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Battle of the Titans at Woodville

Battle of the Titans at Woodville

Rotorua’s Michael Phillips would like nothing better than to satisfy his sponsors, thrill his many fans and realise a life-long dream and he can do all three things next weekend if he wins the Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville.

The only trouble is, the two-time former New Zealand champion is going to have to muscle his way past the title favourite, fellow Honda star and reigning national MX1 champion Cody Cooper, as well as dozens of other fire-breathing superstars among the more than 500 entrants, many of them arriving from overseas for the January 25-26 event.

This year celebrating its 53rd birthday, the big annual event has grown from humble beginnings in 1961 – the brainchild of former Grand Prix motocross ace and international enduro racer Tim Gibbes, of Palmerston North – to now rate as one of the biggest stand-alone motocross events in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Honda-sponsored two-day race meeting, set for the same familiar farmland track at the eastern end of the Manawatu Gorge that has hosted the racing every year since the inaugural running, has again enticed high-class entries the length and breadth of the country and also drawn in an impressive line-up of international stars.

With riders arriving from Australia, Britain, Japan, and New Caledonia, Phillips’ mission to win the main Woodville trophy has perhaps never been tougher, but it will probably be Kiwi rivals such as Cooper, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z450) and Christchurch’s former national MX1 champion and 2010 Woodville winner Justin McDonald (Honda CRF450) who will rate among his biggest threats.

Waitakere’s former national 125cc champion Ethan Martens (now on a 450cc Yamaha and racing in the MX1 class) and Paraparaumu’s Jesse Donnelly (Kawasaki KX450F) have displayed exceptional form in recent months and they are also highly fancied this weekend.

Phillips’ build-up to this year’s edition of Woodville has been going well.

The 27-year-old finished a close runner-up to Groombridge at last weekend’s big King of the Mountain Motocross in Taranaki, so he knows he’s on the pace, despite the fact that, before last weekend, he had not raced much at all since about June last year.

“I’ve won at Woodville a couple of times in the MX2 (250cc) class, but never on the big bike,” he said. “To win the MX1 class and the feature race at Woodville would be a dream come true. It’s one of New Zealand’s premier titles.

“It’s doubly important for me to do well at Woodville this weekend because I need to try and impress a few race team bosses from Australia. I don’t have a ride in Australian yet for 2014 and I need to put on a good show this weekend.”

Racing extends over two days and caters for all ages and abilities and all bike sizes and types, with juniors and minis in action on Saturday and the seniors, women and veterans on the track on Sunday.

© Scoop Media

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