Honda's Cooper Wins Muddy Summercross
December 30, 2013: The rains came down but the excitement levels rose as New Zealand MX1 motocross champion Cody Cooper showed his class, shifting into a higher gear and notching up another impressive win on Sunday.
The Honda Shop Racing Team rider was unstoppable when he romped to victory at a sun-baked Waikato Motocross Championships recently and he followed that by winning the open class crown at the New Zealand Supercross Championships in November, but it was in extremely contrasting conditions that Cooper and his Honda CRF450 had to perform at the weekend's 42nd annual Honda Summercross near Whakatane.
Instead of the hard, dry and dusty track more typically associated with summer race action, Cooper and more that 500 fellow competitors at the two-day event had to deal with deep, porridge-like mud after overnight rain and frequents squalls throughout the day turned the usually pristine track at Matata into a treacherous quagmire.
In fact, the only thing dry about Sunday's event was Cooper's sense of humour.
"Perhaps they should rename this event Wintercross," Cooper commented as he wiped away the sludge from his face at the end of the day.
"Three of the past four years here have been like this."
Organisers shaved back the race programme from three to two races per class and when Cooper shot away to a seemingly effortless win in the first MX1 class race, The Honda Shop Racing Team's lead rider was already halfway to the top of the podium.
"My first race went well but race two was hard work," said Cooper. "I got a good jump off the concrete start pad but I wasn't in the right spot on the bike when I hit the mud and lost traction. Then I crashed in the second corner.
"I set out after (race leader) Brad Groombridge but then I got into a battle for second with (Paraparaumu's) Jesse Donnelly.
"My goggles were useless after a while and I had to go to the sidelines for a quick change (of goggles). I'm glad I did because then I was able to catch Jesse and pass him.
"I backed off near the end because I knew I'd done enough to win the day overall."
And that's how the race finished, Cooper's 1-2 results eclipsing Groombridge's 3-1 score-line, forcing the Taupo rider to settle for runner-up spot overall.
Donnelly finished 2-3 to claim the third step on the podium.
Last season's winner at the Honda Summercross was none other than Cooper's new team boss, Bay of Plenty's former world champion Ben Townley, defending the title this time around not as a rider but as a manager.
Even though The Honda Shop Racing Team's manager has a different role to play these days, he was naturally thrilled to be keeping a hold of the trophy.
"It's a totally different experience coming here as a team manager instead of as a rider," said Townley. "It was hard work being a team manager today too, especially trying to get everything right in these conditions."
The riders now prepare for the annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville at the end of January, followed by the four-round New Zealand Motocross Championships which kick off near Timaru in February.
On current form, Cooper must be favoured to retain his national MX1 crown in 2014.