Motorsport: Top talent tipped for bike event

By Andy McGechan

Picking a likely winner for next month's big annual Whakatane Summercross has probably never been so cut and dried as this season, but don't think that will make the event any less exciting - quite the contrary.

While the list of potential winners is as long as it is illustrious, few pundits will be looking too far past Tauranga international Ben Townley - Honda's current national MX1 class champion who has been virtually unbeatable at home in recent weeks.

The Honda-sponsored Summercross - set for December 29-30 - will celebrate its 41st birthday as one of New Zealand's premier stand-alone motocross events.

Each year, it attracts all the nation's elite racers and again this year, the list of talent to line up is truly mind-boggling, with an abundance of current and former national champions, a couple of former Australian and world champions and a multitude of riders who have made waves in Europe and the United States.

There is also racing planned for the sport's young up-and-comers and for the former greats, with competitors ranging in age from 4 and 5 right through to veterans in their 50s and 60s.

One of the key drawcard riders, former world motocross champion and American supercross champion Townley, is hoping that he will again make this event his own.

Townley won the five races from five starts in the premier grade at last year's Summercross, but the Honda star will need to be at his best again next month with an impressive line-up of big-bike talent set to challenge him.

Also expected to push hard for MX1 class domination will be Mount Maunganui's former national MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Suzuki), 2010 Summercross winner Michael Phillips (Honda) of Rotorua, Christchurch's former national MX1 champion Justin McDonald (Honda) and a couple of yet-to-be-confirmed riders from Australia and Europe.

With racing over two days - juniors and minis on the first day of competition on Saturday, December 29, with seniors racing the next day - the Honda Summercross is again expected to attract a bumper crop of New Zealand's elite, including Hamilton's national MX2 champion Darryll King (Yamaha), Waitakere's Ethan Martens (Yamaha), Tauranga's perennial front-runner Peter Broxholme (Honda), Mount Maunganui's Rhys Carter (Suzuki) and Taupo's Nick Saunders (Kawasaki), to name just a few.

Honda will have a huge presence with Townley, Phillips, McDonald and Broxholme expected to be joined in the bright red enclosure by leading Taupo pair Cam Dillon and Brad Groombridge, Whakatane brothers Mitchell and Damon Rees, Rangiora's Micah McGoldrick, Te Awamutu's Ryan Thompson, Auckland's James Ainsworth, Hawke's Bay's Kieran Scheele and Masterton's Bjarne Frederiksen.

Dillon won the MX2 class at last year's Summercross and has shown good speed in the past few weeks.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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