team-mate Rhys Carter last year to win for the third time.

The Tarawera 100 is a unique motorcycling challenge with a massed start of about 200 riders and four laps of a 40km course which, including pit-stops, takes the leading riders about three hours to complete.

The event attracts a broad range of riders from cross-country, enduro and motocross backgrounds with the veterans and super-vets categories always well supported.

More information is available at www.ttbrc.co.nz

Title defended

Tauranga rally driver Ben Thomasen successfully defended his Macdougall Quarry Rd hillclimb title last weekend.

Thomasen won the 2.5km gravel hillclimb near Pukehina last year and delivered a repeat performance with his Subaru Impreza on Sunday.

A field of 23 cars contested the event with Thomasen setting his winning time of 1m 15.78s on the second run to take a 0.84secs winning margin over Rotorua Car Club driver Phil Jones (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo4). On a fourth and unofficial run Thomasen went even quicker with a 1m 14.59s effort.

"There were some mixed conditions with the road being dusty in places but some the corners lower down in the trees were still damp," said Thomasen.

"It was pretty slippery everywhere and the times were a couple of seconds slower than last year.

"I took it a bit easy to get used to driving the car again and listening to pace notes.

"Other than an autocross a few weeks ago it was the first time I'd driven the car since the Manawahe Rd hillclimb at the end of last year."

Thomasen is planning to contest a limited number of rallies this season.

"The first one might be the second round of the Rally Xtreme series next month at Hawke's Bay (June 9) and I'd also like to [contest] the Manawatu Daybreaker Rally in July."

John Bouzaid (Tauranga) in a Subaru Impreza and Whakatane's Hugh Goldsmith (Mitsubishi Galant VR4) were third and fourth overall.

The best placed two-wheel-drive competitor was Rotorua's Ian Wood (Toyota Corolla) in sixth place and just over two seconds faster than Rotorua club-mate Darrel Manson (Mazda RX7).

The next event on the Motorsport BOP calendar is a rallysprint on June 10 at a venue to be confirmed.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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