The annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix is regarded by much of the Kiwi motorbike community as the "greatest show on turf" and Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper has his eyes on the prize.
The last few editions of the event, being held in Woodville from January 26-27, have been classic Aussie versus Kiwi battles, but Cooper is determined to reclaim the top spot and win his third New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix title.
The 35-year-old has won the main Woodville trophy twice before – the first in 2007 and then seven years later in 2014 – and he would like nothing more than to win once more and become a rare three-time winner of the iconic event.
Cooper is a six-time former national MX1 champion and is the current national MX1 Number two, but the Woodville GP title has eluded him during the past four years, the Kiwi hero frustrated by a couple of Australian invaders, Kirk Gibbs in 2015 and then Dean Ferris in both 2016 and 2017. Last season it was fellow New Zealand rider Kayne Lamont who took the GP win.
However, this year Cooper will arrive in Manawatu as one of the favourites to win the 58th annual Honda-sponsored event. He impressed on his way to a win at the Whakatāne Summercross just after Christmas, that similar stand-alone event an ideal form guide.
Cooper dominated the MX1 class races last season – finishing with a 1-1-2 scorecard, but could not get one over Lamont in the main event.
In clinching the Invitation Feature Race, Lamont became the 29th different main event winner at Woodville since the inaugural running in 1961.
Lamont will be back to torment Cooper at Woodville this time around too, as will as Gibbs, winner of the New Zealand MX1 crown at the nationals last season.
Taupō's Wyatt Chase won the MX2 (250cc) class at Woodville last year, while Mangakino's Maximus Purvis was crowned the 125cc class champion. This year the pair will go head-to-head in the MX2 class.
The Woodville GP will once again be recognised as an FIM Oceania event as well.
The spectacular two-day meeting welcomes the enhancement as a true international competition, with the FIM Oceania status attracting huge interest from overseas.
Kiwi internationals such as Mount Maunganui's Rhys Carter, Waitakere's Hamish Harwood, Taupo's Brad Groombridge, Rangiora's Micah McGoldrick, Waitakere's Ethan Martens, Tauranga's Brodie Connolly and Wairoa's Tommy Watts also have good reason to fancy their chances.
Racing over the two days at Woodville caters for minis, juniors, women, veterans and seniors, with the novelty river race on Sunday always a crowd-pleaser.
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