The Australian challenge in the Fox Racing New Zealand Motocross Championship found top gear near Rotorua.

The series raced to its half-way point at the Rotorua Motorcycle Club's Horohoro track on Sunday where the trans-Tasman rivalry heated up as Gold Coast racer Kirk Gibbs (Yamaha) edged Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper (Honda) as they continued their domination of the MX1 class.

And Melbourne-based Wilson Todd (Husqvarna) recovered from a tough opening moto to win the MX2 class.

Cooper and Gibbs traded points in the title chase but spent the day separated on track.

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Gibbs won the first moto by 3.9secs while a strong start saw Cooper in command of race two to win by 3.0s.

Gibbs took the overall win by clearing out to a 23s winning margin in the third moto and the pair are now tied at the top of leaderboard with 141 points each with the championship at the halfway point.

"It's just Coops and I at the moment," Gibbs said.

"If he has a bad race, he's still second and if I have a bad race I'm second, so it's hard to make any break.

"Today was good. I rode better than I did at the first round and the bike was really good. Winning the championship is going to be about getting good starts, staying on the bike and riding smart."

In race three Cooper's bike sounded off-song and after moving into second place he could make no inroads on Gibbs.

"I was lucky to finish in a good place and stay in championship contention. You can't afford to DNF a race," Cooper said.

Behind the leading duo Yamaha's Kayne Lamont (Mangakino) put together another sequence of third placings and is third in the championship on 120 points ahead of Taupō riders Brad Groombridge (Suzuki) and Cohen Chase (Kawasaki).

The MX1 top five, from left, Taupō's Cohen Chase, Mangakino's Kayne Lamont, winner Kirk Gibbs, runner-up Cody Cooper, Taupō's Brad Groombridge. Photo / PHOTOGRAPHY INMOTION/Greg Henderson
The MX1 top five, from left, Taupō's Cohen Chase, Mangakino's Kayne Lamont, winner Kirk Gibbs, runner-up Cody Cooper, Taupō's Brad Groombridge. Photo / PHOTOGRAPHY INMOTION/Greg Henderson

Young Australian rider Wilson Todd (Husqvarna) summed up the Rotorua event by saying "MX2 is the class to watch".

A full 40-rider field and significant depth is proving an exciting MX2 (250cc) contest with defending champ Hamish Harwood (Takaka) out in front after two rounds on his KTM.

Australians won all three races at Rotorua. Honda's Kyle Webster — making his first appearance on a Kiwi track — rode to victory in the first moto. Todd, 20, then claimed two wins with Harwood and Mangakino's Maximus Purvis (Yamaha) each posting a second placing and Webster third both times.

From that mix Todd secured the overall win with 68 points from Webster on 65 and Harwood on 62. Harwood leads overall with 131 points from Todd on 128 and Purvis with 116.

"It's good competition here," said Todd, who has made one-off appearances in New Zealand but is contesting his first NZ season.

"We don't have any tracks like this. The dirt is quite slippery and the ruts form up differently. Hamish and Maximus are very quick on the New Zealand tracks and we're [the Australians] a little on the back foot so it's a good challenge for us."

While Harwood has a battle on his hands in the MX2 class he continues to dominate on the 125cc two-stroke bikes – the other half of his double championship bid for KTM. He remains unbeaten six races into the series and leads Ngatea's Benjamin Broad (KTM) by 22 points and Rotorua's Joshua Bourke-Palmer (Yamaha) has moved up to third overall.

Riders have a quick turnaround before the third round at Harrisville (near Tuakau) this Sunday and then a fortnight break before the final round at Taupo on March 10.