Motorsport: Cooper relishes good times

By Colin Smith

With a handy lead in the New Zealand Championship and a full-time ride confirmed in Australia again this year, it's been a good week-and-a-bit for Papamoa motocross star Cody Cooper.

Suzuki racer Cooper, 29, heads into Sunday's second round of the Backflips New Zealand MX Nationals at the Patetonga track in the Thames Valley holding a nine-point lead in the premier MX1 class over Scotsman Billy McKenzie (Yamaha) and Aussie KTM rider Kirk Gibbs, who are tied for second.

Cooper won the series opener near Timaru on February 10, putting behind him a string of less convincing results at the Pleasant Point track in past years that have left him playing catch-up in the national title race.

"It's really good for me because Timaru isn't one of my favourite tracks.

"It's great to be going to a track I really love [Patetonga] and be leading the points," said Cooper.

He won the 2011 MX1 national title and finished third last year and has upped the intensity of his training this summer.

"I'm putting in 100 per cent.

"I've done a lot of off-season training with a heap of endurance stuff like cycling and long rides," he said.

"And there's still two months to go before the Australian Nationals, which is plenty of time to work on a few more things I know I can still improve."

Cooper's deal to race in Australia has been confirmed later than usual but he's looking forward to a fourth season of competition with the Motul Pirelli Suzuki squad.

"It's a bit of a relief.

"I had a verbal agreement and I've been with them four years now so I trusted them, but it was good to get the contract signed," said Cooper.

He's already been to Australia to test with the team and has some upgrades to try on his New Zealand race machine.

"We've changed a few things in the front forks.

"It's just fine-tuning that helps in the last race when the track gets really rutted.

"We're pretty close to having a real good race bike," he said.

The 10-round Australian Series which starts at Raymond Terrace in New South Wales on April 14 will see him teamed with Matt Moss in the Motul Pirelli Suzuki squad.

Last year was Cooper's third campaign with Suzuki in Australia and he finished third in the championship with a late season charge.

Meanwhile Tauranga's Ben Townley (Honda), who crashed at Timaru after winning the opening MX1 race, is expected to be back in action at Patetonga but has a lot of ground to make up on his rivals.

Cooper also rates Australian Todd Waters, who is fifth in the standings, as a tough rival. Waters won the third race at Timaru after a retirement with bike trouble in race two.

Bay of Plenty riders are well-placed in the other classes heading into the Patetonga race day.

Holding fourth position in the MX2 (250cc) class behind Scott Columb (Yamaha), defending champ Darryll King (Yamaha) and Australian Brock Winston (KTM) is Suzuki's Rhys Carter (Papamoa) with Honda's Peter Broxholme (Tauranga) seventh and Rotorua's John Phillips (Honda) and Scott Canham (Kawasaki) in eighth and 11th respectively.

Six of the top seven in the 125cc class are BOP-based riders with Yamaha's Cameron Vaughan (Rotorua) and Logan Blackburn (Te Puke) close behind first round winner Courtney Duncan (Yamaha) from North Otago.

Taupo's Cohen Chase (KTM) Rotorua veteran Cam Negus (Husqvarna), Tauranga's Aaron Wiltshier (KTM) and Rotorua's Nathan Sharland (KTM) are ranked fourth through seventh after round one.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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