Great Britain's three-time world veterans motocross champion Kurt Nicoll waited 40 years to race in New Zealand but he made up for lost time in style at the weekend.
A week after helping Great Britain finish third at the Veterans MX of Nations in the United Kingdom, Nicoll won the 32-strong 50-54 years class at the Bay Motorcyles-supported New Zealand Veterans and Women's Motocross Championships in Otane at the weekend.
"It was a great event, I felt welcomed and I would love to come back again," Nicoll said as he reflected on the 220-rider event.
Riding a borrowed brand new KTM 450, Nicoll won all five of his races in the class. The son of 1969 World MX GP winner Dave Nicoll proved he still had all the skills which propelled him to second placings in the 500cc world championships in 1987, 88, 90 and 92.
"There was some tough competition and the grass track is something I haven't had too much experience on in recent years. It was more a track from the 80s for me as we race on plenty of manmade tracks back home," Nicoll explained.
He was impressed with how the KTM 450 performed and pointed out he has close ties with the KTM company as he uses those motorbikes for the motocross vacations business he runs in California. The seven-time British national champion beat Whakatane's Daren Capill by 15 points and Taranaki's Mitch Rowe was a further point behind in third place.
Hawke's Bay's Darrin Wilson, who was an influential figure in getting Nicoll to compete at Otane, raced in the same class as Nicoll but only completed one of his five races. In his second race on Saturday Wilson, who is better known for his exploits as a solobike rider on the national speedway scene, had a fall and was taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital with a punctured lung, six broken ribs and a broken tooth.
"I came over a jump and landed the wrong way. I'll be in hospital for another couple of days," Wilson explained when Nicoll visited him before his return to the northern hemisphere today.
While Nicoll did well to win his class he had to settle for sixth place in the Gathering of the Gods race on Sunday.
This race catered for 30 riders, the top three placegetters in each of the 10 men's classes. It was won by Motueka's Josh Coppins who told media last week he expected to win it.
Rotorua's Cameron Negus was second and Taupo's Nick Saunders third. Coppins had earlier won the 40-44 years class.
Twice No 2 in the 250cc class in the world championships in 2002 and 2005, Coppins combined his trip to Otane with the opening of the new Motoland Yamaha dealership in Napier.
A multi-time New Zealand motocross and supercross champion, Coppins began his GP racing career in Australia as a 16-year-old competing in the 125cc class at the Australian GP at Manjimup, in Western Australia, in August 1993. He was sidelined for four months with a knee injury early the following year but, once fully recovered, things really got serious for him in 1995.
Coppins enjoyed a fulltime world championship Grand Prix career spanning 16 years (between 1995 and 2010) and he finished among the world's top 10 overall in 10 of those seasons in Europe. Coppins also became Australian MX1 champion in 2012, before retiring from fulltime professional racing in August that year.
Negus won the 45-49 years class at the weekend. Aucklander Tony Cooksley, a veterans world champion in 2007, backed up his "hot favourite" status with his title in the 60-69 years class.
Waipu's Neil Boniface travelled home with the 70-79 years title. Aucklander David Wallace won the 55-59 years title and Palmerston North's James Robinson the 35-39 years title.
Aucklander Shelley Hickman won the veteran women's 40plus title, Te Puke's Kylie Foreman the veteran women's 30-39 years title, and Hamilton's Amie Roberts the senior women's title.
Rotorua's Ticayla Manson proved she will be a rider to keep an eye on in the future when she won the junior girls 8-12 years 85cc class. Canterbury's Avalon Smith made the long trip north worthwhile with her title win in the 13-16 years 85cc class.
Waikato's Zara Gray won the 12-16 years 125cc/250F class.