Cody Cooper dominated at Waikato champs, writes Andy McGechan

Six wins from six starts: the Honda Shop Racing Team's debut outing at the Waikato Motocross Championships could not have been more impressive.

National MX1 champion Cody Cooper, of Mt Maunganui, surprised nobody with his dominant performance on the Honda CRF450 at Te Kuiti, scoring a hat-trick of wins and ominously looking increasingly comfortable as the day wore on.

Even so, the event was really only a warm-up ride for Cooper.

"I've had a month off racing [since representing New Zealand at the Motocross of Nations in Germany in September] and so I didn't really want to push things today," said Cooper afterwards.


"It was really just my first day of proper training for the season ahead. I just wanted to get used to the bike and get suspension and other settings sorted."

If Cooper was "taking things easy" at the Waikato champs, then his rivals must now realise they have some work to do and they'll need to be much sharper if they are going to challenge Cooper when the New Zealand Motocross Championships kick off in Timaru in February.

Runner-up to Cooper in the MX1 class was Waikato's Jesse Wiki (Waikato Scaffolders KTM 450), with Atiamuri's Dion Picard (JT Racing Kawasaki KX450F) taking the third step of the podium.

With no rider yet selected to ride the MX2 (250cc) class for the Honda Shop Racing Team, team manager Ben Townley spontaneously decided that "the track looked too good today not to go riding" himself and so he kitted up and proceeded to win all three MX2 races at the Te Kuiti circuit.

"I only decided to ride this morning," said the former world champion, making just a rare appearance, since he had actually announced his retirement from fulltime racing back in March.

Runner-up to Townley in the MX2 class was Taupo's Nick Saunders (Team Green Kawasaki KX250F), with Rotorua's Scotty Canham ( Kawasaki KX250F) the No3 man on the podium.

"The main thing for the team today was to get Cody out on the bike, to see what needs still to be done before the nationals and to start chipping away at our preparation for that series," said Townley.

"Of course to get a few race wins along the way today is great too."

Canham was equally thrilled with his showing.

"It was a great thrill to be battling with a rider of Townley's stature. I know he's at the end of his professional racing career, but he is still a world-class rider."

The 28-year-old Saunders has opted this season to give the MX2 class a crack and his first couple of outings on the smaller bike have been very encouraging.

"The result at Te Kuiti was certainly a step in the right direction for me," said Saunders.

There is no rest for the nation's top riders, with a full calendar of events leading up to Christmas, followed by the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville in January and then the four-round nationals starting in February.

Neither Cooper nor Townley is expected to tackle the Auckland Motocross Championships this weekend, although both the Kawasaki riders will be there, hoping to continue the momentum and again battle for outright honours.