Two reigning national champions have led the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club to victory in this year's Battle of the Clubs motocross event in Taupō.
On Saturday, national MX1 champion Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper and national junior 250cc champion Jack Dunlop propelled the Pukekohe contingent to an impressive 39-point win at the 2019 Battle of the Clubs (BOTC) fundraiser event.
The annual BOTC was established 10 years ago as a fundraiser for New Zealand's assault on the annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN), the 2019 edition of which is to be held in the Netherlands in September.
It is the second time the Pukekohe Motorcycle Club has claimed the title after winning the inaugural edition in 2010. Team manager Craig Brown was thrilled to clinch the trophy for a second time.
"The team rode well. Jack Dunlop (junior 250cc class) went 1-1 in the juniors and Cody Cooper (MX2 class) went 1-2 in the seniors. Our riders raced consistently and rode smart.
"It was a team manager role for me for the first time this year and I enjoyed it. I usually race, but I have a bit of an injury. It wasn't a tough job being manager - they all knew what they had to do. I just needed to nurse young Reuben Smith along because he was on an 85cc bike against the 125cc and 250cc riders in the junior races. I told him not to try to bully the bigger bike riders around because he'll come off second best.
"We had a lot of supporters here today and that was good to see."
Unfortunately, news was also released on Saturday that all three members of New Zealand's team that raced the MXoN in the United States last year are unavailable to race this year.
This leaves Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad and Team New Zealand co-managers Bevan Weal and Shayne King with the task of finding a completely new team before September.
"Last year's riders are unavailable because of either injury or for personal reasons, so this year we have a clean slate," Broad said.
"What we've got is an application process in place and we'll do full interviews with the applicants and then review from there our representation options.
"It is still the intention that we send a team (to the Netherlands). However, if we are unable to make a team, we'll let everyone know in due course. This event is tough and it's not a holiday. We need to have riders in the team that will represent New Zealand well at the event."
New Plymouth's King, the 1996 world champion and rider for New Zealand at the MXoN many times in the past, said the race track at Assen would be "brutal" and applicants should be under no illusions about how tough it will be.
"Every year it's the toughest motocross event in the world, but the circuit at Assen will be particularly challenging. It's very deep sand, like nothing New Zealand riders will have encountered before."
Perhaps the next team of Kiwi internationals will emerge from the excellent racing that was witnessed in Taupō on Saturday.
The host Taupō Motorcycle Club again produced a splendid track, with volunteers giving up their time to groom and maintain it, while its officials ensured the programme ran like clockwork.
Battle of the Clubs Results (Fewest points wins)
1st Pukekohe MCC 74 points, 2nd Manawatu-Orion MCC 113, 3rd Christchurch Off-road MCC 129, 4th Cambridge MCC 131, 5th Gold Coast MCC 145.
Senior Teams Overall:
1st Pukekohe MCC 25 points, 2nd Christchurch Off-road MCC 28, 3rd Cambridge MCC 60.
Junior Teams Overall:
1st Bay of Plenty MCC 31 points, 2nd Manawatu-Orion MCC 33, 3rd Pukekohe MCC 49.
Mini Teams Overall:
1st Taranaki MCC 27 points, 2nd Cambridge MCC 29, 3rd Gold Coast MCC 30.