Motocross: Podium places for three Bay riders

By Colin Smith

Australia is the next challenge for three of the Bay of Plenty riders who stood on the podium when the New Zealand Motocross Nationals finished in Taupo on Easter Sunday.

Papamoa's Cody Cooper (Suzuki) extended his domination of the premier MX1 class with three wins at Taupo, regaining the national crown that he won in 2011 and boosting his confidence for the Australian Nationals, which start on April 14.

Te Puke's Logan Blackburn came up one point short of winning the 125cc 2-stroke title and is now looking ahead to a ride in the Australian MX Development (under-19) Series and Papamoa's Rhys Carter repeated his third placing in the MX2 class and will now further his career in the Australian MX2 ranks.

Cooper, 29, races into the Australian Nationals with the confidence of having beaten Aussie rivals Todd Waters and Kirk Gibbs and Australia-based Scotsman Billy Mackenzie in the four-round local series.

"I'm going there to win. There's no reason why I can't and every reason why I can," said Cooper, who finished third in Australia last year and will again race for Team Motul Pirelli Suzuki.

"The New Zealand series has been the ideal preparation and I feel like I'm still going to get better.

"It's good to get it [the NZ title] out of the way and now start to focus on something else. I'm straight back into a lot more off-the-bike training and working on my endurance.

"I've had really great support this year. The team gives me everything I need to do the job and the bike has been awesome."

Cooper won nine of the 12 MX1 races in the series and finished 47 points clear of Mackenzie (Yamaha) in the title race. At Taupo, Cooper and Waters (KTM) raced clear of the pack in all three motos with Cooper taking two controlled wins but his last win on Sunday afternoon was in doubt when he hurt his back.

"About halfway through, I tweaked my back and I'm pretty sore," said Cooper afterwards.

"Todd got ahead of me for a while. I thought I would have to give it away but then he crashed and I was able to push through for the win."

Blackburn, 18, duelled throughout the 125cc series with fellow Yamaha rider Cameron Vaughan (Rotorua) and trailed by four points going into the final round. In the first two races, the pair shared the top two positions and the separation remained at four points.

Blackburn raced into an early lead in race three with Vaughan taking half of the race to move up into second place, which was enough to secure the title by a single point.

Blackburn has support from Yamaha and local sponsors to tackle the MX Development series, which runs at eight of the Australian National events, stepping up to a 250cc 2-stroke machine for the campaign.

Tauranga's Aaron Wiltshier, 16, completed the 125cc championship podium with a strong debut performance in the senior ranks.

The fiercely contested MX2 class continued to produce mixed results at Taupo with a win by Rotorua's John Phillips (Honda) in the final race making him the seventh different race winner of the series.

Third for the day clinched the title for Yamaha's Scott Columb as Australian Ryan Marmont (Suzuki) won the Taupo round. Carter finished second for the day and closed in Australian Brock Winston (KTM) but finished two points behind.

There was some spectacular riding from Carter including a fightback from almost last in the 40-rider field to fifth place after a first corner pile-up in the opening moto.

"I got in the wrong place at the wrong time a few times and there were a couple of silly mistakes but I'm very happy with my speed. And with the way I finished today I showed my fitness is good," said Carter.

"I'm going to run my own team in Australia and look to make an impact over there."

Tauranga's Peter Broxholme (Honda) moved up one position on Sunday to finish fifth in the MX2 Championship.

The 10-round Australian MX Nationals begin at Raymond Terrace, NSW, on April 14 and run through until September 1.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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