The next generation of young motocross stars has stood up to be counted. The sport in New Zealand is in a very healthy state, especially if the just-finished New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships are any indicator.
Recently retired Grand Prix world championship riders such as Motueka's Josh Coppins and Taupo's Ben Townley are very likely to be replaced in Europe by some of the young men who topped the leader boards at the 2014 junior nationals near Greymouth just over a week ago - rising stars such as Taupo's Cohen Chase, Rangiora's Dylan Walsh, Nelson's Reece Walker, Oamaru's Joel Meikle, Ngatea's Ben Board and Te Puke's Tyler Steiner.
Poor weather in the lead-up to the Anzac weekend event forced organisers to shave back the programme from seven races per class to just five, but fine weather arrived for much of the racing and the riders seemed to have no problems with traction on the farmland course.
For 16-year-old Chase to win the premier 14-16 years 250cc class at Greymouth was perhaps no surprise, considering he'd collected the national 15-16 years 125cc class title last season.
Chase won three of his five 250cc races, and finished runner-up in the other two, easily beating Honda rider Meikle to the trophy, while Walsh (KTM) blew apart the 15-16 years 125cc class, winning all five of his races ahead of Yamaha trio Broad, Nick Hornby (Hawera) and Isaac Millson (Nelson).
"I started the championship pretty well and won the first two races of the weekend," said Chase. "Then I dropped the bike in race three but got up again to finish second. I knew I had to win at least one race on day two to get the title and won the first race on Sunday to make things fairly safe.
"Joel Meikle kept me honest throughout the racing, but I guess it was comfortable for me in the end."
It was a dominant performance by Chase, but not as complete as that shown by Walsh in his class.
Walsh had a mixed bag of results during his recent foray into the senior ranks, his New Zealand senior motocross championships assault in February and March plagued by setbacks right from the start.
But as the series progressed, the 16-year-old rebounded from injuries to score top-three placings and salvage an overall senior national 125cc class ranking of ninth.
When he slipped back into the junior ranks for Anzac weekend's nationals, the BikesportNZ.com-supported rider proved to be untouchable.
"I holeshot all three races on the Saturday and easily won those ... I didn't get the holeshots on Sunday, but was into the lead after about the first lap each time."
Walsh had previously won national championships - twice in the 85cc class and once in the 65cc class - but this title win was "the best one so far".
"I'll leave the junior competition and go senior fulltime now. My next big race is the Michael Godfrey Memorial Motocross [near Christchurch on May 31], my first event as a fulltime senior."
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Walker took his Yamaha YZ125 to post a similarly commanding score in his demolition of the 12-14 years 125cc class, winning all five races ahead of KTM-mounted Steiner and Masterton's Camden Butler (Yamaha).
The junior winners in the small bike (85cc) classes at Greymouth were Taupo's Wyatt Chase (Yamaha) and Taihape's Hayden Smith (who shared top spot in the 13-16 years class); Australian visitor Tyler Darby (KTM, the 11-12 years class winner) and Auckland's Ryan Webley (KTM, the 8-10 years champion).