Bay of Plenty's Josiah Natzke is edging relentlessly closer to claiming his first national senior 250cc motocross crown, Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper remains on target to retain his MX1 crown and Tauranga's Brodie Connolly is running away with the 125cc class.

But all of this could change in a flash as the New Zealand Motocross Championships head to Hawke's Bay for the third round of four on Sunday. Former New Zealand 125cc motocross champion Natzke has been racing overseas for the past few seasons and his homecoming has been glorious, the 21-year-old taking his Transdiesel Shell Advance Kawasaki KX250F to dominate at several major domestic events in recent months, his latest success coming in the early phases of the four-round nationals.

Round two was held on farmland at Horohoro, about 20km south-west of Rotorua on Sunday, and by late afternoon Mount Maunganui's Natzke was able to celebrate boosting his lead in the MX2 (250cc) standings to eight points over the second-ranked rider, Mangakino's Maximus Purvis, a good position to be in with the championships now at the halfway stage.

Natzke won the day in his class at the opening round of the series in Balclutha three weeks ago and, although he didn't enjoy the same dominance at Rotorua on Sunday, he still managed to enhance his championship standings, inching two more competition points further away from the chasing bunch.


Natzke qualified fastest early on Sunday and then comfortably won the first of three MX2 races, leading the 12-lap race from start to finish and taking the chequered flag by a solid 15.5 seconds from runner-up rider James Scott, from Oparau.

He had more of a fight on his hands in race two, Natzke eventually fighting through traffic to finish second, less than four seconds behind the winner, visiting Australian Kyle Webster.

Natzke suffered a poor start in race three and had his work cut out to power through traffic from a long way back in the field. Natzke battled to fifth position by race end and, although frustrated by this result, he was grateful to leave Rotorua with his points lead intact, actually boosted a fraction, and he was happy to still be in possession of the championship leader's red number plate.

Holding the red plate can be a huge confidence boost for the rider who holds it, a badge of honour, and Natzke is determined to keep a firm grip on it during round three at the Hawke's Bay Motorcyle Club's Fernhill track at Mere Rd. Taupo will host round four on March 15.

"The first two races (at Rotorua on Sunday) were really good, but the last race was a missed opportunity for me," Natzke said afterwards.

"I had a terrible start. I'm still moving forward in the championship chase, but I'm frustrated. I wanted to do better, of course.

"I'm happy to still be leading the championship and I'm looking forward to Hawke's Bay. I want to come away with enough points after Fernhill that I can take a good safety buffer with me, perhaps have a race under my belt, heading into the final round."

If he does hold it all together and wrap up the MX2 motocross title at the fourth and final round at Taupo, it will be a treasured "book-end" for the New Zealand Supercross Championships title trophy Natzke won last November.


Hawke's Bay race fans may be on the look-out for Hastings rider Jye Deacon to perform at Fernhill on Sunday. The Honda rider did not race at round one, but he managed an impressive 14th overall in the 35-rider MX2 class at Rotorua.

Meanwhile, in the MX1 class, Bay of Plenty's defending champion Cooper will need to bring his A game to the track at Fernhill, as Australian visitor Kirk Gibbs nibbled into his points lead at Rotorua, while it may take an absolute disaster for Connolly not to secure his first senior 125cc class title this year as he enjoyed his fifth win from six starts at Rotorua.