Back home after several seasons of professional racing in Europe Mount Maunganui's Josiah Natzke debut ride for Kawasaki at Taupō's MX Fest event has been one to celebrate.

The 20-year-old marked his first official ride for the Eni Oil Kawasaki Racing Team in New Zealand with a thrilling and surprising MX2 class victory - a win he didn't realise was his until the bikes had been shut down and loaded on the truck.

He and Kiwi former Grand Prix star Josh Coppins had ended the day level on points but Natzke won the class on a count-back because he'd recorded more race wins in the MX2 class over the annual Labour Weekend competition, producing two wins to Coppins' one in their four races.

Natzke finished 3-1-1 in the three MX2 races early in the day, before lining up for his final outing, the all-capacity-bikes Shootout feature, which he finished eighth overall in that novelty race.


"I thought I had lost to be honest," Natzke said.

"I crashed in the first corner in my first race and came back from last to finish third, so that was good. In the second race I got an easy win and in race three I won again after a battle with Josh (Coppins).

Mount Maunganui's Josiah Natzke on his way to winning the MX2 class. Photo / Andy McGechan,
Mount Maunganui's Josiah Natzke on his way to winning the MX2 class. Photo / Andy McGechan,

"I don't really like it that the shootout counts for points towards our MX2 class result when we're mixed up with 450cc bikes. But I guess it worked out for me because of my earlier wins.

"I learned a lot from racing with Josh today. Where I had to pass him in that third race ... any other rider I could blow past them, but Josh is so experienced and has so much race craft, that I had to dig deep."

After more than five years of racing in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany, it's fair to say that Natzke also has vast experience of his own.

The icing on the cake for him was third place in the Speedcross final on Saturday evening, a stadium motocross event styled on international supercross tracks.

Natzke finished that stand-alone spectacle behind two 450cc bike riders, Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper and Taupō's Brad Groombridge.

Signs are looking ominous for Cooper's rivals ahead of the coming summer season of motocross racing in New Zealand, opening his 2019-20 season winning the Speedcross event on Saturday evening.


Cooper then backed that up by dominating the MX1 class in the motocross the following day, finishing 1-1-3-2 in his four races.

He finished the day a solid 16 points clear of runner-up Groombridge at MX Fest on Sunday and Oropi's Ben Townley was third overall.

Cooper's third placing in the third MX1 race on Sunday was something of an aberration – he crashed on lap one while battling for the lead and he was forced to claw his way back through the pack – and his runner-up finish in the final Huka Honda Shootout race.

He crashed in turn one of the final three-rider, one-lap dash and he did not have enough time to catch up to eventual race winner Lamont.

"I got awesome starts all weekend at MX Fest," said 36-year-old Cooper.

"I was trying some new suspension settings and I think we got them wrong, which explains the crash in race three.

"I was struggling a bit with the settings, but it was good to try things out at this race meeting. That's what it's all about this early in the season.

"In the shoot-out final I got on the gas early in the first turn and the rear tyre wasn't in a groove and it just slid out on me. It was entirely my own fault. With the race being a one-lap affair, I was never going to be able to catch up."

Cooper has a busy time ahead now. He will cross Cook Strait and head to Winton, near Invercargill, for round one of the New Zealand Supercross Championships on November 9, before the S-X Open Auckland at Mt Smart Stadium on November 16.

The final round of the New Zealand Supercross Championships at Tokoroa on November 23 will see him wrap up the stadium racing phase of his season before switching back to motocross mode for the big races at Whakatāne and Woodville.

Cooper is the defending national motocross champion in the premier MX1 class and will aim to clinch his eighth national MX1 crown when the 2020 series wraps up on March 15, at the same track that hosted the weekend's MX Fest extravaganza.